Janelle Kroll Talks New "Barricade" Video, Sensuality, & Doing Your Thing
Janelle Kroll’s latest single “Barricade” marks the beginning of a new chapter in her music career. The New York-based singer is straying away from her previous EP’s vibe, and is channeling feelings of escapism and getting in touch with one’s inner sensuality. Accompanying the first release of her upcoming EP is a unique video that incorporates both a raw, Brooklyn warehouse and dreamy, avant-garde aesthetics. We spoke to Janelle about the inspiration behind the video, and about her commitment to versatility and doing you.
No doubt, we’re damn excited for what’s to come. While you anxiously wait for her new releases, do yourself a favor and catch her at Rough Trade on July 7th, and at Mercury Lounge on July 25th! Oh, and peep her new video above.
I’d love to start with your new video for “Barricade” that just came out – can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind the warehouse setting and the choreography?
Yes! The artistic director, Tiffany Rea-Fisher of the dance company I’m performing with – she is our choreographer – is a friend of mine who I’ve been wanting to collaborate with for some time. We liked the idea of making it a one-take performance video. The exciting thing about a warehouse is that it allows you to create tableaus from above, and below. So, we wanted to incorporate tableaus, and the co-director Patrick was able to find this amazing warehouse space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard – it’s very much a New York-shot music video. And the drone – I haven’t seen that many music videos with drones for a one-take, so we wanted to do something a little bit different. But movement-wise, I wanted to do something that was also less traditional – not your standard pop dance – I wanted to do something more modern. That’s what Elisa Monte Dance, which is a New York-based dance company, specializes in. So essentially, the song is one grand gesture of love, and dance is the perfect medium to support that. We wanted to make sure that we had a big sense of scale to reflect the emotion of the song. Also, the different planes, like viewing the video from the front like you normally would on the ground versus an aerial view, allows the song to really open up.
Yeah! Well, I was going to ask, what headspace were you in when you were writing the song?
So, when I wrote the song, I was actually kind of bummed out [Laughs] and feeling a little disappointed about a romantic vibe that I thought was going somewhere but it wasn’t. It’s interesting because with songs, you can really tap into a feeling and expand on it, so I tapped into that sense of disappointment, of so badly wanting to share myself with someone – kind of like the, “Prince, I will die for you” vibe – you know, just like, “I’m here for you” and it’s selfless. But also embracing that there’s something unrequited going on, that it’s not going to land anywhere. But you know, “my feelings exist somewhere in the air, if you want to catch ‘em!” [Laughs]
[Laughs] I feel you!
There are two producers on the track, this guy WNDRBRD – he played me a preliminary track with the drum loop and the progression, back in L.A. That track was sitting around and I was like, “I don’t know, maybe you’re going to feel something with this one,” and the hook kind of effortlessly came up, and “Barricade” as a phrase – I wasn’t even thinking about it, it wrote itself, you know, in the right headspace. I liked the idea of a melody being so bright and uplifting, but the lyrics pulling against it
Totally, that’s what I noticed about it.
Yeah, and then we worked on the song in L.A, and then I brought it to New York and Dan Edinberg finished producing the album. I made my song “Sunny Days” with him, which is the song that was on Spotify’s Global Viral Chart.
So, “Sunny Days” came out two years ago now. How do you feel like you’ve evolved or changed as an artist? Has your sound changed since then?
Yeah, so I’m always writing, and as a human and artist with many interests, there’s a multitude of genres and influences in my music. I’m a creative extrovert, so I like working with different people, and depending on the chemistry of the two creative minds on that day, and the weather, and who knows, that can affect the sound. So, over the past couple of years, I’ve been accumulating a stack – a whole vault – of songs that range from more dream-pop to electronic-folk, to straight up R ‘n’ B. Actually, my next single – it’s called “Staycation” – has like an Aaliyah, R Kelly vibe. So, yes, I have evolved over the past. I mean, I’m not creating music necessarily with a certain zeitgeist in mind, so the plan is just to create my own universe and with that is a spectrum of sounds brought together by my voice, and there’s an amalgamation of electronic and more organic influences. So, I could make all sad-core music, or only sultry R ’n’ B, or I could just do one thing, but instead I’m looking at how I’m telling the story over time, and people are entering my world. With “Barricade,” it wasn’t following a certain style, and I just knew that the song would arrive when it needed to. It has like a “Graceland” Paul Simon feel to it, which is definitely a favorite album of mine.
I love it.
Oh! I wanted to mention something about the video, too. The costumes were designed with this amazing stylist, James Carroll – he’s worked with Solange, Beyonce and a whole bunch of people in different capacities – and this is his first time designing and the piece was inspired by the Francis Picabia exhibit that was at the MoMa this past winter. And there was a certain piece, where it was a figure, and James created a riff off of that – it’s like an art deco sort of harlequin vibe. It’s not following a trend; I think with trends, you take what works for you, but I wanted to paint this imaginative world of figures and create a dance. With Tiffany, we talked about the importance of making the movement as dynamic as the song and very kaleidoscopic, and using the body as architecture. So yeah, it’s a video with a lot of heart.
That’s awesome! So, besides your new videos and remixes, you have the “Barricade” EP coming out, right?
Yeah! It’s interesting because music space is so volatile right now. Anything is possible, it’s always changing. For some artists, putting out a formal EP all at once or a full album makes sense, but I think for artists that are in my position it’s really exciting to have the flexibility to go song by song, and also have new impressions and have the ability to have listeners for the first time and not just rely on putting five songs out at once and hope for the best. So we’re going single by single, and at the end we’re going to bundle it in a folder of sorts, which is conventionally the EP.
Right. So would you say there’s a narrative that runs through all the songs, or a common thread?
I would say this EP has more sensuality and escapism. The first EP had more of a sense of relationship to belonging and not belonging, and feeling complete with someone and also complete within yourself. This is more a journey into sensuality, and the next song is called “Staycation” and it’s a fun summer song – it’s pretty self-explanatory, about wanting to be in paradise with someone. The next one is about blush and about getting in touch with your inner sensuality with someone else. So anyways, I’m just building here, and I try to paint the world within each song, and it’s also for people to decide what the relationship is, what that constellation looks like to them.
Well I’m assuming you’re super excited about all this cool stuff coming!
Yeah! I have so many goddamn songs! [Laughs] So, it’s a relief to be releasing more and outwardly building. Because my inner creative life is very full, and I think it’s worth the wait to make sure you’re releasing music in the right way. But there’s nothing more exciting that being able to share your music and not be playing private Soundcloud links for people. [Laughs]
For sure. You DJ as well, don’t you?
Yeah, I DJ a little bit. I’ve done features with dance artists, but I did recently start DJ-ing because creativity is all connected.
What kind of music do you usually DJ?
I would say it’s open format, with a little bit more of an R ‘n’ B leaning. Like, I’ll probably play Kaytranada or something – and Janet Jackson.
I love Kaytranada!
Yeah, the DJ-ing is a new fun thing on the side, but yeah! Honestly, I think what I want to convey is how important it is just do your own thing – like the unitard is not following any trend at all, and hopefully something like that will stand the test of time because it is what it is, for lack of a better phrase. Instead of just, “Oh yeah, we were all wearing mom jeans!” [Laughs] Which would be cool too, but I wanted to do things a little bit differently.
Featured image courtesy of Janelle Kroll
Follow Janelle on Instagram @janellekroll
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