October 18, 2015

Cornell Student by Day, Rock Musician by Night

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Avid musician, ILR senior and Sun Staff Writer Kurt Fritjofson ’16 has been working hard this semester. Aside from finishing up his degree to graduate this spring, Fritjofson is also in the process of recording an album, Kismet, under the stage name of Kurt Riley. He is collaborating with other students, and their combined talents make for an impressive result. The Sun sat down and spoke with him about his music, his aspirations and what we can expect from him in the future.


The Sun: What is your history as far as music production goes, and when did your interests spark?
Kurt Fritjofson: I’ve been producing my own music since I was 14 years old, and I’ve had the great fortune of getting to work with many talented musicians and producers. I think the thing that sparked it was definitely the Rolling Stones; they were the biggest influence in my entire musical career. For my money, there’s not a band that’s better.

Sun: Any particular albums of theirs, or just their sound?
K.F.:Exile on Main Street, Tattoo You and Undercover. They have a lot of great stuff. But I love the interaction between the players. They have this Chicago Blues sound that’s updated for every subsequent generation, and they’ve adapted to new styles in music very well over the years — [a quality] which I’ve always admired.

Sun: What’s going on with the current project you are working on?
K.F.: The name of the record is Kismet, and it’s a concept album. It’s a science fiction romance, [an] apocalyptic tale starting 4,500 years ago in ancient Egypt and ending in present-day 2015. The main characters are a king and queen from an ancient civilization millions of lightyears away. I’ve never done a record with a narrative before, so this is a new challenge.

Sun: Who is working on the project with you?
K.F.: Charlie Fraioli ’16 played bass on the album, and he is also in a band called Shore Acres Drive. They are very good, and play a lot out locally. The drummer is Olivia Dawd ’17, a C.S. major. Brad Nathanson ’18, an architecture student, is playing guitar on the record, and Sam Packer ’18 is going to be playing guitar with us at our live shows. The album is being released by Electric Buffalo Records, a student-run record label.

Sun: What was it like working on a music video?
K.F.: We filmed in the Johnson Museum and in the Commons. I’m working on with Alan Williams ’17, a PMA major. We also are going to have two actresses in the videos, Suthe Mani ’17 and Marwa Jabouri ’17, both of whom are also transfer students here.

Sun: What are your cinematic influences as far as your music videos are concerned?
K.F.: I was weaned on Blade Runner and Kubrick, and all the great sci-fi — Aliens, Star Trek — so we are definitely incorporating all of those elements into the shots we make, the lighting we choose — every facet. Even down to the costuming. I designed an outfit for myself that has lighting elements in it to illuminate my figure as I move. It’s going to be very alien.

Sun: What is your favorite song from the album?
K.F.: The generic comment that songwriters offer is that it’s like choosing between my children. You put time and effort into every single one. There are one or two on Kismet that I like most of all; the first single, “Hush, Hush, Hush,” because I wrote it about a girl I was very deeply involved with, and loved dearly — so it’s very personal. There’s another song I adore, “God’s Back in Action.” I’m an atheist, but I find that not a lot of people have hope these days. The song is about a fellow who recaptures that spirit. You know that even if there’s not anyone looking out for us, we are looking out for one another. It’s not just aimless entropy consuming everything.

Sun: So what are you looking to do once you graduate this May?
K.F.: I met with the American Federation of Musicians, at their locale in Nashville over the course of the summer. Next summer, I may work with them and return subsequently for graduate school.

Sun: What are your previous albums like then, and how are they different than your current album?
K.F.: Well, Kismet is the first one that tells a story. As for my first four albums — I’m looking forward to releasing them in the future; there [are] probably 40 really great “children” I’m really proud of. I’ve already got material written for my sixth album, too.