Finger Prick (Woozy Tribe), out now
Electronic, experimental, rap, folk, lo-fi, psychedelic rock, trip-hop. So read the Bandcamp.com tags for singer/multi-instrumentalist Body Cheetah's new 8-track EP, Finger Prick. If this seemingly paradoxical mess of labels and adjectives is starting to make smoke shoot from your ears, you're not alone. But while a slew of artists today try their hands at genre bending in an attempt to sound different, Body Cheetah — the stage name for Westport native and Woozy Tribe record-label owner James Kristofik — pulls it off effortlessly. Many strive to be strange, struggle to stand out; few actually are, even fewer actually do.
"[Woozy Tribe] tries to have this presence in the music industry where it's like we're all a part of one big pie and the rest of the pie is cherry but we're lime," says Kristofik, adding offhandedly, "or some shit like that."
Currently a graphic design major at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Ga., Kristofik is quick to laugh, quick to joke. He has the unique disposition of someone who takes his work both very seriously and very lightly. His music career started in high school when he decided to throw a Valentine's Day party one weekend while his parents were away. Kristofik had made a beat a few days prior with an old Casio keyboard he bought off eBay, and he and his friends took turns improvising lyrics and melodies over the music as they cleaned up the house.
"I put on the beat and we were just writing the most vulgar lyrics you can over this weird R&B, the most sexual lyrics known to man," laughs Kristofik, who attended Staples High School for one year before transferring to Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass.
But much has changed musically for Kristofik over the years and, by extension, his alter ego Body Cheetah (a play on the term bodhicitta in Buddhism, which means "enlightened-mind"). He taught himself to sing, to play the guitar and the drums, how to record, mix and master his tracks. The sound on Finger Prick, which was just released this month, is melodic and subversive, the lyrics spanning anywhere from the abstractly poetic to the heartfelt and relatable. Kristofik's odd, yet pleasing, falsetto suits the songs well, and the sparing use of electronic drum beats and synths keep the style edgy rather than falling into the indie-rock realm.
"I get the quality [of my recordings] from having nothing to do at boarding school but mix and master," he says. "So I'd spend hours — 7 hours, 8 hours a-day — trying to figure out how to make it sound the best as possible with what I had."
Kristofik's disenchantment with boarding school also allowed him a lot of time to make connections with members of the music industry through a now defunct online forum called The Z6. There he conversed with label heads, and forged relationships with other experimental musicians looking to take their art to the next level. Kristofik was inspired to create Woozy Tribe by the thought of putting out his music, as well as the music of other acts he believed needed more recognition. Fans can download all of the music made available by Woozy Tribe free of charge on the label's Bandcamp page, but can also "name their own price" and donate, if they feel obliged. Don't expect to see any Body Cheetah shows in CT anytime very soon, as Kristofik is busy with school.
"The music industry, once you get to a certain point, it just turns into this like really weird fake surreal mess of PR and bloggers and stuff like that," says Kristofik. "I kind of want to stay away from that and just make it more about the art."