From Diary EP to Extended Play

A Truncated History of Krystle Warren & The Faculty

Krystle Warren met Solomon Dorsey some weekend at a high school debate competition in Kansas City. After she had trounced Solomon’s debate partner, the two ended up in an open classroom where they began playing music—Krystle had brought her guitar and was practicing chords, and Solomon, then an accomplished violinist, cellist, bassist, and singer likely had some sort of instrument on him, and even if he didn’t he had his voice.

Due to some specific details we’re not going to get into, Krystle was already living on her own; she was eighteen and he was seventeen. But she had a friend who had an apartment near hers, and this friend was having a party. “Wanna go?” she asked Solomon. And, as Solomon puts it, he has seen or spoken to Krystle every single day of his life since.

So when Solomon decided to attend the jazz program at New School in New York, he asked Krystle, “Wanna go?” And a few months after he moved, Krystle showed up. On her first night in the city, Solomon introduced her to Zach Djanikian, a saxophonist he’d become fast friends with at school. They lived in the same dorm, and Zach and Solomon took Krystle to a practice room in the basement and the three of them played musical games. According to Zach, “We’d sing as many melodies as we could over four open strings of the upright bass, plucked successively. ‘Norwegian Wood’ and the theme to ​Family Matters​ were a couple favorites.”

This led to busking as a trio, and each of them was hustling for gigs. An Italian restaurant that featured live music gave Krystle a regular night, and she often had Solomon and Zach play with her. Zach’s friend from Philadelphia, Ben Kane, would come to these nights, and he brought Mike Riddleberger.

In Philly, Zach was in a band called The Brakes, and Ben Kane was producing an album for Zach’s band in a windowless apartment that he shared with Riddleberger. Kane and Riddleberger had become friends a year earlier at NYU, bonding over their love of D’Angelo’s album ​Voodoo​. Riddleberger says that even though he saw Krystle perform, he didn’t speak to her until after she saw him play with his band, Quintus. Zach had brought her, and she approached him after the show to play in a band she was starting.

The Faculty was formed with Krystle, Solomon, Zach, Riddleberger, and Dave Moore, a keyboardist from Kansas who was at New School, too. While the four boys had classes and gigs, Krystle floated around New York and made a lot of friends. She busked and wrote songs, and, with the help of her band members and Ben Kane, who had an internship at ElectricLady Studios and was sneaking them in at odd hours, Krystle turned those songs into an EP called ​Diary​.

And it was a diary. The songs were about her daily experiences in this new place and with these new people. “I’ve Seen Days” has a title that implies a reflection, but it’s about how the world is new to her, how she’s “a frightened child” in a new city. “The New Astrologer” is about a new and exciting love, one that remains a good friend of hers. “A Song For Holly” is a letter to family explaining her new quotidien life (“your big sister / out in New York on some subway / your big sister, out trying to get paid”). And “Central Park” is a document of a night she had in Central Park with Zach and his boyfriend (now husband) Jesse, and how she is coming to embrace this new city, these new people, and this new chapter of her life.

If ​Diary,​ the Faculty’s first recordings, is Krystle’s “Songs of Innocence,” then ​Extended Play​, the Faculty’s latest, is Krystle’s “Songs of Experience.”

Diary​ led to ​Circles,​ which Ben Kane co-produced with ​Voodoo​ engineer Russell “The Dragon” Elevado. ​Circles​ was bought by Because Music in France, and Krystle had her next move. She stayed in France even when her relationship with Because ended because she found Vanessa, and Vanessa was worth staying in France for. But Krystle still recorded ​Love Songs​ in New York, a double album that invokes a Blakean duality with its two subtitles, “A Time to Refrain from Embracing” and “A Time You May Embrace.” ​Love Songs​ was produced with most of the Faculty (Zach was on tour with Amos Lee) and a slew of guest musicians in Brian Bender’s Brooklyn studio. Bender’s assistant, Jonathan Anderson, would later go on to replace Dave Moore on keys in the Faculty. 

The Faculty has always been a tenuous project for everyone involved because of the distance and the schedules. While everyone remains close friends, the band members are spread across the globe. Krystle in France. Riddleberger in New York and Zach in Woodstock. Solomon and Jonathan in Los Angeles. And then they are all working musicians, touring, recording, and collaborating with an impressive list of artists. Musicians like, in no particular order: D’Angelo, Hercules and Love Affair, Donald Fagen and the Nightfliers, Joan As Policewoman, Jose James, Emily King, Janet Jackson, Ron Sexsmith, The Dixie Chicks, Amy Helm, Stevie Wonder, Taylor Swift, Rufus Wainwright, Kylie Minogue, Sara Bareilles, Natalie Merchant, Kesha, Bleachers, Emylou Harris, Amos Lee, Lana Del Rey, Broken Social Scene, Teddy Thompson, Lakecia Benjamin, Jenny Lewis, and honestly that’s less than the half of it.

So they have been busy, and they have gained a lot of experience since the days of sneaking into ElectricLady late night or playing for meager pay and free wine at an East Village Italian resto. And while ​Diary​ and ​Circles​ and ​Love Songs​ were recorded with everyone in the same room (​Three the Hard Way​ was just Krystle and Kane together), ​Extended Play​ was recorded disparately and assembled together by the steady hands and ears of Kane and Krystle. There is distance between the musicians in the recording process, but there is still a close emotional connection that can be heard in these songs.

And Krystle is writing with a close emotional connection to the distant past. The songs that make up ​Extended Play​ are songs of experience—the lyrics reflect on a crush from high school, a departed musical hero, and others who live in memory. There is nostalgia in ​Extended Play​, and a forlornness. And these songs are filled with references, musical and otherwise, to those who have inspired Krystle over the years, from ​Les Mis ​(specifically the song adopted by the ACT UP movement) to Gregory Djanikian, Zach’s poet father, and Audre Lord.

Krystle describes “When I Look Back,” the last song of ​Extended Play​, as “an apology to my teenage self.” Seventeen years ago she was writing songs about what happened day-of because being young is about immediacy and living in the present tense. Now the songs are about years past because life slows down, and we are allowed the time to “look back.”

But as Krystle sings in “Rising,” “Future lingers while past is present.” She’s writing about the past because we are all our collected histories—or as she puts it in “When I Look Back”: “there’s still something of her that stays.” The future, of course, still lingers, always there waiting for us, for the next move. The album ends with a recording of Audre Lorde’s gravelly voice. She says,

“I’m going on to something else, the shape of which I have no idea. ‘Only thing I know, is it’s going to be quite different. What I leave behind has a life of its own. I’ve said this about poetry… Well in a sense, I’m saying it about the very artifact of who I have been.”

Krystle Warren & The Faculty still have more to come. They have built seventeen years of memories, experiences, recordings, and shows, and with the release of ​Extended Play​, they continue to show a commitment to growing as musicians together, even if apart.

        Written by Phil Anderson