This is one installment in a series of articles about Warped Tour Atlantic City, one of three official events commemorating the music festival’s 25-year-run. Stay tuned for more features about everyone’s favorite “punk rock summer camp.”
On Saturday night at Warped Tour Atlantic City, it was impossible to ignore the roar coming from the Full Sail Stage. The sound was courtesy of Kaleido, a Detroit rock group helmed by lead vocalist Christina Chriss. The power rock band—a grittier alternative to the festival’s more pop-punk oriented acts—played its first Warped Tour set in 2013. Since then, Kaleido has performed at select Warped Tour dates over the years, including this year’s big 25th anniversary celebration. As the title of its NO RLY… IM FINE EP suggests, the band is never afraid to open up about difficult topics, such as mental health and the stigma surrounding it.
We were lucky enough to speak with Chriss backstage at the Atlantic City Boardwalk. We talked about new single “Pretending,” karaoke memories, playing with Aerosmith, and more.
TYF: You’ve seen the progression of Warped Tour over the years. Has it changed at all since 2013?
Chriss: I don’t really notice much difference. It’s just as amazing now as it was then. This show, the 25th anniversary show, is obviously an insane lineup, and I’m just blown away by the bands that are on this bill. I would say that Warped Tour [has brought me] some of my best memories I’ve ever had playing in a show with my band.
TYF: Absolutely. What are some of your favorite Warped Tour memories?
Chriss: Getting to hang out with everybody in the parking lot at the barbecue, making friends. That’s the really cool part of it for me. Also connecting with new fans and new cities and constantly being on the go and just shaking it up. It’s new every day. I love Warped Tour and I’m sad to see it go.
TYF: Me, too. What are some of your favorite cities you’ve visited on Warped Tour?
Chriss: Detroit, definitely. We’re from Detroit, so to be able to play the Warped Tour in our hometown was huge. We had an amazing crowd; it was just childhood dreams coming true. It was like fireworks going off everywhere for me, because as a kid, I would go to Warped Tour and be like, “I would love to be on that stage someday.” And I made it happen. It’s really cool to watch your dreams come true. And it’s a lot of hard work.
TYF: For sure. You guys just released the song “Pretending.” In that one, you open up about mental health. Would you like to talk about the inspiration behind that?
Chriss: Yeah. It was totally from the heart. The hook of the song—”I’m tired of pretending I’m okay/It’s okay to not be okay sometimes”—it’s me making a statement from my heart, me telling myself like it’s okay to feel like that. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to that.
TYF: Absolutely—everyone can. Can you tell me about the making of the music video?
Chriss: Yes! It was a lot of friends helping us out. The locations were all places that my friends either own or are connected with. So I just called upon my friends, and we mapped the whole thing out and did it ourselves. Michael Martenson shot and directed the video, and he also co-produced and recorded the EP. So he was involved in the creation of the songs and also the visuals and the music video. It was super cool to be able to work with the same person on both of those. It was the first time I’ve ever done that, and I can’t wait to do more [stuff] like that with him, because we were so immersed in the project from all angles. It was awesome.
TYF: You guys performed on the ShipRocked cruise. What was that experience like? Do you have any fun stories?
Chriss: Oh my God. It’s like a rock and roll sleepover. Everyone—fans, bands—all stuck on a boat together for three days in the middle of the ocean. It was so much fun. I sang Karaoke in the bar/casino/lounge area at like, five in the morning. I made lots of friends.
TYF: What song did you sing?
Chriss: “All My Life” by the Foo Fighters.
TYF: That’s so great.
Chriss: Yeah, it was hilarious. I’d never been on a cruise before, so to go on my first cruise and be performing… It was real wild. I jumped off a table during one of our sets, and the ship rocked when I landed, and I was like, “Am I going to puke? I’m going to keep singing.” I didn’t puke, but it was wild. When you were playing the set, the stage was like this (mimes rocking motions)—rocking.
TYF: That’s wild. I’ve never been on a cruise, but it sounds like so much fun.
Chriss: It was. We went to the Bahamas, so we got a little chill time. It was so good.
TYF: You call your fan base the KaleidoFam. What are the coolest or most memorable KaleidoFam interactions you’ve had?
Chriss: Oh my God. Our fans are so dedicated, so amazing. They have helped us win multiple voting-style competitions. One of the radio stations in Detroit, 89x, it’s a big alternative music radio station—they have a thing called the People’s Choice, and we had the all-time most winning song on that. It had to be retired because [the fans voted all] 27 nights [of the competition] and [our song] won every single night. They’ve also helped us win the Loudwire Battle Royale. They retired that song as well. So the KaleidoFam—I stay in touch with them very closely. It’s a really great group of people from all walks of life, and some really cool things have come from that. Like, people have ended up meeting their significant others through our band and [making] lifelong friendships. It’s a good-vibe, good-energy group of people.
TYF: I read that you choose not to drink—same thing for me as well, so I understand. Do you feel like that’s affected your experience being in the scene?
Chriss: Well, I feel like I’m the best version of myself without it. At times, it’s a little bit like everybody’s doing it, and it’s weird because I’m so used to doing that, but I haven’t wavered, haven’t caved. And it’s been over 270 days now, I think.
TYF: That’s awesome.
Chriss: Yeah, it’s good. I was just like, “You know, I don’t really need this. I’m better without it. Let’s rock without it.” And it’s been cool, you know?
TYF: It’s refreshing.
Chriss: I’m proud because it’s not easy being in this industry, you know?
TYF: Absolutely. And you guys opened for Aerosmith—tell me about that. What was that like?
Chriss: That was at Jones Beach in New York. And… man. We’ve had the opportunity to open for so many huge bands that have been massive influences. Aerosmith, Seether, Evanescence, Kid Rock, Sammy Hagar… Massive names in music. That show was awesome. They’re all awesome. I take different things from each of them. It’s an honor, you know? It’s my music taking me there. I must be doing something right.
TYF: Is there anything else you would like to say to the KaleidoFam? All the readers who are checking out this article?
Chriss: Yes! Please check out our new EP. We are really excited for everyone to hear it. It’s gonna be a new version of Kaleido for a lot of people. We’ve evolved through our music, and you can go back and really watch that. This is the most authentic version of us, and I’m very excited for everyone to hear it. And if you’re not a part of the KaleidoFam, please come on over. We have a group on Facebook. Join. Also, come out to a show. Find us on the Internet. Kaleidoband.com, @KaleidoBand on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to meet everybody. That’s what this is about, you know—making connections.