Walking for inspiration

Kingston-based duo Kris and Dee find their creativity in quiet moments

Kris and Dee explore the shores of Lake Ontario. The scenery in Kingston is one of the main reasons the couple decided to move here.
Kris and Dee explore the shores of Lake Ontario. The scenery in Kingston is one of the main reasons the couple decided to move here.
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For Kingston-based musicians Kris and Dee, inspiration starts in bed.

“We’ll be in the pitch black, drinking coffee and start to work on a song,” guitarist and vocalist Kris Abbott said. “There’s a lot of clarity that comes out of that early-morning quiet.”

Abbott started writing music with Dee McNeil in 2006 when they both joined an all-girl punk band in London, Ont.

The couple moved to Toronto to write their own music together, eventually relocating to Kingston in 2011 after marrying in 2005. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2011 and they’re in the process of completing a new record.

The duo agreed that they try to give listeners space to digest the angst of their music through a glimpse of rock ‘n’ roll.

“Some of the content on the record is what you might expect on a pop record, it’s heartbreak,” Abbott said. “Then there’s some that’s a little bit more difficult to digest. There’s a song about dementia.

“Sometimes we push a little bit. I’m a rock guitar player. I like to dig in a bit on my acoustics.”

Abbott said the vibrancy of their music draws from different things they see on daily walks along the shore of Lake Ontario, with McNeil adding that Kingston’s natural beauty was the main reason the couple moved to the city.

“Connecting with nature is a must for us,” Abbott said. “If I haven’t stopped to appreciate what’s around me, I know I’m not doing the right thing.”

While the duo has committed themselves to writing and producing their own music in Kingston, both said maintaining day jobs helps them with their writing process. McNeil teaches in the physiotherapy department at Queen’s while Abbott runs an audio-production business.

“It’s like the whole Hannah Montana thing,” McNeil said. “There are a lot of people in music that despise that they have to fit into the society thing. I love the balance. It makes for a happy life and gives me something to write about.”

Despite being introverts, both women can’t get enough of the energy of a live audience.

“You know you feel the love and you just give it right back,” Abbott said. “It’s so circular.”

As for pre-performance rituals, Abbott always takes a shot of tequila.

“[Before the show] I get even more introverted, like I’m shy or something,” she said. “But during and after the show it’s a completely different thing.”

Both said they would never automatically turn down the opportunity to collaborate with a musician, regardless of the genre.

“It’s a meeting of the minds and spirits,” McNeil said. “You want to have this ... musical conversation because it’s just the language that you speak.”

Kris and Dee will be performing this Saturday night at the Grad Club.

“One thing that always amazes us when we look into the audience [is] the demographics are all over the place,” McNeil said. “There’s younger people, there’s students, there’s older people, there’s gay people, straight people, transgendered, punks, rockers, cowboys. We think of ourselves as somewhat misfits because we are a little bit of all of that.”

Kris and Dee play the Grad Club on Saturday night. Doors open at 9 p.m. and the show starts at 10 p.m.

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