Artist to Watch: Kate Bollinger Ascends with Her Sensational, Dreamy “Tests”

Kate Bollinger
Cool, laid-back, and utterly intoxicating, Kate Bollinger’s “Tests” is syrupy bedroom pop at its finest – a sweetly intimate, hypnotic daydream.

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Writing songs is kind of like dreaming…

Kate Bollinger’s “Tests” is the kind of song that turns an artist into an overnight sensation. Cool, laid-back, and utterly intoxicating, “Tests” is syrupy bedroom pop at its finest – a sweetly intimate, hypnotic daydream you can play on repeat all day (and all night) long.

Tests - Kate Bollinger

Tests – Kate Bollinger

Couldn’t say couldn’t say
If I would come on back
With what I know now
Just don’t know now
Did you say
Did you say those things
That you couldn’t take back
You know I get down
When ya not around

Music is a fickle and often unforgiving sport; you can spend years making incredible songs as an independent act, playing small venues and opening for bigger artists on their local tour stops, yet still find yourself working overtime with little more than a few bragging rights or write-ups. This is the sad, but true case for so many as-of-yet “undiscovered” andincredibly amazing talents.

And sometimes, you hit the musical jackpot and everything takes off. “Tests” is Kate Bollinger’s rocket ship, and this right now is her moment. The Charlottesville, Virginia singer/songwriter has been experimenting with sundry sounds and styles as a bedroom pop/DIY artist for quite some time; she released her first official EP KEY WEST in October 2017, and released a slew of folk/pop-leaning singles in the first half of 2018.

Produced by John Trainum and co-written and co-produced by John Wehmeyer, “Tests” is Kate Bollinger’s first foray into the world of minimalist R&B and indie pop, and it has proved an instant success. At the time of this writing, the song boasts a jaw-dropping 168,000 Spotify streams, and behind this metric are listeners from around the world tuning in to an intimate and immersive experience.

Kate Bollinger

Kate Bollinger

“Tests” radiates with a warm, numb glow as words flow like honey from Bollinger’s quick tongue. Her performance is relaxed, despite the lyrics’ dramatic urgency; she lets the music ride, and thus “Tests” takes on a life of its own.

What if I don’t see it,
don’t see it when ya try

Easy lookin’, easy condemning
from the other side

Quick to pounce, quick to anger
Walk in don’t seem to bat an eye
Ballistic looking for the wrong
And I’m blind to all the rights
Got you like stroop reading red
written with the ink that’s white

Flashlight in my palm,
it’s not your fault
you won’t put up a fight

It may have a smooth, glazed texture like musical honey, but deep down, “Tests” is a raw and vulnerable diary entry – the kind of chilling, self-critical reflection that can only pour directly from the soul. The song finds Bollinger digging deep into herself, exploring her behaviors and actions in a relationship. How many of us are humble enough to admit when we’re wrong, or to acknowledge the flaws in our being?

An instant head-turner, “Tests” radiates from the depths of human emotion; it does, in three minutes, what for so many of us might take a lifetime to accomplish. The song already earned its place as an Editor’s Pick for this week, and it also earns Bollinger her rightful place as an Atwood Magazine artist to watch in 2019.

Dive deeper into Kate Bollinger and “Tests” in our introductory interview below, and stay tuned for more from this exciting talent!

Stream: “Tests” – Kate Bollinger

MEET KATE BOLLINGER

Atwood Magazine: How, if at all, do you feel like “Tests” stands out from your previous material?

Kate Bollinger: I think that “Tests” is really dissimilar from most of my previous projects. I’ve been working with two friends, John Wehmeyer and John Trainum, who produced the song, which has totally shifted things for me. I’m used to writing completely alone, bringing my finished songs to John (Trainum) to record and produce, and then from there we’ll add other instruments and start to develop things more. “Tests” and my other recent release, “do u go out together?” were both written collaboratively with John and John. I think that my writing style is substantially different when I’m writing a song on guitar in my room versus when I’m working with them and writing to their beats. In my mind, those two songs fall more into a crossover category of R&B and indie-pop, whereas my other stuff is more stripped down indie-pop and folk-pop.

What inspired “Tests,” and what is your relationship with this song as its creator?

Kate Bollinger: The song first came about when John (Wehmeyer) wrote a chord loop on bass and sent it to John (Trainum), who programmed the drums, percussion, and added keys. The three of us got in the studio together and tracked vocals. It all happened really naturally, which I hope comes through. When I begin a song I never really know where it’s going to go, I’ll start singing a melody, which will turn into some syllables and eventually a flow that sticks. Sometimes a word will pop up arbitrarily that I like and want to use and that one word will dictate where things go from there. A lot of the time I feel very passive in the process, like things are being wrestled out of my subconscious. Writing songs is kind of like dreaming, which can be really amazing and also really horrible, depending on what the dream/song makes you realize you cared so much about without even knowing it. “Tests” is all about my experience with trying to combat paranoia, suspicion, and pessimism in relationships. When I finish writing a song about something negative like that I always hope that it can exist out in the world as a time capsule and take up less space within myself. I won’t say too much to that end because I want people to make of the meaning what they want, but I think a lot of people will be able to relate in some way.

Your vocal inflections are really cool here: everything rolls off the tongue with a chilling ease. Why sing this way? How do you feel that affects the song?

Kate Bollinger: It’s funny that it comes across that way, because something that I realized very quickly when I started writing to beats is that most of the time I’m too long-winded for the genre. I have so much to say and have to try and fit it all into these tiny spaces. A few of the verses had a lot of extra words that I had to cut out, so maybe what you’re hearing is relief that I made things easier on myself. I also tend to naturally have a very relaxed vocal delivery. That’s always been the kind of music that I’ve been drawn to.

Do you have any favorite lines in the song?

Kate Bollinger: I like the line, “Don’t want to think a thought is treason,” because I think it gets at the central point of the song and also probably shows the most desperation of all the lines. Musically, I really like the delivery of the bridge, specifically “On the way back to my house I wanna call you,” which is sonically the climax of the song. The bridge is nice because the lyrics finally recognize the good in the situation and (hopefully) it becomes obvious that all of this suffering is a result of being so happy and excited and not wanting to ruin it, but nearly ruining it by trying so hard not to. My specialty ! : ^)

Implicit care won’t heal my demons
If there’s blood show me the knife
Don’t want to think a thought is treason
Each time your gaze isn’t mine
If there’s no ration to my reason
Show me truth but do it nice

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Tests - Kate Bollinger

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Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com