Sunday, March 26, 2006

Interview: Morgan Lander of Kittie

The girls of heavy metal outfit Kittie have endured more than their share of adversity over their 10-year career, including some less-than-amicable lineup changes and legal battles with their former label. Through it all, the band has persevered and is set to embark on a nationwide tour in support of their digitally released EP Never Again. I was very fortunate to have frontwoman Morgan Lander take time out of her busy schedule to give me a call and answer a few questions.

[HMM] I'd just like to thank you for taking the time to give me a call.
[Morgan] Hey, no problem.

So your tour is about to kick off. How does it feel to be finally getting back on the road?
I'm so excited. It's been way too long. We're just really, really happy to be able to continue to do this and to finally play for our fans again and let them hear some new stuff and obviously some old favorites. We've just been around our hometown too long and it's starting to wear on me [laughs].

What have you guys been doing in your off time?
We've actually had a lot go on. Everything from parting ways with our record label to parting ways with some members and that sort of thing, but mostly we've been just writing. We have a full album completely written and we're doing a lot of demoing and that sort of thing as well, really refining the songs. I don't know, it was kinda like this past year has been an opportunity for us to really do a lot of soul searching in terms of where we'd like to take this band musically, and how we would be able to possibly redefine our sound and define it even more. You know what I mean?

Kittie

Oh yeah, absolutely. Just listening to the EP that you've got out there now I hear a lot of differences. Especially with "Breathe", it's very different from the other two.
Definitely, definitely. And with the EP, those were some of the first songs that we had actually written and recorded and with that I think we just really wanted to cover the entire spectrum of what Kittie is about. So you have "Never Again", which is a really really heavy all screaming song and you have "This Too Shall Pass", which is a mixture of the two. And then you have "Breathe", which is still very heavy but it also incorporates a lot of melody, and we just kind of chose those three because they cover all of the spectrum of what the band is about and that sort of thing. But I definitely think that "Breathe" is kind of where we possibly could be heading in terms of blending really really heavy, brutal music with melody. I think it's something that is kind of interesting. Why not mix the best of both worlds in this band? Because I think sometimes we're confused, ya know? We have really really strong metal roots and we we really want to just be a balls out metal band sometimes, and sometimes we want to explore the more melodic side of things. I think a song like "Breathe", and a lot more of the songs we've been writing, kind of mash those two together and I think it's kind of neat.

Yeah. That's exactly what I was going to ask you. The formula on "Breathe" was just amazing, and I was going to ask if that was a direction that you were looking at heading. I'm glad to hear that it sounds like it's going to be more involved in your music.
Yeah definitely. To me it just seems like we've finally just really, really focused our writing and just really refined our sound and have finally been able to really blend both worlds together and yeah, it's definitely where we're headed. I mean, that's not to say there's still not gonna be some screaming. Sometimes there's certain subjects and certain songs that really lend to it, but I think it's interesting because it's new territory for us and it's something that's a little different than what's out there, ya know?

Absolutely. Now are these same three songs going to be on the album when it comes out?
I think that's really something that I guess is yet to be decided. We have a lot of really great songs and I think what we'll probably just have to do is when we finally have the opportunity to record them, we'll record all of them and choose the best ones. I'd like to think that a song like "Breathe" probably would make it onto the album, but who knows? Other songs may turn out better or whatever, but I think that if those songs do end up on the album they may incorporate a few changes just to keep things interesting. We'll do a little bit of different stuff on them and change them around.

How did Trish and Tara come to be part of Kittie?
Actually, we met Tara the last time we were in Detroit at one of our shows. That was the first time that I'd met her, but she actually played in a local band for quite a few years and our management as well as myself was aware of her and her talent and that sort of thing. We've also known Trish for quite a few years as well. She's played in local bands and kind of has the same circle of friends that Mercedes and I do. When it came time to finding the right people we didn't really have to look very far. It was actually rather refreshing to know that there's people that have really really great talent and great drive and really see eye to eye with Mercedes and I that were just in our backyard, ya know? It's great. That's the first time we've had local girls in the band since the original lineup and it just makes things really really great for practicing as well as really getting to know people. In the past we've had American people in the band and it was always kind of a pain to have them fly up, sometimes across the country, for practice and that sort of thing. It was more a work relationship because outside of touring and practicing we all kind of went back to our respective countries and cities, so we didn't really get any time to build a relationship beyond the music and the work of it. I think that's the beauty of having these two girls in the band. We live really close and we can hang out and get to know each other outside of the band. It helps to build a tighter unit, I think.

It definitely gives you a better sense of cohesion.
Oh absolutely. Things are working out really well. We can practice every day, and we have been and it's just really helped improve the live show. We are able to throw more ideas back and forth and talk about things 'cause we're jammin' every day and so things have really evolved and come along. With the new songs as well as with some of the older fan favorites and that sort of thing, we've been able to put like a new, interesting spin on it. But yeah, they're great girls and I'm really really happy.

It sounds like they've already just jumped into the songwriting process and are really contributing.
Actually, all the songs that have been written for the album were just Mercedes and I because it was just the two of us for so long. With Tara, she's a really really great guitar player. We've never had solos or that sort of thing in our songs before and we've kind of let her really show off some of her talent in terms of that. With some of the older songs it's adding solos to them and solos to the new songs as well, so in that department definitely. We let their talent shine, but all of the songs have already been written. It helps to improve things and make things more well-rounded. You can only have so much of a song when it's just a drummer and a guitar player/singer writing, ya know? So I think everybody adds their personality.

That's awesome. What is Tara's style? This is the first time we've heard her on Never Again - at least for me, anyway. How would you compare her style to some of the other guitarists of the genre?
I don't know. I think her roots are definitely guitar-wise and musically in sort of a different place than say someone like myself - growing up with a lot more extreme metal and that sort of thing. She comes from a background where she does a lot of jazz and blues runs and that sort of thing, but she actually really really compliments the music really well. It adds another dimension, another element. She's really great; she's really talented with ideas and the whole solo thing is really really cool so I think it's just gonna, like I said, add another dimension to the band. Something that we've never had before and it's only going to improve on things.

Absolutely. From what I've heard so far of Never Again you've got a formula nailed.
Oh absolutely, and it's only gonna get better. That was just our first time really jumping into things with having her do a solo on the recording.

How has reception of the EP been so far?
It's been great. It really has been. It was kind of an interesting decision to just release something online, but I think it was really important to get back in touch with our fans and just let people know that we haven't gone anywhere, that we haven't broken up or anything like that. People are really really digging the new stuff, more so than even some of our past albums so I've heard. I just can't wait to show everybody what else we have up our sleeve 'cause that's just the tip of the iceberg, really.

I've heard you say that in the past that the Canadian metal scene really hasn't treated you all that well...
Well I wouldn't say even necessarily just the metal scene, just the industry in Canada in general.

Really? Do you think that's improved any with this new release?
I really don't know. I mean, we haven't really kept too much in touch with the Canadian industry and that sort of thing. That's not to say that the fans aren't there, because they definitely are. It doesn't matter where you live or what language you speak, music is something that everybody can understand. But it's always been the United States that's really embraced us. We kind of felt in the beginning that we had to go to the States to be taken seriously and get a record deal and be able to tour and that sort of thing. It's kind of unfortunate, but a lot of Canadian industry people kind of just wrote us off as a bunch of little girls. Obviously through the years we've grown up and spent a lot of time becoming a better band.

Yeah, I definitely think that attitude is not gonna fly anymore.
Oh definitely not. Especially when we're able to release our next full-length album, I think people are gonna...it's gonna be like a completely new band.

Morgan Lander
Do you have any kind of estimate on when that album might be coming out?
Well, we're actually still in the process of looking for a home for Kittie. So we're doing a lot of keeping in contact with different people and that sort of thing. The entire album is written. It's ready to go, so all it's really gonna take is finding the appropriate place for the band to do their thing. I'm hoping by the end of this year or possibly the beginning of the next year we'll have a full-length for the fans. That's not to say that you're not going to be hearing from us. We're gonna be doing this tour for the next couple months and hopefully hooking some stuff up for the summer. If you come out to a show, you'll get to hear some new stuff as well to try to keep things interesting and new and fresh.

I'll definitely be there on the 7th in Flint...
Excellent. Well, I hope you enjoy the show. It should be a good one.

I'm sure I will. Now the last time you played here in Michigan was a pre-Superbowl party, right?
Yes.

How was that experience for you?
Oh it was amazing. It was amazing. Tons and tons of people. It was a smaller room but everybody really came out to just have a good time. It was kind of a crazy party. They were having like dollar draft beer so everybody ended up getting really drunk and rowdy and crazy, and of course we got to play and we debuted a few new songs and that sort of thing. Detroit's always been a really really great market for us. The kids there are just so into the band and so into metal and they just want to have a good time. It's Detroit Rock City - everybody likes to get a little crazy there.

Absolutely. We're always looking forward to you guys coming around and can't wait for it.
Great!

Another thing I noticed that you in particular did in the downtime was your duet with Maurizio Iacono of Kataklysm.
Yeah! That was a great opportunity. Those guys are amazing.

How did that all come together and how was it working with them?
It's kinda funny. It was actually Maurizio that had gotten in touch with our manager and just said "Hey, we're interested in having Morgan do something on the new album", and right away I was like "Of course!". I mean, Kataklysm is a great Death metal band but also a Canadian band, which made it easier for me to go and do the recording. Mercedes and I went to Montreal last summer and I did the vocal tracks with J.F., who does the recording and producing on the album. I think he's done quite a few of their albums, actually. He's got a cool little home studio and so I just went in and did that. They were really cool, really down to earth people and really just kind of let me do my thing - which was awesome - and let me put my own little flair on it. I know that they were very, very into it and very adamant about it - that it was gonna be really really amazing. I think there was a lot of their fans who were kind of skeptical about it because they're obviously very different musically from Kittie. I know that I actually had read an interview where he said that their label was even kind of a little apprehensive about it. But you know, hey, I brought it! I think a lot of people still have the wrong idea about this band. They hear Kittie and the first thing they think about is "Brackish" and the first album, and a bunch of underage teenage girls. It's like, we've been in this biz for 10 years now. You'd think that something would improve, and it definitely has. We're light years away from that band, and like I said, I just think that people conjure up the wrong idea when they hear the name. I think it's about damn time that we get to change their minds!

Yeah, I'm thinkin' you're doing just that!
[laughs] Well, you know, I try. I mean, with the whole Kataklysm thing, I think that definitely opened up a lot of people's eyes and ears to the band and what we're now capable of doing. I've read a lot of really great reviews about the entire album, obviously because Kataklysm is a great band. But I think a lot of people were really impressed with the duet, and I think it's really cool.

Anything like that in the future for you?
I'd love to do more stuff like that. As a vocalist, I'm pretty versatile - I can sing and scream. So bring it on!

Well, I don't want to run too much over time here, so do you have any departing words?
Definitely check out the Never Again EP, it's online now. If you check out the iTunes version you get an extra bonus track, which is pretty cool. We're hitting the road starting March 31st and we'll probably be on tour until the beginning of June, so check your local concert listings and Kittie will be coming to a town near you. Check out kittierocks.com for all the latest Kittie info and of course our MySpace, which is the big thing now. It's myspace.com/officialkittie, and leave us a message. We run both the web site and the MySpace, so we try to be as down to earth as possible and keep in touch with our fans and let 'em know what's going on.

Great! Well, thanks again for the time and I will look forward to seeing the show.
Excellent! See ya at the Machine Shop. Thank you.