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Interview with Morgan Lander of Kittie

Kittie performs live
Kittie performs live
copyright Diana Price

When people think of female bands, especially the rare metal bands, they often want to stereotype them as wild women or chain smoking, hard drinking divas. With literally half her life spent in the world of rock and roll, Morgan Lander of Kittie grew up on a stage, and hasn’t let fame and the pitfalls of excess sway her from her path. Or turn her into a prima donna. She’s soft-spoken and down to earth, with a “one of the guys” sensibility and an appreciation for how blessed she has been to have found success so early, no matter how trying life can be squeezed into a van with her comrades for miles on end.

But you won’t hear her whining about how rough life is on the road. I knew Kittie were going to be my kind of band when I saw the van and trailer they were unloading before the show – no fancy tour buses here. The Canadian quartet was roughing it to save money for bigger tours and support gigs for the rest of 2010, an that thriftiness paid off – they are currently on the Thrash and Burn tour and will be doing some dates with Devildriver later in August and September.

DP: It always amazes me how these bands with the big tour buses are bitching about how hard life is on the road. It’s like honey, you’ve got it made!

ML: We’ve had tour buses for years and years but you know like the years that gas was so ridiculously high, we did a month in a Dodge Durango. We slept sitting up.

DP: People think rock is so glamorous, but except for that time on the stage, the rest of it…when people see how hard it is at this level, I think it makes them appreciate how much the bands are doing it for the love of it.

ML: It’s definitely a lack of sleep and a lot of head work, but it’s worth that one hour on stage. You definitely wouldn’t do it if it you didn’t love it.

DP: So what is life really like out on the road? Everyone wants to know what it’s like to be a “rock star.”

ML: To me I think a lot of it is an illusion, quite honestly. People see you up on the stage and you’re in your stage outfit, full makeup and that sort of thing and we travel around seven of us in that van. And it is a lot of fun because there are a lot of perks like after shows, you know you usually get to meet a lot of cool people, all the bands usually hang out together, drinking and having fun, that sort of thing, but you’re also sleeping in a van, sometimes three or four hours of sleep at night which is a regular occurrence on this tour, so there’s definitely a lot of tradeoffs. It is a lot of fun but honestly when you are touring with a bunch of people together you get really close and form your own little microcosm, and it’s very hard to relate to the outside world. So it is a lot of fun, but there are a lot of sacrifices and hard work. For me it definitely keeps me grounded.

DP: It’s like that part in Almost Famous where they’re all in the bus: that bonding, and when they go to the hotel and they haven’t seen each other for months, but it’s like they were never apart.

ML: Absolutely!

DP: Has this tour been a little different from tours in the past?

ML: It hasn’t been all that different. I mean no matter where we go we always have a good time… it’s different in that we’ve never toured with God Forbid before but we’ve known the guys for long time but we never had a chance to do the tour thing together, so it’s really cool, we all get along. So yeah, it’s not really all that much different. Everybody’s happy, its a good little community we’ve got going on - good vibes.

DP: I read you were trying to do a little bit different sound on “In the Black.”

ML: We always try to do a different sound with all the albums for the evolution of the band, so obviously for us this is the next step. I think a lot of the changes came from being sort of unhappy with “Funeral for Yesterday”…it didn’t translate quite the way we would have wanted it to, so we sort of set out with “In the Black” to do everything differently – basically the exact opposite of what we did with “Funeral for Yesterday.” In writing we wanted to make it a lot heavier, a lot faster , a lot more rock…more of a raw metal sound. We wanted the production to be a little bit more on the unpolished side. I mean it’s still a very “thick” album, but where there’s 10-15 layers of harmonies on “Funeral for Yesterday”, there’s only one or two on “In The Black.” You know, based on your past experiences, you ant to learn from those and change things up a little bit.

DP: I do think sometimes fans want you to keep doing the same things over and over, and they don’t understand that you have to grow and evolve or get stale.

ML: Yeah, especially when the passion is gone, that’s when the music falls into a lull. You don’t want that to happen. So with the evolutionary thing with this album, a lot of people wanted us to just do what we had done with our first album, our most popular album to date, but we wrote some of those songs when we were 12-14 years old. We had no concept of music even. We were just kids in the basement having fun and it kind of went crazy and blew up in our face. We had no expectations at all…we had no idea that things were going to be that crazy. And now I’m 28 years old and 14 years down the road …

DP: You’re probably a little bit different now than you were at 12 or 14.

ML: Yeah, just a little!DP: I hate to use labels, but would you say this album is more screamo? I mean people in the metal community seem to be going more and more extreme, but at a certain point you can’t go any farther.

ML: There’s only so many beats per minute you can do before it sounds like noise.

DP: Is there something as a group or individually you think your fans would find surprising? Something they don’t know already?

ML: I think speaking with a lot of bands that have opened up for us, a lot of people are surprised to find out how nice and down to earth we are. I think our name and the reputation our name carries – this all female band – they might be bitches or have attitudes or because they have been doing this for so long they might be jaded and honestly we are just out to have so much fun and we want to make it work no matter what.

DP: I think most people are surprised when they meet musicians and find out there are pretty much…like everyone else.

ML: (laughs) Well, maybe some of the big stars might be a little different.

DP: I’m trying to avoid the female thing but I do have to ask, do you get male groupies?

ML: That’s a tough one because the stereotypical females and you can usually pick them out from miles away…there’s not really a male equivalent to that, not really that obvious guy that’s hanging around. I’m sure some have crushes and would like to do groupie sort of things…

DP: They’re guys…it’s the testosterone.

ML: Right! But no, we’re good girls!

DP: Is there one thing you still want to accomplish as a band?

ML: Just to continue to make music, I guess our expectations and goals are very humble. Continue to make music and tour and, I mean, I know how the industry is. I’m not expecting a platinum album. That would be nice, and I would never write that off because, hey, you never know. But we’re pretty realistic. As long as we can continue to do what we do and make a bit of money and not have to work a 9-5 job, we’re happy. We’re normal people, having a good time and living our dreams and its our fans who have made it possible. We’re very grateful to them and go out of our way to sign autographs and spend time with them when we can.

It’s fair to say, Lander is hardly the green-eyed, “mean girl” monster some might expect from the tough, metal image. And hardly the all-too-common story of early success sending the young on a downward spiral into adulthood. Lander and Kittie seem to be smart, savvy and downright nice.

They may have drawn their namesake from the felines, but their name is Kittie, not catty.