Interview: KITTIE – Morgan Lander on 20 Years of defying odds and kicking ass

Posted by Morgan Y Evans - Walking Bombs on Wednesday, February 7, 2018 at 11:49 AM (PST)

As a person and performer, I was and still am driven by the thought that we still had something to prove and strive to change people’s minds about who and what they think we are or were. – Morgan Lander

Kittie were always more than some nu metal female novelty act as they were originally crassly marketed. The group’s ongoing story has not been properly told until now, a twisting road that found the band in various line-ups kicking ass and taking names, overcoming sexist hurdles, conquering venues big and small and winning the hearts of thousands. Not every band can say they have six albums and several million record sales and still be as uncompromisingly heavy as Kittie have been over their career.

A long gestating documentary is arriving on March 30 via Lightyear Entertainment in North America to celebrate the band’s career and impact. The three-disc set, which was directed by Rob McCallum, includes a Blu-ray and DVD of the documentary as well as a new live album on CD.

Morgan Lander, the bands fierce yet friendly front woman, took some time to answer questions from myself and Elizabeth Le Fey (Globelamp) about Kittie’s role in making metal more inclusive, special moments along the way and much more.

Read more BELOW.

How intense was the energy surrounding the making of this documentary and 20th anniversary moment? I mean, it is still happening (haha), but has it been a whirl? 

The energy surrounding the creation of the documentary has gone through a lot of different cycles and taken on a few different forms.  There have been periods or crazy explosive nervous energy and seemingly endless work, and also periods of not knowing the next move or worrying about what will happen if certain decisions were made, but in recent months its actually reached its peak.  There were a lot of emotions going into the archives, reliving old memories and reflecting on the accomplishments (and failures) we have endured the last 20 plus years.  It has been really emotional and sometimes hilarious too.

I guess the member of the band I have spoken too the most often is Jenn City and she so clearly appreciates her time with the group. How does it feel looking back and from recent performances to have formed a bond with all the members over the years. It must be so hard to summarize. 

I feel like each era of the band had its special kind of magic which was best summed up when we played together for our 20th anniversary show last October.  We were so excited to all be in the same room together and the energy was electric.  Once we all hit the stage it was like no time at all has passed, which really is a testament to the bonds we built while on tour and creating together.  You can really see the evolution of the band through the archived footage but also get a real sense of wonder and fun and appreciation for the situation we were all fortunate enough to be in.

The singer Globelamp/Elizabeth Le Fey is here with me and just mentioned to me to tell you that she remembers Kittie from growing up as one of the bands, along with The Distillers and a few others, who stood out as bold females who were shaking things up. That it was good to see there were some around who weren’t discouraged even after riot grrrl wasn’t as popular anymore. Where did you get your drive from as a performer and person? But seriously, with the “MeToo” movement and a collective desire for moving from anguish to healing and empowered change, how does it feel to know your band means so much to many girls who were inspired to pick up instruments or find their inner lioness roar from loving your band. 

Being considered inspirational by anyone, first off, is an amazing and sometimes bizarre feeling, and honestly something that I feel like we were too young to appreciate at the time, but as I have gotten older I have learned to really understand and appreciate the gravity of what it means to be women in heavy metal and the responsibility that comes with that.  It’s kind of a hard concept to grasp sometimes, because I just feel like me and this is who I have always been, but I long for the day when we wont have to answer this question about what our differences are and why being a woman doing something that just comes naturally to us sets us apart somehow.  It is an exhausting conversation to have over and over again but I am glad that the dialogue is happening in the media and out in public forums, because the only way that we can create change is to communicate with each other.  As a person and performer, I was and still am driven by the thought that we still had something to prove and strive to change people’s minds about who and what they think we are or were.

Yeah, and it is nice that “female-fronted” is less used these days. It is cool to be a girl representing metal but most important you are seen as equals and for how good you are, I’d say. What is a hard moment for the band that sticks out where your strength and love for the art or one another pulled you through? Or a huge show you played where you knew you killed it?

I think it has been a few things that pulled us through.  When things got really rough it was comforting to have the family atmosphere that we have nurtured there to lean on, there were moments in our career when it was just Mercedes and I and sometimes I feel like if it weren’t for our bond as sisters and family we wouldn’t have lasted as long as we did.  But a lot of it is love for creating and our amazing chemistry as friends and bandmates.  It helps when you really enjoy each others company and build friendships stronger than the art itself.

Every time I have seen you live there was always a few sort of snobby hardcore dudes or metal bros who were there because it was a heavy show or whatever but maybe they were sort of reluctant to like your band and then when you hit the stage so fucking hard I would catch them sort of open mouthed or nodding their head and into it. How did it feel to win people over? I am sure you have been asked that a million fucking times, but hitting twenty years and having nothing to prove, it has to feel good.  

That’s just it, I feel like we still do have something to prove and when I go out on stage I know that there are people like that in the audience, who have preconceived ideas about who we are, heard rumors or just showed up because they think it would be funny to heckle, and it is my job to change their minds one scream and riff at a time.  We haven’t lasted as long as we have coasting on the fumes of some novelty that the media dreamed up when we came out in 1999, we have worked hard to be the band we are today and I think we are good at what we do.  So yeah it does feel pretty good but I think there is still work to be done.

Is there a special message you’d like to say to fans who have kept their love for the band strong through each era and album and to the present day? That must have meant so much to you. 

Well, of course we know that every day we have been able to do this was because of the dedication and steadfast love of our fans.  We have grown up together with so many amazing people, many of which I call friends now.  I still can’t believe we have been able to do this for 20 years and its all because of the people who stuck with us through all the best times and some of the worst.  We have nothing but love, admiration and respect for those that continue to see merit in the art we create.

What do you think, objectively, is your heaviest vibe song. I still think “What I Always Wanted” had one of the coolest and most unique grooves and kind of slippery but pummeling arrangements and good harsh and melodic vocal interplay. It still is my all time fave of yours despite a lot of other good tunes of yours. 

That’s a tough one!  I think for most of our career we have sort of been a mid tempo groove band, only venturing out into thrashy territory on the last few albums.  But there are some gems.  Probably “Whiskey Love Song” would be a top choice of mine, especially that cowbell breakdown!  And maybe “Whisper of Death”, that has some serious heavy but vibin’ verses.  Soul crushing!

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