I didn’t follow Kittie at all when they were starting out since it just wasn’t my thing but over the years that had passed was able to find myself enjoying the way that they do things. The all-girl band was one of the true road warriors for a band of their kind and day to day they face the challenges of being a group on the road trying to make a difference to their fans and for themselves. The summer of 2007 was in full sway but we secured some time in the bands dressing room backstage at B.B. King Blues Club and as luck would have it I would get to spend time with both Lander Sisters Morgan and Mercedes and guitarist Tara Mcleod as well. To read the full conversation just keep scrolling.
An Interview with Kittie’s Morgan & Mercedes Lander and Tara Mcleod: I was getting set to cover the return of Kittie to New York as they continued their “Sweet Revenge Tour” and made a return visit to B.B. King Blues Club. My original plan didn’t include any interview stuff but I had arrived at the venue early enough to jot some questions down if the girls were available. As luck would have it they were no longer busy with sound check and felt like talking to us. I sat down with lead singer/guitarist Morgan Lander, drummer and Morgan’s sister Mercedes and the bands newest guitarist Tara Mcleod and together we talked about the recent history of the band, their newest album and tour and entertained some thoughts about the music business in general. Below is the transcription of our exact conversation. It is completely uncensored for your Metal enjoyment.
PiercingMetal: OK Ladies so I jotted down a dozen or so questions for us to knock out today, so let me start off by saying congratulations on ten years of Kittie as a band.
Morgan Lander: Thank you – it’s eleven actually, or will be in September.
PiercingMetal: My bad, I apologize, so let me rephrase that into congratulations for kicking Metal ass for “over” ten years now, how does that feel as a band?
Mercedes Lander: Well, I really think that we have grown so much over the past eleven years because we’re not even the same band obviously as we were, but you know you grow with your instrument and you learn things and it was nice for Morgan and I to learn them together and I mean it’s really great to be doing this all these years as who would have thought it to be true. It doesn’t seem like eleven years at all.
Morgan: It’s shocking but at the same time you realize how quickly time actually does fly and it doesn’t seem like we have been doing it as long but it has been that long. It’s really bizarre and I don’t feel any older and I don’t feel any wiser from it. It’s just that we take every day as it comes and it’s….
Tara McCleod: It’s a new adventure…
PiercingMetal: But you’re supposed to be wiser now after all this, and inspire with what you learned.
Morgan: Well that’s true and I mean we have had a lot of time and a lot of different scenarios in our career – to learn from a lot of different mistakes and be involved in a lot of different scenarios to where its made us think a little differently about how we would like to approach things in the future.
PiercingMetal: Thinking a little differently kind of leads me to my next question which is about “Funeral for Yesterday”, which has been out now for several months and I wonder how you feel about the album now and the overall reception that it got now that you can look back on it.
Morgan: I think we accomplished what we set out to do and the whole concept behind the album was sort of a rebirth of the band and a reintroduction and essentially it’s just another step in the evolution of the bands music. Looking back on it I would have to say that we did exactly what we wanted to do with it. Production wise I felt it could have been a little bit heavier but of course hindsight is always 20/20.
Mercedes: We had about two years with this one as it essentially was two years in the making so it was actually the first time since we did our first record that we were able to play with the songs for an elongated period of time before we recorded them. So the songs pretty much took on a life of their own after a little while, they really came into their own. I mean it’s like this – I always find that if you’re playing a song live and touring with a new song that it helps the evolution of the song and it helps you to work out the kinks.
PiercingMetal: Tara would you like to add something?
Tara: For me well as far as “Funeral For Yesterday”, I came in halfway in the writing process that Morgan and Mercedes has been involved in and they wrote the entire thing, and I really felt that this was the album that they needed to put out for emotional and essentially for anything during those two really hard years. I wasn’t really around for that and I just think it’s their album and I can’t say that I did much more than layering guitars…
Mercedes: And gnarly guitar solos….
Tara: Yeah, and that’s just how we are growing together because as the songs are coming together we are also feeling each other out as players.
Morgan: Yeah, the next time around things will definitely be a lot different and it will be nice to be able to start writing again because as we said a lot of those songs on the album were two years in the making so much of it is about 2-3 old for us.
Tara: But I think that you guys really needed to do that album.
PiercingMetal: Define what Tara means by this.
Morgan: Well, with the lyric content and the writing on it, we were in between labels and it was just the two of us and we didn’t have any other help.
Mercedes: Basically this was how we had written every other album though so it wasn’t really that much different but I think for Morgan and me that it was more of an emotional release for us because we were going through such a hard time. Morgan and I were not even sure whether the band was going to continue or not and you know it was just one of those things where we had this big emotional release once we started writing songs. They just started coming out like crazy once Morgan and I sat down, and we would get together once a week or twice a week or whatever and write songs. Everything was just coming out and we were fucking pissed (laughs).
PiercingMetal: The interesting thing I found with this one, and I admit that I am more of a casual fan of the music and have sporadically followed your career as opposed to being hardcore, was that this one seemed a lot more melodic than opposed to the really growling rough stuff.
Mercedes: Not really and I’m going to correct you on that because we have always had singing in our music, always, always, but this one is just more of a mature showing of the band. We are showing now what we can do a little better because as you grow things just get better and obviously Morgan’s vocals have strengthened quite a bit and….
Morgan: They’re a lot more defined. It’s just a lot more apparent on this one for instance a singing song is a singing song and that’s all it is, and a screaming song is a screaming song and that’s all it is. I mean we have always sort of had those two elements separately in the past and I think what we wanted to do with this album was to be a little different. It’s not like we were looking to have more melody in the vocals but we were looking to take the songs that were singing songs and instead of making them more of a melodic ballad Hard Rock song we would put them with a Hard Rock or Metal Thrash kind of riff. You know what I mean?
Mercedes: It worked out really well.
Morgan: For example with “Breathe”, in the past if we were writing it for a record like “Oracle” or “Until The End” I probably would have screamed over it but we decided that it would be an interesting concept to blend the two elements with the Thrash heavy type of style of music with a singing vocal. I think that might be why there seems to be more singing on it but I don’t think it makes it any less Metal or angry because the subject matter is still there you know.
PiercingMetal.com: Now you have had a number of lineup changes as you have pointed out and now with Trish and Tara in the band do you feel now that you have a lineup that you have wanted for a long time?
Morgan: I think that the dynamic in the band is really, really good and we’re really happy with how it turned out and I think that with a live show we get along really well. You can tell that we’re having fun up there and I think it will be something that will definitely be — I think people will hear with the next album exactly how much we are in tune with each other.
PiercingMetal: So I caught you last time in New York when you brought with you that killer opening roster that included both In This Moment who I love and Walls Of Jericho who floored me. I thought the singer was going to fall on me while I was taking pictures since she was going so nuts. I am so glad you stay in one spot Morgan.
Morgan: Well that’s what happens when you actually have to play an instrument.
PiercingMetal: Yeah. So these are two bands that are led by a powerful female vocal presence in a kind of music which was really VERY male dominated for a long time and now you see a lot more of this Melodic Metalcore with a powerful female doing it. What’s your view on this occurrence?
Mercedes: Well I don’t see any of them playing instruments and this is actually what sets us apart from bands like that. I mean for one we are all female and second we all play instruments instead of just singing and that just sets us apart from any other band with a female member who sings.
Morgan: Yeah there aren’t a lot in that sense.
Tara: They do it so well also because ok you will find bands that have the girl and she is playing some guitar but you will not usually see her playing a completely different melody from her singing. I mean you see a band and the girl is playing probably an acoustic or something but what she is playing is also matching her melody. Morgan plays something which is completely off of what she is singing and I know that while she finds it easy, most people just can’t do that. It just goes to show how talented she is.
Mercedes: It helps us out in the sense that it’s nice to have more women in Metal because when we started there was fucking no one.
PiercingMetal: And actually that was where I was trying to go with my question originally. I was trying to get out of you what your thoughts are about these particular women continuing to break the mold.
Morgan: It’s cool and it’s definitely a good thing that can’t hurt. I do think that unfortunately there is still a long way to go until it’s not viewed upon as a gimmick or a novelty.
Tara: Well it seems as though more people are seeing boobs as opposed to hearing the voices.
Morgan: Exactly and it goes along this line with most bands that have a woman in it. The people want to focus on that and like I said we still have a long way to go until we’re just recognized as being part of the band and not just something that sets you apart from everybody else. It needs to be about the music and not just who is standing up there singing or what instrument she is playing.
PiercingMetal: Good music is good music.
Morgan: It’s not like we are striving to change the world or anything but I do think that with each new band that has a female voice in it or instrumentalist in the band helps just a little bit more to change the perceptions of the role.
PiercingMetal: So I’m noticing now after having seen you a couple of times that the larger part of the audience is younger girls so I wondered if you felt that you serve as an inspiration to them.
Morgan: I guess so.
Mercedes: Personally I have just as many guys coming up to me as girls that tell me that they have picked up an instrument because of me, mostly drums.
PiercingMetal: Perhaps I have tunnel vision then and you need to pardon me.
Morgan: No, it’s ok but Mercedes is right we do get a little bit of everybody.
Mercedes: I personally don’t think that in our situation it matters.
Morgan: If you are a musician and you are good at something and you can inspire somebody I think that it is all that matters and you’ve done your job properly.
PiercingMetal: What’s going on with the next recording? Are we going to see a new studio album, or is it live stuff or maybe a filmed DVD.
Morgan: Oh I don’t know there’s a good possibility for a lot of that stuff but I think that in the immediate future we are just going to continue to support the album and tour and just do our thing.
Mercedes: We’ll stay on tour for the next little while and then we will see what happens in the New Year and we will go from there.
PiercingMetal: So who inspires you all as performers and individuals? I like to get deep every once in a while.
Mercedes: I’m going to say personally, and I know I can speak a little bit for all of us but we love almost every type of music, since we are such big music fans soooooo.
Tara: Good music is good music.
Morgan: Yep, good music is good music
PiercingMetal: Hey, no using my lines.
Tara: I’m just feeding it back at you.
Mercedes: Well our own music is the result of so many different inspirations and we find influence in so many aspects of music so to single out a single a couple of people would be really weird, and this is for me personally. I wouldn’t even be touching the surface if I did that. I will say that I do love Alex Van Halen.
PiercingMetal: The tour gets announced on Monday so I hear but I fear I will believe it when I see it while I am sitting in the row having a beer with my friends.
Morgan: Yeah, exactly, so my response to that question is as of late I am really inspired by bands that can have a magical comeback story. For instance a band like Buckcherry – because nobody gave a shit about them for the longest time and then they came back after so many years of doing on their own and toiling and then eventually they were able to come back and become huge again. That kind of stuff just gives me hope that’s all.
PiercingMetal: I just wish Guns N Roses didn’t come back, well not in the fashion that they did of course.
Morgan: Yeah some bands can go away and stay away for all I care but I am really inspired by stories about people who are able to persevere over everything no matter what people have told them.
Mercedes: Because we’ve heard it all.
Morgan: Yeah, we’ve heard it all but we still do it because we love music.
PiercingMetal: Well that is the best reason to do it. So then it’s hard to get even a favorite band out of you now? What do you find yourself listening to in your CD player or perhaps your Ipod, which is a bad question actually because you can fit so much on there.
Mercedes: Yeah, everything is on there. Of course in my CD player at home I think is “Ride The Lightning” by Metallica.
PiercingMetal: Given the realm of the Internet has just exploded with things like MySpace.com and YouTube.com, how are you finding these working with what you do with Kittie.
Morgan: Oh it’s really helped us and we do run our own My Space and we are on our Message Board on our website all the time. The think they’re important and we think it’s necessary to keep in contact with your fans and let them know that there is not this big wall that separates us from being the same kind of people.
PiercingMetal: I think that it’s important as well to keep that line of communication open if at all possible, especially today. I remember when My Space was still on the new side and some of the bands who signed on would comment for my site page and friends would ask me if I knew who was pretending to be “Band A” or “Band B”, and I replied that they were actually seeing the pages for the band who it said it was.
Tara: I think you hear that because people just feel it’s so surreal to actually be able to have that kind of connection with an artist and actually feel like you are closer with them.
Morgan: We get messages on our My Space all the time that ask us “is this really the band” and we reply “yeah”.
Tara: I get a lot of that on my personal My Space as well and then there are fake My Space pages for each of us as well…..
PiercingMetal: Those have to be annoying.
Tara: All I do honestly is ask them to put up a little note that says they are not really me.
PiercingMetal: “we are not really Tara’s page, we are fake”
Morgan: Yeah well you don’t want people directed to the fakes instead of the main.
Tara: A lot of them are funny actually.
Morgan: It’s really nice that people think that highly of us that they would want to make a fake My Space profile for us but……..
PiercingMetal: I wonder if you ever get the stupid requests like “hey I love kitties” and stuff along those lines and that’s why they’re adding you. I have to laugh when I see the ones that say “oh dude I love piercings” because I sit there reading them and think “uhm did you actually read what this page is….”
Morgan: No, we’ve been lucky that everyone online we hear from seems smart.
PiercingMetal: You’ve been very lucky then, as I have heard from some winners. Ok, moving along with this and I only have a couple more for you if you would indulge me.
PiercingMetal: Why no “Freefest”, “Family Values” or other festivals of that nature for the band.
Morgan: Why haven’t we? Well, for starters you have to pay to be on it and we don’t have it which we can thank our label for. There is just no budget to get on it.
Mercedes: It’s something like 100,000 dollars to do it and every tour of that kind requires something from the bands that are playing it.
Morgan: Right as they have to make money somewhere.
PiercingMetal: Well, everyone who I know who has free Ozzfest tickets for the show around this way is up on the lawn and at that rate as a fan – I would just as soon pay for a decent spot to enjoy it a little better.
Mercedes: Well, this is just the way it works and a lot of people don’t actually realize this but to be on any big tour you have to pay to do it. You have to pay money to be on a Metallica tour, you have to pay money to be on Family Values, and unless you are asked for specifically by the band well that is what happens.
Morgan: I mean we were offered slots but we are in a position where we are on a label that doesn’t want to pay for something like that because they can’t afford to pay for it. Or whatever the case may be.
PiercingMetal: I guess we can hope for the phone calls to start happening after they read this, “she said what?”
Tara: Wouldn’t that be nice…..
Morgan: I sure hope so because it can’t hurt my checkbook any.
PiercingMetal: Yeah let’s use the power of the interview to get some free shit. Tara and Morgan, you ladies love Gibson guitars right? Mercedes, I see you have Yamaha’s but you would try a set of Sonor’s if they came your way right? (laughs).
Morgan: Well I collect 100 dollar bills…(laughs).
PiercingMetal: Me too, it’s a favorite hobby but they don’t tend to stay in the collection too long.
Morgan: I also like to collect gold bars.
PiercingMetal: So you mean the music business is not the absolutely unequivocal source of finance that the general public always believes it to be.
Morgan: No! (laughs)
Mercedes: That’s like dreamland.
Morgan: I mean there is like a 99th percentile of bands that are actually broke but there are also those choice few in the 1% who sell over five million albums and then are financially stable.
Mercedes: Also with us we haven’t had tour support in like six years – seven years actually so we’re paying for all of this out of our own pocket and we’re not making any money at it.
Morgan: We are making back what we are putting into it and since we love doing it so much we continue to keep the machine going.
PiercingMetal: So let’s talk about the clothing line “Poisoned Black”, what led to formation of this enterprise?
Mercedes: Well Morgan and I really uhm, it was just one of those things were we brainstormed about it and we always kinda wanted to do it and then during that two-year break while we were writing “Funeral for Yesterday” we kind of decided that it was a good opportunity to get started. We have a really good artist that we work with and basically we give him pictures of what we kind of want it to look like and then he imagines it and draws it.
Morgan: So it makes sense in terms of our personalities and it was great for during this time that we were in as we wondered “wow what are we going to do”.
Mercedes: We also did this because we wanted to make clothes that we would wear.
PiercingMetal: So what else do you do outside of the band and the clothing line then.
Mercedes: That’s about it.
Tara: Band, band, band. I come home and play guitar.
PiercingMetal: That’s pretty cool I have to say.
Morgan: Well, we love it that much so its easy.
Tara: I practice every minute that I can.
Morgan: It’s good though because it becomes your life. It becomes the reason why you wake up in the morning. It’s the reason why you want to get up and do things. Oh I cant wait to play the guitar, I cant wait to see the girls, or I want to tell them this funny story. You’re able to be creative and have the friendship and the camaraderie and just the awesome time that comes from doing something like this.
PiercingMetal: As I glance over the questions I see that I forgot one that I really wanted to get out of you. Metal has changed quite a bit since you began in 1996 and a large number of genres have come almost out of the woodwork. Most of them used to be more focused in Europe or deep underground but now almost everywhere you turn you hear about Viking Metal bands, Black Metal bands, Death Metal bands, and stuff like Math Metal bands or those hard to discern bands that just go “Hmmmmmm” (my best written interpretation of a buzzing noise). That last thing really stumped me and a friend said “well you just don’t get it” and I replied “what’s to get they are going “Hmmmmmmm”. What is your take on the scene as it stands today as compared to that of the past.
Morgan: Well, we know who we are and we really don’t worry about anybody else except for ourself, you know what I mean. I mean I think its great that a lot more underground styles of Metal are coming to the forefront and while their not selling out arenas or anything like that it is encouraging to know that something that not five years ago people would never even have thought of listening to is now the thing. Because on Internet popularity and stuff like that people are getting into a more underground style of music. It’s good.
Mercedes: I also find though that there is a large over saturation of bands that sound the same. I think that needs to change.
PiercingMetal: Would it be safe to say that you are happy to see that Metal is more of an underground thing again as opposed to being everywhere on TV, radio, etc.
Morgan: Well, there still is Headbanger’s Ball, but its different than it used to be twenty years ago.
Mercedes: I think it’s good but people are not always being original about it.
Morgan: The way that any music cycle goes and that’s that it comes and goes in waves. I think where we are at right now it’s about time for something to change. It’s time for something new and original to come and take what the direction of Metal is and shift it – again. To make it fresh and exciting and I mean Metal is always going to be there.
PiercingMetal: I like that statement.
Morgan: Yeah its always going to be there but its always going to take on different forms and whether it be Stoner Rock or what was going on in the eighties and then the nineties when a lot of it turned to that Nirvana-ish kind of stuff and then Death Metal started emerging, Nu-Metal came and now there’s Metalcore and Hardcore and all of these things are all forms of Metal so now something is about to change.
PiercingMetal: Let’s close out with this one, if you had to pair up with anyone for some kind of tour with someone who would you want it to be. Now you have to leave out the obvious ones like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, Metallica because everyone wants to do tours with them. For instance we have Korn with Evanescence on the road now, and Slayer with Marilyn Manson – something like that.
Morgan: I would tour with any of those four….
Mercedes: Yeah we are the kind of band who would tour with anyone. We’d tour with fuckin’ Jewel if need be.
Tara: (laughs) “fuckin’ Jewel”, that’s great.
PiercingMetal: You know that is actually her side project Metal band. “Fuckin’ Jewel” – she wears all black.
Morgan: We would do it.
PiercingMetal: Only if she wears Poisoned Black clothing.
Morgan: Honestly, I would tour with Evanescence, I would tour with anybody.
Mercedes: We don’t discriminate at all and I think our kind of music can work with almost anybody. We have songs that we could play on a friggin’ Avril Lavigne tour. We would probably scare the shit out of them though but….we will tour with anybody we don’t care.
PiercingMetal: Any closing words on well…..anything.
Morgan: Thanks to all of our fans and please if you don’t have a copy yet pick up “Funeral For Yesterday” and of course our website, and My Space.
PiercingMetal: I’ll list those for you ok. Even the Poisoned Black one. Don’t worry though I wont put your personal My Space on there though.
Morgan: I don’t care, I add everyone.
PiercingMetal: Thanks for the time girls, kick ass tonight at the show.
Morgan: Thanks a lot.
I enjoyed being able to speak to the band as their dedication to their craft and determination as a working band is to be admired. As you can see by reading this interview, the music business is not always a rosy path to travel and comes with many pitfalls that take a lot of strength to surpass as a unit. Kittie would go on to perform a very solid set of material that was quite reminiscent to the last time that they had dropped by town. The main difference of the performance was that bassist Trish Doan was not present tonight. Morgan told the fans from the stage that she was very ill and not able to do the tour. Filling in for her tonight would be Jeff Phillips from Canada’s own Thine Eyes Bleed. Long time Kittie fans remember Phillips as a former guitarist for Kittie who replaced Fallon Bowman when she left the band.