KITTIE - Rise Above The Flames

April 15, 2024, 3 months ago

By Carl Begai

feature heavy metal kittie

KITTIE - Rise Above The Flames

On February 14, 2024, Canadian nu-metal-turned-in-your-face-extreme icons Kittie broke 13 years of silence with the single, 'Eyes Wide Open'. The band went on indefinite hiatus following the release of the I've Failed You album in 2011, broken only by a hometown London, Ontario show in 2017 and the Origins/Evolutions documentary issued in 2018. Kittie's members kept their impending 2024 return under wraps as best they could for the better part of a year, in spite of the fact they admittedly "normally blab about everything," so it turned out to be a Valentine's Day kiss hello done up in crushing fashion, making a massive impact on an unsuspecting fanbase. 

Since the release, including an official video, Kittie have confirmed a handful of festival dates for 2024, with more shows in planning as the year moves forward. Prior to the release of "Eyes Wide Open", BraveWords caught up with the whole band - Morgan Lander (vocals, guitar), Mercedes Lander (drums), Tara McLeod (guitar) and Ivy Vujic (bass) - to discuss the events that led to Kittie's return and the making of the new record, Fire, due to be released in June.

Morgan: "I think we can all agree that when we decided not to go forward after I've Failed You, we felt that we'd overstayed our welcome. We did a lot of touring, and the more we hit the same markets over and over again, it felt like there were fewer people there. Financially, there was a strain as well. Touring is fun and everything, but sweating it out in a band was not the nicest thing to do at that point in our lives. We felt that maybe it would be okay to put Kittie aside and try a different life. We weren't sure that we could keep doing this financially, mentally and emotionally. It was a really hard time."

Mercedes: "We felt like we had to take a break, and I think that sucked some of the excitement and the fun out of it for us. We definitely overstayed our welcome, and we didn't want to feel like we were under those kinds of constraints."

BraveWords: It was strange because the band just seemed to fade out after I've Failed You. You did some touring for the record and then, eventually, Kittie was just gone.

Mercedes: "We're the kind of band that doesn't like to talk about things like that (laughs). We didn't really know what was going to happen. We just decided to step away for a bit to see what would materialize."

Morgan: "It's not like we broke up, and we didn't make those kinds of announcements because this band is so much a part of our identity. The documentary and the shows we ended up doing were supposed to be a nice cap on everything. It was like leaving a big question mark; who knows what might happen down the road. Clearly, fate had other plans for us."

Tara: "To admit that we were done would have been a really big heartbreak for all of us. None of us wanted to admit that even though we did overstay our welcome. We knew it was inevitable but maybe didn't want to admit it. All of us really gripped onto this band as a musical identity."

BraveWords: You did some festival shows in 2022, which was an unexpected sign of life after the documentary. Is it fair to say getting back out there lit the fire - no pun intended - to go in and record a new album?

Morgan: "We did some shows in 2022 and 2023, and it was really just promoters reaching out and asking if we wanted to get back together and do some shows. Those shows ended up being great, people were really excited, and I think that maybe put new interest in the band. One thing just led to another, and the next thing we knew we were recording an album."

Mercedes: "The guy who owns the record label that we signed to, Sumerian Records, used to be our booking agent years and years ago. He watched our set at the When We Were Young festival, and sent me a text saying, 'I kinda want to sign Kittie.' Our response was 'We kinda don't know if we want to record....' (laughs). We talked about it, and he was legitimately excited to be a part of this. He really believes in the band. It just happened by chance. The four of us chatted and agreed that it sounded like fun to get back to doing Kittie again."

BraveWords: Did you dust off any leftover music or ideas for Fire, or is it all brand new material?

Morgan: "We had nothing, but the label said it didn't matter. The feedback we got was that we looked and sounded like a bad-ass metal band when we were up there playing live. We were 100% unprepared to be offered a record deal, so we had to get into gear and make things happen."

BraveWords: With that in mind, after a 12 or 13 year break, what was it like getting back to songwriting? Was it an easy process, like falling off a bike, or did you have to find your footing again?

Mercedes: "Some of the first songs we wrote are on the album. It's not like we had multiple versions of songs; it all happened very quickly. We started writing in January 2023 and finished in October, so it only took us 10 months. We recorded it with Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Danko Jones, Death Angel) in November / December, 2023, and tried really hard to keep things quiet because we wanted to build up speculation."

Morgan: "The very first song that we did, 'Eyes Wide Open', ended up being the first single."

Tara: "It was also different in that there's no other Kittie album that was written this way. Every other album has been done with us standing in a room together, but we don't have that luxury anymore since we live so far apart from each other. The first time we did get into the room together, it was one of those 'Oh yes' moments because it's pretty crazy the way the four of us click. I found that super refreshing. We can play together without having to settle into it first."

BraveWords: "Eyes Wide Open" sounds like a song Machine Head wish they wrote. Can you give us an idea of the musical direction for the new album?

Morgan: "When I was writing I was thinking about the way we wrote the first couple albums. I think there are a lot of Oracle vibes on this record - the big riffs - but I was trying to find a way to marry the ideas of this band. Some people think of us as a nu-metal band, and those elements are still under the surface in our sound, but as we progressed as a band we were able to create our own identity with a little bit more fast and extreme stuff."

Mercedes: "I would say that Fire lifts elements from every single record we've ever done. I don't think that was necessarily a conscious decision. I think this record shows a lot of growth in the writing, song structure, lyrical content and vocal melodies."

BraveWords: At this point of his career, Nick Rasculinecz has become a go-to producer for metal and rock bands. How did you manage to get him on board considering he's in demand and Kittie has been away for over a decade?

Mercedes: "He was on our list of people that we wanted to work with. We had a pretty short list, bu we didn't even bother submitting his name to the label on the first round. We figured he's way too big to work with us, but eventually we contacted him and he seemed stoked. We sent him the demos and we had a call with him, and he was so excited. We decided 'This is the guy.' I'm glad we asked him because, what an experience. Nick is fantastic, just the way he works and the way he produces. He's very hands-on, and you can tell he really loves music. That was really important."

Ivy: "He fits the spirit of Kittie. He has the same musical philosophy that we do in terms of we're just trying to make the best music we can make. It's not like, 'Hey guys, let's listen to what's hip and cool on internet radio.' Nick just wanted to make a piece of art, and that matches the idea behind Kittie. He's very pure that way, so I think that's why we got the record that we did; because we all wanted the best."

BraveWords: Being away from the industry for so long, the dynamics have changed considerably. You were able to work remotely, streaming music is normal now.... how did those changes affect the making of the new album? And your reunion, for that matter.

Morgan: "I think the way the industry has changed is directly responsible for us being able to do this again. Things are very different now in the way they (labels) market things, the way they release things. It's all about singles now and getting traction, playlists, things like that. Streaming has taken hold over the past 10+ years and so many young people have discovered Kittie in that time, so we still have a really incredible listenership. I think that has a lot to do with it. There's also a nostalgia factor with our kind of music, so people from all the way back in the day are still listening to Kittie. I don't think we're nu-metal, but a lot of that has come back as well, and it's molded itself into new versions of metal that are also very popular. Those changes are directly responsible for us having this opportunity to put this new album out."

(Top photo - Dante Dellamore)

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