Interview: Kitty, Daisy and Lewis

The funky rockabilly sibling-trio Kitty, Daisy and Lewis formed whilst still in school, but have gone from recording in their mum’s back room to supporting Mark Ronson and Coldplay on their respective tours. With genre-defying music that combines the retro with the spectacular, Kitty, Daisy and Lewis have a bright future ahead of them. Kitty Durham from the band chatted to me about playing gigs with your parents, upsetting piano teachers and gory music videos:

How’s the tour going?

Yeah, really good. We’ve just had a break for Christmas and New Year’s, so we haven’t played a show in about three weeks – we’ve just started rehearsing again for the last bit of it. We’ve been at it since January last year, so it’s been a long old trip.

How did you form? At what point did you think, yeah, let’s take this all seriously?

It all happened kind of gradually. We’ve been playing since we were kids, and we never thought anything of it – just played for the fun of it. Then we started playing a few shows here and there – things started to take off whilst I was still at school doing my GCSES – then I realised that music was what I wanted to do, so I left school after that and started doing it full time; so I guess around that time really.

Is there anything outside of music that contributes to your musicality?

I think it’s just more the kind of experiences that you have. The three of us write separately, so we write about what’s going on in our lives at the time, and then we bring it together and develop the songs as a group.

So you never sit and write songs together?

The only time we kind of do that is when we’re having a jam – we’ll get a groove going and do something together. But most of the time the songs are written separately.

You all seem to play and sing everything – how do you decide who plays what and who sings in which song?

Usually if you’ve written the song then you’ll be singing it. I do most of my writing on the gyutar, so usually ill play the guitar. Depending what vibe the song has, whoever wants to play what will just fall in. For example, we all play the drums but all play it very differently – so if someone feels they’ll be able to handle it then they’ll jump behind the kit. And if something isn’t working, then we’ll swap around. But usually people can kind of feel what direction it’s heading.

How did you come about learning them all?

There were always instruments lying about the house so we just picked them up and bashed them about. We did have piano lessons, but our teacher quit on us mysteriously – we got a phone call from him telling us he wasn’t coming back. I think it was because we weren’t interested in playing scales – we wanted to mess about and play rock and roll riffs – so he said there was nothing he could do to teach us. I kind of regret it now, because piano’s not one of my strongest points. But yeah, I think it’s more that you just kind of learn by playing with each other – that’s the way we grew up and did it.

How involved are your parents in your music?

In the first few years it was just the three of us, and then we roped our parents into it – our dad said he’d do it but wanted to hide behind an amp on stage. He plays the rhythm guitar and mum plays the bass – as much a part of the band as we are.

I watched the video for Baby Bye Bye – there seems to be a big contrast between the lenient, classic love-story lyrics and the graphic video of you guys killing your brother’s ex? Was that a ‘touch our brother and we’ll kill you’ kind of message?

Nah, it doesn’t really have a meaning – when we got the director involved, we didn’t really have any ideas of what video to have. He came up with the idea of an old lady looking through photos reminiscing – we thought that was a bit boring. So we said for a joke, “why doesn’t someone kill someone?” – and the director said it was the kind of thing he would do – so he went away and put it together. So we just thought, let’s make something interesting – a little film you can watch, rather than a boring generic music video.

Am I right in saying your first two albums were recorded without digital production in a family room?

Yeah, the first two albums were recorded in one of mum’s back rooms – and then for this album we got a new studio which is much bigger – it’s still analogue, but we’ve upgraded from an 8-track to a 16-track, to layer things more and to get a bigger sound. It was the first time we’d worked with the producer as well.

I’ve read stuff about you wanting to avoid generic digital pop sounds? Are there any sounds or sub-genres that you wouldn’t ever consider playing?

Not necessarily. We still try and take on board the pop scene – we listen to a lot of stuff that isn’t like our music to get the vibes of the sound that’s out there – we listen to Amy Winehouse, Beyoncé and Adele – just to get a feel of how loud the vocals are, how much compressions is there, etc. For example, we used Talking Book by Stevie Wonder as a reference for the drum sounds. So yeah, we did try and get a bit of a fuller production- so in a way we went down the pop route a bit more.

That was with Mick Jones, right? How did that come about?

We’ve known him for a while – he’s a bit of a family friend. We played at one of his club nights a few years back – he’s just one of these guys that you see around. When we thought about getting a producer in, he sprung to mind. We bumped into him a Notting Hill carnival so we asked him. He came round with his guitar and notepad, and he absolutely loved it. He ended up recording the whole album with us. The songs were already developed and arranged before he came on board – his role was being in the studio as an extra pair of ears. It was nice to have someone there other than the 5 of us just arguing. It was really nice to have such a presence in the room with us.

“We used Talking Book by Stevie Wonder as a reference for the drum sounds”

Who do you have on your iPods? Who do you listen to on the tour bus?

On the tour bus probably a lot of Motorhead – I’m a massive fan and so is our crew. We have quite similar tastes in music in some ways and other ways not so much. Lewis tends to listen to a lot of blues and jazz – as do I. I’ll sometimes listen to T. Rex, and other times people like Snooks Eaglin. So it depends really.

Plans for new material? Any new vibes or influences?

As soon as we get back off this tour we’re gonna start mucking about and trying to develop some new songs. We’ve all been working separately so haven’t heard what each other has done yet – I’m interested to get back in the studio and see what we’ve all come up with.

Do you have advice for upcoming bands who want to break through in England – young people especially, with the decision of whether to leave school like you did?

For us it’s kind of tricky, because the UK hasn’t been our strongest market – we’re still trying to break through and spread to a wider fan base. If you enjoy it and truly love it, go for it. Try not to get caught up in all the industry bullshit.  A lot of people fall head over heels and want to sign a record deal – a lot of the time it doesn’t work out – especially when you sign for a major – they may try and change you. Try not to get wrapped up in that and focus on the music, that’s the most important thing.

Kitty was speaking to Will McCartney

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Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham's IMPACT Magazine.

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