An Interview With Kittie Lead Vocalist/Guitarist Morgan Lander

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Friday, March 31, 2006 @ 9:14 AM

What part of meow don’t you un

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After a year’s catnap, Kittie is clawing its way back up the heavy metal scratching post with two new members, a new EP, and have just started to run its paws on America soil again with a nationwide tour with more dates sure to follow.

Imagine being a young teenager from London, Ontario and your band is asked to play Ozzfest 2000 alongside some old, respectable rock and roll geezers of, say…25 years old or more. In the case of the all-girl metal band, Kittie, they weren’t there as a novelty, but as a kick-ass band worthy of their slot. To the four teenage girls it had to be like a sick dream come true.

In a short time the band underwent struggles that have put many bands into extinction, but Kittie has always landed on its feet. Within the two sisters and founding members, Mercedes and Morgan Lander, there remained a desire and enduring tenacity to keep the band going, despite the past discouraging setbacks. The new music on the EP “Never Again” is a musical testimony that Kittie are as pissed off as ever and happy to pounce on the world again.

Singer and guitarist Morgan Lander talks about what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like today for Kittie.

KNAC.COM: Welcome back. It’s been a couple years, right?

LANDER: Yeah, it’s been a long time …definitely been a long time, but we’re back and we’re better than ever. You can’t hold us down.

KNAC.COM: You’ve got a new bass player, Trish [Doan].

LANDER: Yes, we do, and a new guitar player as well. Tara McCleod. That’s what we’ve been doing these past few years. We’ve had some interesting ups and downs –parted ways with Artemis Records and also with our previous two members of the band, Jennifer [Arroyo] and Lisa [Marx]. But everything was very amicable and very cool, it’s just that we were having some trouble with the label and that sort of thing, and at that point it didn’t really look like there was that much of a future for the band, so they decided to go off and do other things. Mercedes and I got our act together and decided that this was what we wanted to do, and continue to do this, so we spent a lot of time writing and finding some new girls, and we’re ready to hit the road now.

KNAC.COM: You were picked up by a new label, Rock Ridge Music, for Never Again, weren’t you?

LANDER: It’s just an exclusive deal for the digital EP that we just put out. It’s really a chance for us to take advantage of technology and just kind of slowly reintroduce ourselves and to let people know that this past year and a half we weren’t just sitting on our butts eating ice cream or anything like that (laughs). We’ve been hard at work, writing, doing demos and that sort of thing …and yeah, just letting people know we’re still alive.

KNAC.COM: A new, fit, more focused Kittie, showing no signs of ice cream abuse.

LANDER: Definitely.

KNAC.COM: Starting March 31st, right? That’s when you kick off your tour?

LANDER: It’s the first night of the tour, in Bedford, New Hampshire, at a place called Mark’s Showplace, and we’re hitting just about every place you could possibly think of. We’re still adding –I guess there’s a week left to add to the tour at the end, but it’ll be a good 48 show tour. A good two months of touring without many days off, so we’ll be able to criss-cross the country a lot.

KNAC.COM: You’ll be coming to my beloved The Whisky, here in Los Angeles …

LANDER: Yes. I love The Whisky. Every time we play there it’s a great show, and the people of LA like to rock …always a warm welcome over there.

KNAC.COM: You have a good following in the US, but you broke in Canada, right?

LANDER: Yeah, that’s actually where we hail from. We got our start here …in London, Ontario.

KNAC.COM: Being from Canada, who were your main influences, let’s say, as women in rock.

LANDER: I don’t know …for Mercedes and me –we really didn’t look up to many female rock icons, I would say. Initially, when we were really young and growing up, we were obviously influenced by what my parents were listening to. A lot of guitar-driven late 70’s and early 80’s rock and roll. Van Halen and Ted Nugent …people like that have really good guitar players that really stand out, and that’s the sort of thing that we were brought up with, and I think that kind of led to our choice of music when we were sort of coming of age and trying to discover who we were and have fans of our own. I mean, the first album was definitely influenced by a lot of different bands than what our newer stuff had been influenced by, but we were 12 and 14 when we first started the band. I had the first Tool EP, you know, Helmet, Deftones -- that sort of thing-- is what we listened to, and a lot of grunge stuff, like Nirvana, as well. The first Marilyn Manson album was a big influence for us. Those were kind of our gateway bands into more heavier, more brutal music, and now we listen to everything, all across the board.

KNAC.COM: When I played the title track, “Never Again”, I thought right way that you haven’t gone soft on us.

LANDER: No, we’re still pretty pissed, pretty scathing. You know …um …there’s always room for a little bit of hate in everybody’s life, so we like to write good, heavy stuff.

KNAC.COM: You’re still working out your demons through your music?

LANDER: Absolutely. Like I’ve said, we’ve had a lot of crazy stuff happen to us and we’re still so very young. You know, these past 10 years in this band have been absolutely crazy –I’m only 24 years old, and I’ve been through enough already for a lifetime. It’s a lot to reflect on, but I’m also very grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve had and that we’re still able to continue. Mercedes and I aren’t the kind to back down, and I think we’re ready to show people what we’ve been up to lately. I think a lot of people still have a perception of this band, and they hear the name and they think back to the first album and to us being 14 and 15 and 16 years old –that was almost 10 years ago, now. So, it’s time for us to reclaim what’s rightfully ours …claim our female heavy metal throne (laughs) …I don’t know. It sounds ridiculous, but we’re just ready to get back out there and show people that we’re a great band and we’re still kickin’ it.

KNAC.COM: I saw a photo of Mercedes and Fallon [Bowman], and read one of your personal quotes on Kittie in the book, Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal [Ian Christe].

LANDER: I’ve seen the book, I don’t actually own a copy, but I was browsing through chapters one day looking for a gift for Thine Eyes Bleed guitarist, Jeff [Phillips] for Christmas and in the heavy metal books I saw it, and I kind of freaked out –it was me!

KNAC.COM: It says (I read to Morgan) - In 2000, the most impressive Ozzfest newcomer was Kittie, from London, Ontario, an all-female band formed after two members met in gymnastics class. As their band’s debut, Spit, sold more than half a million copies, its gimmicky pink hair and barrettes gave way to leather belts and a more mature sound on the follow-up Oracle. “Of course we have a lot of aggression,” said vocalist Morgan Lander to Rolling Stone. “It’s an aggressive style of music, and it’s easier to get your point across.”

LANDER: It is! It’s very true (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Page 327. At 14, were you impressionable enough that you got sucked in to any trouble, like drug abuse, cutting, anorexia nervosa … shit like that?

LANDER: No. I mean … I can only speak for myself and Mercedes –obviously the two people that have kind of been the backbone of the band. We didn’t fall by the wayside and kind of fall into believing our own hype and that sort of thing. We were just a bunch of silly little girls. I’m not going to lie …it was a pretty crazy time for us. We were all, really, in awe of what was going on around us, and I think – thinking back –it was a really wild time. Out on the road and then all of a sudden people know who you are and are crying in front of you (laughs) –it’s wild, you know? I would say we did a pretty good job of keeping our heads on straight and we were fairly good girls. Obviously you’re hanging out on Ozzfest with people twice your age, there’s going to be partying and drinking and that sort of thing, but we never got into anything too crazy. But, we’re all of age now, so it’s okay (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Now you can go out and raise hell legally.

LANDER: Absolutely.

KNAC.COM: And we’re expecting you to. Now you’re 24, you’ve got your chops and you’ve proven your mettle out on the road. Weird times right now in the music biz, it’s a lot of hard work, obviously …

LANDER: Oh, it is …it’s always been for us, I think, because of the history with the past label. We’ve always gone out and done, like, ten legs of a tour –we’ve always had to pay for everything ourselves. Tours, busses, all that kind of stuff. We never had the luxury of receiving tour support to open up for other bands. You know, this tour is no different –where touring is just based off the EP. Nothing has really changed, we’re still out there, it’s still hard, but we are going to make it work. It’s what we’ve always done and it’s really all we know. I think we’re the epitome of a do-it-yourself band. Yes, we were on a label, but we were on a label that didn’t care all that much. Everything that we ever made went back into the band in order to keep up visibility and tour and make sure that everybody got a chance to see the band. The music industry is crazy, you know, it’s like …it’s definitely in flux right now, everybody’s merging and nobody is really signing anybody. It’s crazy –it’ll be interesting to see where things go.

KNAC.COM: I don’t think major labels are the end all - be all, anymore …obviously.

LANDER: Oh, definitely not! There are so many different avenues. Smaller labels now, I think –they really have it. They are small enough and underground enough to find the talent, and then they now have the resources to be able to blow up a band, to where, then, a major label will end up picking them up, you know? And then for bands that are unsigned, taking advantage of technology, selling your MP3’s and downloads through the internet and also selling your CD’s through the internet by, like, CD Baby, and that sort of thing, where they’ll sell your CD’s is great. The industry is changing. I think a lot of bands that are smaller are taking over.

KNAC.COM: It seems like the smaller labels, the indie labels are grooming their artists and care about the artist’s development.

LANDER: Absolutely …that’s what you need. I don’t think there’s much of that anymore. It’s kind of sad, you know? A lot of labels already want the finished product –done. We’ve never had any …the only true artist development that we’ve ever was going out and touring … and finding our chops through playing night after night after night … for years. I don’t know …I really think it would be cool to have somebody involved enough to tell that they care (laughs)… never had that before.

KNAC.COM: You’re probably not going to buckle at this point. You’ve gone through your trials … it’s never gravy, but it’s going to be a good transition …

LANDER: Oh, absolutely, and I think for when things start to pick up again and when we find a secure home for the band, we’ll just be more appreciative of everything, because we’ve gone through so much. We’re not silly little girls that are 14 anymore, taking advantage of anything or not really seeing it for what it is. Now we’re kind of like …every moment is awesome and let’s make the best of it, and … you know, let’s talk to all of our fans and let’s be the band that everybody says “Oh, they’re great people. They’re really nice.” We’ve always been like that, but I think even more so now, just trying to keep in touch with being really human –it’s a good thing.

KNAC.COM: It is. Maybe you’ll be better adjusted to handle the fans crying.

LANDER: (laughs) That kind of stuff’s really overwhelming when you’re 14 …I don’t know … going through that –whatever happened before the fame, whatever you have or whatever your problem is –it only amplifies things. You really have to have a handle on your head and your emotions, because it’s only going to unmask you. If you were crazy before, you’re going to be even crazier afterwards (laughs). No, I think Mercedes and I have done a really good job of growing up with some decent heads on our shoulders.

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