How the trio with feminist lyrics and no guitar became one of the most fun new bands in town.
They have the riot-grrrl rock-band aesthetic, that’s for sure, with lyrics about female body image and an aggressive, hard-venting punk sound that could make male corporate oppressors everywhere shudder. But the thing that distinguishes Kitten Forever most as an all-female band might simply be the lack of ego or musical bravado.
It took a certain humility to start a rock trio without any guitar — just bass and drums (and sometimes a vintage phone receiver). Guitars, they thought, “seemed like such a technical, look-what-I-can-do kind of instrument,” recalled Laura Larson, who proved herself as a six-string player in the short-lived but well-received roar-rock band Baby Guts.
And it’s hard to imagine a band of dudes lacking in ego enough to have Kitten Forever’s sense of democracy and sisterly kinship, where the members freely exchange instruments and songwriting duties.
“We started this band because we wanted to be in a band together, not because I wanted to play drums or bass or play any specific role,” Larson said.
Added bandmate Corrie Harrigan, originally the group’s full-time drummer, “I know I’m not as good of a bassist as Laura is, but there’s never any issues with our abilities, or questions of who should be playing what.”
Abilities are hardly a shortcoming in Kitten Forever, but one of the most charming things about the group’s spaz-rocky live shows and snaky new full-length collection, “Pressure,” is the predominance of spirit and revelry over technical skill. Which was what the group was all about from the start.
“Pressure” came out in August via local label Guilt Ridden Pop as a 13-song collection crammed onto a “double 7-inch” (two 45-rpm vinyl discs in a fold-out jacket). The novel approach was simply a because-we-can kind of idea, since the songs rarely clock in over 2 minutes. “They fit, but just barely,” Harrigan said
They finished “Pressure” in time to sell ample copies on a summer tour that the members boasted “went better than we could’ve imagined.” Given those good vibes and positive reaction to the record (mini-records? maxi-singles? ah, whatever) — and with Harrigan’s pending graduation from St. Catherine’s University in December — Kitten Forever is transforming from a for-fun side band to a full-time operation.
After a Halloween night gig at the Minneapolis Eagles Club, they’re headlining the Turf Club next Thursday. For the first time in the group’s seven-year history, none of the members are playing in other bands.
“We already have three tours planned next year, including one big one,” Harrigan happily bragged.
Said Larson, “We started this just to have fun, but as we’ve gone along the band has proven very sustainable and easy. A lot of that has to do with us getting along, and to the kind of band we started.”
High school friends from Burnsville, Harrigan and Larson learned their musical chops around the Uptown house-party scene in the mid-’00s — now in their late 20s, they were still too young to get into bars then — when they befriended Liz Elton. She used to play bass in the Hollow Boys with Ali Jaafar, who produced “Pressure” at his home studio.
“Really, we started the band because we wanted to get to know Liz better and hang out with her more,” Harrigan said, with no hint of irony.
It’s Elton who offered the best explanation to the group’s attention-grabbing video for the “Pressure” track “Famous Friends.” The clip shows the band members performing in a basement in their underwear like a slumber party for cool rocker chicks.
“I really just didn’t feel like playing in my pants,” Elton said, to great laughter.
Don’t read too much into the group’s riffs on body image, in other words. Other instances of it include a band photo inside the “Pressure” jacket of the members from the waist down in panty hose, and lyrics such as the opening line to “Little Beasts”: “Pull my hair / Scrape my knee / My body is not me.” A good indication of their light-hearted approach to their serious feminist side: The group was originally going to be called the Drill Team.