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.
Said Harrigan, “It’s important to us to show other girls who might start bands that we’re happy with the way we look, and how we look is not going to hold us back as performers.”
But at the same time, Larson said, “We’re never writing from an us-vs.-them perspective, especially when it comes to other women. We’re writing about things everyone goes through.”
There’s at least one unique experience the Kitten Forever members all share, though — one that does seem to offend them.
“We get asked by a lot of people if we need a guitarist, and can they join our band,” Harrigan said, adding with a little sneer, “I can’t even imagine a guitarist in this band anymore. It’d ruin it.”
Local bars milk Halloween like retailers do to Christmas, but I can’t begrudge the couple of fun tribute shows left over for this weekend: Brit’s Pub is hosting its annual British-themed costume party with Kinda Kinky and E.L.nO. on Friday (7:30 p.m., free). The Turf Club is also playing dress-up Friday with Wangs, the new Wings tribute band with members of Night Moves, plus Tramps Like Us, the Blackberry Brandy Boys and more (10 p.m., $8). …
Roootsy folk/gospel favorites the Roe Family Singers cover well-known oldies (“I’ll Fly Away,” “No Depression”) and some not-so-well-known (E.C. Ball’s “Warfare”) on their new album, “Heaven Send Us Better Times.” They’re hosting a family-friendly release party Friday with the Blood Washed Band, John Hermanson and Molly Maher at the Ritz Theater, just a few doors down from their usual Monday night gig at the 331 Club (7 p.m., $5-$10). …
With hints of starry-night ’90s band the Sundays and Cat Power’s more ambient stuff, promising new ethereal-rock quintet Sun Gods to Gamma Rays performs Saturday at the Kitty Cat Klub with Speeds the Name to promote its debut EP, “The Water, the Wave” (10 p.m., $5). The band features singer Brianna Kocka, who has performed solo as Caetani, plus seasoned dude backers including Mitch Miller of Me and My Arrow. … Verskotzi, a Shins-like quartet led by namesake singer/guitarist Joey Verkotzi, has a release party Saturday at Icehouse for its Princess Records-issued debut, “Lemon Heart” (11 p.m., $8). Zoo Animal’s Holly Hansen guests on “Abandoned Love,” one of the darker tracks (no surprise). …
Tickets go on sale at noon Friday for Doomtree’s Blowout 9 concerts Dec. 13-15 at First Avenue. The crew’s own members will sell tickets by hand and greet fans Sunday at the Depot Tavern from 2-4 p.m. Look for an announcement on an additional all-ages show next week. … Another reason December might be the coolest month to go out for local music in the Twin Cities, Lyndale Avenue’s fabled watering hole the CC Club will bring back live music for two nights only to mark its 80th anniversary Dec. 6-7. Tickets ($19.33) go on sale at the bar starting Wednesday. The bands — six per night — won’t be revealed until show time. Let the guessing begin.