Origins and Evolutions: Morgan and Mercedes Lander talk about the origins of Kittie and 20 years later

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Photo by Whitney South
       

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 9 – Autumn 2019 – Ladies of Metal

I recently had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Morgan and Mercedes Lander of Canadian metal band, Kittie, whose angst-ridden debut album, Spit took the mostly male-dominated genre by storm in the early 2000s.

These talented siblings have not only paved the way for countless females in metal, but they have also managed to remain relevant and continue producing material for well over two decades.

Read on to learn more about the Lander sisters, their affinity for horror, and what it was like to reunite with the original Kittie members for their 20th-anniversary show.

Kittie just celebrated 20 years as a band last year. That is an amazing accomplishment! How have you managed to keep it together all of these years?

Morgan: Thank you so much. Honestly, thinking back 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have ever guessed that we would have made it this far and had the impact that we did on music and our fans. A lot of it is just sheer will and perseverance, but a good portion of that is because of family and the foundation of family that this band was built upon. We are a group of best friends, two of whom are siblings. For a long time when we weren’t old enough to legally sign contracts on our own and toured ten months out of the year, our parents were there to step in as management and help to keep us safe and our careers on the best path for us. It certainly hasn’t been an easy ride, but I think we are strong inherently, and the support just made us stronger.

On August 30th last year, Kittie did a reunion show in your hometown of Ontario, Canada that included the original lineup. How did that feel to play with everyone again?

Morgan: The 20th-anniversary show, which was actually the after-party to our Origins/Evolutions documentary hometown premiere, was one of the best nights of my life. It really put into perspective all that we had sacrificed and worked for over the years, and was such a wild ride from start to finish.  We had four different lineups present, and we all played sets through the eras of the band. Needless to say, the magic was still there after all these years.  It was also a cathartic night, as some of us hadn’t stepped on a stage together in almost 20 years. It was great to relive our youth and also put aside the things that may have come between us in the past to celebrate our time in the band. It was really magical, and I am so glad that we were able to capture the entire night on film with our Live at the London Music Hall release, which came out in March.

Kittie was signed as young teenagers. Were your parents absolutely terrified of sending you off on the road (with Slipknot, no less)?

Morgan: At first, my mom was really not into the idea and actually thought that my dad was crazy for being so enthusiastic about embarking on this journey once we were signed and making our debut album, Spit.  We quickly found out that once things started to take off and become very serious and beyond our wildest dreams, that we were going to need all the family support we could get. They were there for all of us to help to guide us and also shelter us from some of the more frightening aspects of the industry.  Honestly, the guys in Slipknot were nothing but gentlemen to us. At that time, a lot of this was very new for them also, so it was a bit of a sink or swim scenario. We learned the ropes of touring very quickly, and we thank Slipknot for having given us the experience of our first real North American tour.

I remember reading somewhere years ago that you recorded Spit in roughly nine days or something crazy like that. What was that like, and had you ever done any kind of recording like that before?

Morgan: We did in fact record Spit in nine days here in our hometown of London, Ontario at EMAC Studios with Garth Richardson. We were familiar with the studio at that point from our time there recording our first two demo EPs. So choosing that space to record our first full-length album was a no brainer and it really felt like our second home. The recording was an intense week with really late nights and early mornings, all while still in high school and studying for tests, exams and finishing up the year. We made the best of our time there and looking back at the footage, we had a lot of fun, and we were very silly during the process.  We were probably pretty annoying to the adults at the time because our enthusiasm was bubbling over. Nothing we had done up to that point compared to making the album, but there was a naïve innocence about us that almost felt like we weren’t really too phased by the situation or who was producing our album. We just went with it and knew that whatever it was that came out of this session, it was going to be special.

You’ve said in the past that you want Kittie to be seen as just a metal band instead of a “girl metal” band. Do you think people’s perceptions and views have changed a bit about Kittie in that regard since your debut as teenagers?

Morgan: I think it is really hard to know how perceptions have changed over the years because a lot of times the internet is a place for the worst in people to come out. But if representation in metal means anything regarding the shift in thoughts about gender, then I think there has been a lot of progress. There are more women than ever fronting and playing in metal bands. The hope is that one day it won’t be the sole focus of the media and journalists, as we have always supported that the music speaks for itself. Once the media decides that it doesn’t need to tokenize women and can focus on that, I think we have won. There is still a lot of work to be done on many fronts.

Morgan, please tell us about Witch Finger, the horror podcast that you’re at the helm of, and which particular horror franchise(s) are you a fan of?

Morgan: The podcast started a little over three years ago when a few friends and I decided that we wanted the world to hear how funny we thought we were while we would spend our Friday and Saturday nights drinking and watching bad movies! It was as simple and innocent as that, and from there it has grown into its own beast. We mainly watch ’80s horror but have been known to throw in a few ’90s gems. The bulk of our content is facts, trivia, and anecdotes about our experiences with horror, all fueled by alcohol from the comfort of our living room. We are pretty raunchy, light-hearted and fun, and if you love horror, then you will definitely appreciate the infectious enthusiasm we have for bad movies.

Mercedes, you’re also in a sludge/doom metal project called the White Swan. What’s on the horizon for you guys?

Mercedes: We just released a video for our latest EP Touch Taste Destroy. Believe it or not, we’re ready to go back into the studio to record our fourth EP.  Kira, Shane and I are looking forward to playing the new material live and hopefully getting that EP out at the end of this year.

Lastly, is there anything new going on in the world of Kittie? We want to hear new music!

Morgan: At the end of our documentary Origins/Evolutions, we showcase a bunch of new songs we had been working on, so there is music there. Our circumstances have changed a bit as far as our label is concerned, so a lot of the things we were working towards have stalled. With the documentary, live album, and Live at the London Music Hall release, we feel like for now, the best way to celebrate who we are and what we have done as a band is to look back over the last 20 years and say thank you to our fans with these amazing legacy projects.  Maybe one day we can get together to make something happen, but as it stands right now, we are trying to focus on other things.  Never say never, though!

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