Interview: Kitty, Daisy and Lewis

Interview: Kitty, Daisy and Lewis

Returning from New Zealand and about to embark on a summer European tour, genre defying band Kitty, Daisy and Lewis are breaking boundaries with their latest album ‘Superscope.’ Renowned for setting up their own recording studio out of their Mother's house, and playing every instrument under the sun, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis bring us an eclectic mix of soul, rock, West-Indian, and R&B, rich with candescent vocals and spine-tingling riffs. I caught up with the eldest of the trio, Daisy, to grab a cheeky interview in preparation for their Bristol gig on May 6th.

After telling me that their recent trip to NZ was very rainy, I ask Daisy how international audiences compare to local ones, like in their home town of Camden.

It takes a while to get UK audiences going. There’s so much going on in the UK, so many bands that there’s not so much excitement, but international audiences appreciate it more. Japan is the craziest. They’re funny because they’re so respectful. They’re so silent throughout the song and then when you finish playing they go absolutely crazy.

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis come from a very musical family with their mother being a member of The Raincoats. Would you say that having such musical parents influenced your sound and your lifestyle as musicians?

The way that we were brought up we didn’t think about our parents as musicians or ‘talented’. My mum would always play records and my dad would just be strumming away on his guitar. I guess the sound that developed was just from singing together and having a jam, it wasn’t to do with certain styles of music.

Having your parents in the band is certainly controversial, if not totally unique. Does that influence the dynamics of the band?

I think it did but now that we’re older and writing our own songs it’s not so much taking advice from Dad on what we should and shouldn’t do, it’s more our own thing. My mum isn’t in the band anymore. Nothing major happened she just got tired of touring because it’s quite hard work.

Since you guys have been playing together for so long, how did you transition from just playing for fun to playing professionally?

It was pretty gradual. We used to go to a pub with our parents in the late afternoon every Sunday and we just got up there for fun. Even if the band before wasn’t that good we were just inspired by people playing and it would make us want to go home and jam. After that people kept asking us to play different pubs and stuff, and we played Tapestry festival and it gradually built up. Then we got signed to Sunday Best, and our first tour was with Coldplay. They approached us, and it was weird that they wanted these rock ‘n roll kids to support them. Then we just had to keep going and make money in order to continue it.

The band play an extraordinary range of instruments, such as the accordion, harmonica, banjo and ukulele. As you are all such talented and multi-instrumentalist musicians, the song writing process can’t be straightforward. How do you go about writing a song?

We all write differently, so we write our own songs individually initially. My first instrument was piano. I don’t play guitar like the others. I’ll be walking down the street, and something will come into my head and then I’ll develop it on the piano. We bring the songs to the group and they turn it into something different as we develop the sound. We had a piano teacher, but the Simpsons was on at the same time, so we’d have to switch over who went first so we could watch The Simpsons. The teachers quit because we just wanted to learn riffs and jam.

Your music has been described as ‘genre defying,’ combining a whole range of sounds and genres. How did you come to realise this unique sound?

I don’t really know what the sound is. Because we’ve done 4 albums now and each one sounded different. It’s more about a vibe. It’s not about what style you’re playing or what the sound is like, there’s this certain thing when you know it’s happening and there’s a certain vibe there. Its more about what makes you want to move.

We move on to talking about their production technique. The band famously went from creating a recording studio in their mother’s house using vintage and in house equipment, to converting an Indian restaurant into a recording studio, to being produced by The Clash’s Mick Jones, to producing the latest album themselves again. I ask Daisy to describe how this process was.

Each way was good, and you learn as you go along. Lewis is a bit of a geek, like at school he’d like take phones apart and put them back together. He’s always been into fixing gear. My dad had a mastering studio called The Exchange, but he also collected old tape machines and stuff. Lewis just got into it from him. He’d go on e-bay and find this machine in America or this old girl who’s getting rid of stuff and we just accumulated gear. It started off fairly simple and now we’ve got loads of gear and Lewis builds stuff himself -  making mixing decks and stuff. We did a couple of recordings in my dads’ studio but there was something that wasn’t quite happening about it. So we just thought, let’s take matters into our own hand. I think when we first started in Mum’s studio it was more live, because we were just in a room playing as we would. But now we do everything individually to get the sounds as good as we can. With the latest album we were planning on going down that route but once we started it didn’t happen that way. We kind of realised it was important not to overcrowd the sound with too much stuff because you get carried away with violins and backing vocals and you have to go, oh hang on, it doesn’t need it.

Some of your songs, like ‘Developers Disease’ border on social commentary. Do you feel that writing songs that are relevant to the tribulations of the current day is important?

That was one of Lewis’s songs. I think it’s good that if you’re feeling strongly about something you may as well put it in a song. We’re not trying to convey anything or go ‘this is what we want to put across’. It’s just about what you’re thinking and feeling at the time, so you just write it. Write whatever you think of basically.

What can you tell us about the lyrics of the latest album? What experiences shaped it?

There’s a song called ‘Black Van’ which I wrote. It’s basically about how I met my partner who I’ve now got a baby with. We went on tour around Europe three years ago and the band we were supporting had a fill in guitarist and we ended up getting into something on the tour and they were driving this black van. I’d be waiting for the van and them to turn up every day and there would be this excitement of a new relationship.

The new album, ‘Superscope’ was released late last year and is rich with blues and rock influences. Was this a conscious decision?

It wasn’t a conscious decision. For me, when we first started the band I was listening to a lot of rhythm and blues, as well as whatever people were listening to at school - R&B and 60s stuff. Lately I’ve been into 70s rock stuff like Suzi Quatro and The Runaways. When I’m writing now it’s not about writing in that style but being influenced by that attitude. I’m writing about the moment and how I’m feeling and what is actually exciting.

How has your fan base responded to the new album?

Everyone we’ve spoken to seems to like it, but we’ve noticed we have less of the rockabilly fans at the gigs. It’s never nice to lose fans but it’s nice to know we are moving on from that because we’ve always been labelled as rockabilly which we never thought of ourselves as. Now we hate that word because it’s not a style of music anymore it’s an attitude and a look. We got fed up of being pigeon holed into that, so it’s nice having a bigger mix of fans now.

Our readership is full of aspiring musicians. As a young band that has been in the industry for nearly two decades, and had a great amount of success, what advice would you give to aspiring musicians about trying to break into the industry?

I’d tell people to not try and change anything to please other people because at the end of the day it’s your life and you’ve got to do what makes you happy and if it makes you happy it will make others happy. So stick to what pleases you. Also, one thing I’ve learnt is to not look to the future, just be happy with what you’ve got at the moment. Even if you’re at a great place you always want more. And you just get addicted to wanting more and more and getting better and better but just appreciate the good moment and enjoy it.

Catch the band at their Bristol gig at The Lantern on May 6th . Tickets on sale now

Interview by Ty Bennett