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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Sept. 19, 2014

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In Music

Morgan Lander is the lead singer of Kittie... (PHOTO: John Schulze )

In Music

... while her sister, Mercedes, is the drummer. (PHOTO: John Schulze )

In Music

Bassist Ivy Vujic forms the rest of the rhythm section. (PHOTO: John Schulze )

In Music

Tara McLeod offers some scorching lead guitar solos. (PHOTO: John Schulze )

In Music

Here is a press photo from the band's latest album, "In The Black." (PHOTO: John Schulze )

11 years later, Kittie is still going strong


The Canadian band Kittie exploded onto the metal scene in 1999, when their song "Brackish" brought them almost immediate success. Eleven years later and nearly a million and a half CD's later, Kittie is touring extensively for their latest and best effort to date, "In The Black." So far this year, the band has toured Europe, made a run around the USA and spent some time on Insane Clown Posse's Happy Daze tour.

OnMilwaukee.com caught up with founding member Mercedes Lander during a stop earlier this month at The Rave -- the band's third Milwaukee appearance of the year.

Kittie went on to play a blistering 30-minute set that showcased the skillful songwriting and dynamic stage presence that has garnered the group so much respect in the music industry.

Lead vocalist Morgan Lander stepped out on stage barefoot and got down to business right away with a scorching rendition of "My Plague" that whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Bassist Ivy Vujic stood tall and commanded her bass to plunge into heavy tones, her hair whipping around in circles as she played. Guitarist Tara McLeod, now playing with a gorgeous Paul Reed Smith guitar, played with confidence. Tara's charisma is in her technical prowess, which is her main strength.

Lander, perched behind her metallic pink drum kit, played sturdy and unwavering in her effort to drive the band to new heights, her double kick drum more prominent than during previous visits. It was a show for fans by a band that "gets it." Here is our conversation with Lander:

OnMilwaukee.com: Tell me about the current Thrash and Burn tour.

Mercedes Lander: Thrash and Burn this year, I guess they asked us to be on it, and we accepted, because on this tour we're playing to a lot of people who have no idea what we're about, or who we are, even. It's a completely different genre of music than what we are playing. It's definitely really cool to introduce the band to a different audience, yet again.

OMC: But it seems at the same time, maybe a closer fit than the ICP tour.

ML: Not necessarily.

OMC: You fit really well on that as well.

ML: Yeah. No, I mean, we just like to play to different crowds, you know what I mean? And that's the quickest way to get different people into the band. I think with ICP, that was a great choice for us because we were the sore thumb, we were really the only band who played instruments, we were the only heavy band, we were the only band that screamed. Everyone really seemed to dig it.

OMC: It looked like you had a lot of fun on stage. The crowd looked like they were having a lot of fun.

ML: Yeah, we certainly did! The same with this, a lot of these kids when our first album came out were (still) in their diapers, you know what I mean?

OMC: You're introducing a whole new generation to Kittie.

ML: Exactly!

OMC: It's been 14 years?

ML: We've been a band for almost 15 years. Long time!

OMC: Obviously, chemistry and communication are critical to any band. How much of it is non-verbal or instinct at this point ?

ML: I think it's all instinct, you know what I mean? We're at a point now where we're all just so comfortable with each other. Morgan and I especially, we can have eye conversations now.

OMC: The bond between sisters...

ML: Yeah, yeah... But then then Ivy and Tara are like our makeshift sisters, you know what I mean, they're obviously not from our family, but they're a huge part of the family.

OMC: So it's a family thing?

ML: We all go to my mom's house and eat dinner all the time. It's awesome, we have so much fun, you know what I mean, so I think at this point it's definitely beyond just a communication thing, we're a unit.

OMC: So tell me about the ICP tour, hanging out with the Juggalo family ? It had to be quite and experience, I'm sure you have many stories to tell.

ML: We had literally, I kid you not, the best time on the ICP tour. They were amazing, ICP was amazing, the crowds were amazing. We had circle pits every night, you know what I mean? Those kids are definitely into metal as well, which is really nice. Wow, we just had a great time, everyone was so nice.

OMC: How much Faygo do you think you went through?

ML: Well, a lot! At the end of every show we were out there spraying the kids with Faygo.

OMC: How was it up there pounding kids with Faygo?

ML: Awesome! So much fun! We had a great time.

OMC: The double kick drum on "In The Black" was really more profound than your previous recordings. It's got to be incredible to punch through with a song like "My Plague." What's it like to unleash that kind of song onto the crowd?

ML: It's awesome, we love it so much. We love playing. With the newer stuff, I don't necessarily think that anything is different other than the recording. The recording was a lot better. I mean, I'm doing lots of double kick work on "Funeral For Yesterday" but you can't hear it, because the recordings not well.

OMC: It's muddy.

ML: There are too many tracks and too many layers. Same with "Until The End," it's a very raw recording, it doesn't sound very good.

OMC: This was the first recording where I really heard it punch through.

ML: Exactly, so I mean, yeah, it just depends on who you record with. I think we found a good match for us with Siggy.

JS: Will you continue to work with Siggy.

ML: I'm pretty sure we will. He lives close, so...(chuckles)

OMC: So the last time I talked to Morgan, the "Die My Darling" video was in production. Can you tell me about the idea to script it out and do your first non-performance video? Would you consider returning to that style in the future?

ML: We had so much fun recording the "Die My Darling" video that we would do it anytime. It's kind of a hassle to play in a video, to be honest with you. So in doing this, we were completely out of our element. Morgan and I thought it up. In the beginning, we had a treatment for "Die My Darling," we were kind of like 'This kinda sucks.'

Morgan and I talked back and forth about maybe doing a little bit of a spoof of "Deathproof," which is the Quentin Tarantino movie, "The Grindhouse" movie. So we wanted to do a "Deathproof"-style kind of video, and it just turned into it's own kind of thing. It was so much fun to record that video. That's the most fun we've ever had doing a video, ever.

OMC: You were doing some driving in the video.

ML: Yep, that's my car, so...(laughs)

OMC: That was the third video from "In The Black," and it's the first time you ever had a third video from a release, so I have to go one step further, do you plan on a fourth single ?

ML: We were talking about it, and it just depends on if we get approved for it or not. I heard we were probably going to be making a video for "My Plague," maybe, so we'll see.

OMC: Well, I personally would support that.

ML: I also support it. It all depends on if we get approved or not though. It's not up to me, it's up to the man. (laughs)

OMC: So you must get a million requests for songs before each show. Obviously, the setlists this year are heavy on "In The Black." How do you balance the wants of the fans and the needs of the band to promote the new material ?

ML: Well, to be honest with you, we're here promoting our new album, we're not here to do, you know, anything but that. So obviously, we're gonna be playing new songs, it makes sense. I'm not going to sit there and play a song that's 11 years old or 12 years old to these kids. I want them to know about our current music. We're an ever-evolving band. That's what we're going to continue to do, and become a better band. I would much rather live in the future and the present than the past.

OMC: Well, speaking of the future, I've read that you like to tour on songs before you record them. When I talked to Morgan, she said she's writing songs, I'm sure you are helping write songs. Any plans to play some new stuff on this next tour?

ML: Probably not. I mean we're doing the Devildriver tour like 10 days after (the Thrash and Burn tour). I heard that we're going to be doing a headlining tour in January or February-ish. By that time, we may have some new music for everyone.

OMC: You've traveled all over the world, this is the fourth tour this year. Is there a destination that you have yet to play that you want to visit?

ML: I'd like to play more extensively in South America. We've done Brazil and Chile, but South America is like, one of those markets that are just crazy for us. I would love to play everywhere.

OMC: I'm sure they are cheering for that right now.

ML: I, literally, like at least once or twice a day get asked on the internet when we're coming to this country or that country.

OMC: It's not feasible to be everywhere.

ML: It's hard, you know what I mean? A lot of people want us to come back to Australia, but it's super expensive, the flights are super expensive, so we'd need somebody to cough up the money because our label certainly isn't going to.

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