I was supposed to interview members of Kittie for BallBuster Magazine right before the release of their debut album and, on the day of the interview, I had to call it off because I came down with a very bad fever. A short time later, Kittie exploded on to the scene and, well, the rest is history. Recently, I had the chance to speak with drummer Mercedes Lander and I was really looking forward to it. Since this was to be my first interview, I decided to start from the
beginning. We discussed how the band got together, why they started playing and, well, pretty much the early days of the band. Those first few minutes of the conversation weren’t caught on tape due to a wire on my machine not being where it was supposed to be. Lucky for me though, I checked it right as we got into the current stuff and that’s where this conversation begins.
Paul Autry: First of all, how did you find your new bass player, Jennifer J. Arroyo?
Mercedes Lander: Well, our band played with her band on Farm Club and we kept in touch ever since. She’s an amazing bass player and we’ve always known that. We’re really happy to have a bass player who can actually play now. We called her up after our old bass player left and we were like, “Hey Jen, you wanna come play?” Her band had broken up, so, she was all for it.
Paul Autry: When a band changes members, it usually sets them back a bit. So, how did this affect the band?
Mercedes Lander: Well, Jen came down…she had two days to get her life in order. She came down with her suitcase and her bass and she slept in my basement for two weeks until we had to go on tour. When she came to my house, we practiced that day and she already knew all the songs. She learned everything and we got farther with her in two weeks more than we did with our old bass player, who we were with for two years.
Paul Autry: You were just out on tour, weren’t you?
Mercedes Lander: Yes we were, we were in Europe. It was awesome, we had a lot of fun. We got to play the Ozzfest over there and we got to hang out with the guys from Slayer. We just had a great time. All the shows were amazing.
Paul Autry: So, where do you go from here?
Mercedes Lander: In July, we start a tour with Poison The Well, Shadows Fall, Killswitch and Engage…that’s gonna be a real tour and we’re gonna have fun with that. We’re headlining this tour and we love all these bands, so, it’s really cool.
Paul Autry: Since “Oracle” has been out for quite some time now, has this accomplished what you wanted it to accomplish?
Mercedes Lander: I think with “Oracle,” we accomplished so much stuff that we wanted to. But, there’s always, always gonna be more stuff that we wanna accomplish. Once you stop having goals, I don’t know, it’s no longer fun. You’ve always gotta work for something.
Paul Autry: What are some of the short term goals you’re working towards?
Mercedes Lander: For this record…we just wanna tour more. Tour until the record goes gold.
Paul Autry: How does a song go from an idea to a finished product within the band? –
Mercedes Lander: Well, basically, me and Morgan usually sit down and we’ll cover the riffs and then we’ll work on it from there and we’ll add stupid little shit that just makes the song the song. We all have our little things that we add in and lyrics always come last.
Paul Autry: And how are they handled within the band?
Mercedes Lander: Morgan writes the lyrics.
Paul Autry: How was your studio experience with this record?
Mercedes Lander: Well, this was our second time in the studio while having a record deal…we have other recordings other than that, but, they weren’t like big recordings, so, don’t worry about it.
Paul Autry: So, there’s pre-national band demos of Kittie?
Mercedes Lander: Oh yeah, lots of them.
Paul Autry: So, what are your thoughts on the whole Napster issue?
Mercedes Lander: I think some of it is really good and some of it is really bad. There’s good points and bad points. For a band that’s small and needs the exposure, it’s great for them to get out there and have their songs out there for people to listen to. It’s good promotion for a small band. When we were an unsigned band, we used to have mp3’s up on our web page. But, the other side of it is…take a medium sized band like us, you still don’t make a lot of money in this business and people who just burn CD’s and then don’t go buy the album, well, I have a problem with that. You’re not supporting the band. I mean, if you like the music, go out and buy the CD.
Paul Autry: Well, I burn CD’s all the time, for lack of money because I don’t make anything in this business. But, I still go out and pick up an original copy when I can because, really, nothing beats having the original.
Mercedes Lander: Oh yeah, that’s what I mean.
Paul Autry: Now, going back to my original question…what was your studio vibe like this time around and did it differ from the time you were in the studio with your first album?
Mercedes Lander: I think with the first album…from the first album to the second album…there’s a lot of differences. Like, for instance, we had better equipment. We had a little bit more time on this record. We recorded “Spit” in nine days where, with “Oracle,” we recorded it in two and a half weeks, which is still a short time. We don’t like being in the studio for very long. But, there are a lot of differences and there are a lot of similarities. We used the same producer for both records and we recorded at the same recording studio and it’s the same recording studio that we did all of our demos at.
Paul Autry: So, it was familiar for you…I assume then it was more relaxed?
Mercedes Lander: Oh yeah. We had a little more time, so, we weren’t as rushed. –
Paul Autry: What does your album cover symbolize? I mean, it looks like a jar with fire around it. But, I get some sort of suggestive meaning from it for some reason.
Mercedes Lander: Well, it’s a flaming jar basically. You have to look through the whole CD booklet to kind of understand it. It’s really hard to explain the CD cover…they’re like x-rays and still photo’s of different things. Nothing suggestive.
Paul Autry: Maybe I just have my mind in the gutter.
Mercedes Lander: Yeah, you probably do (laughs).
Paul Autry: What was the whole idea behind the “Paperdoll” EP?
Mercedes Lander: Uh, we just wanted to put an EP out because we had never done it on a big distribution before. We had a version of a song that wasn’t on the record that we wanted to release and we wanted to do a video for it. But, we never got the chance. So, we ended up making the EP instead of adding it on to the album. I don’t know (laughs) we thought it was a good idea.
Paul Autry: How has that release done?
Mercedes Lander: The EP has done really good.
Paul Autry: Since you mentioned video, I read that you had a video for “Run Like Hell.”
Mercedes Lander: Yeah, that’s a live video.
Paul Autry: Since MTV more or less blows goat now. Do you feel that video is still an important market?
Mercedes Lander: Well, MTV had a program called MTV-X, which was all heavy metal and rock and they just recently took it off. But, programs like that are good, they do play heavy bands sometimes. That still kind of keeps…it’s still really good. We had a home video that we came out with and we’re looking forward to doing another one as soon as we get some footage with our new bass player.
Paul Autry: When people come to see you live, you have plenty of material to choose from, so, how do you decide what to play? –
Mercedes Lander: We just pick the most brutal songs.
Paul Autry: How about image…does Kittie have one?
Mercedes Lander: Not much of one (laughs). I just throw on clothes that I find on the floor of my bedroom.
Paul Autry: In everything I read about you so far, I have yet to see anyone ask this question…since you’re in a band with your sister, is that relationship family or is it more business?
Mercedes Lander: It’s a bit of both. When it’s time to be business, it’s business and when it’s time to be family, we’re family.
Paul Autry: How would you describe your band members?
Mercedes Lander: Well, I think Morgan is the glue that holds everyone together. She’s just the take charge type of person. She’s an awesome guitar player and an amazing singer. We all work really well with her. Jen, I can’t wait to write music with her. She’s one of the most amazing bass players that I’ve ever seen in my fucking life. If you watch her fingers play…she adds so much more to the old stuff that we never thought possible with our old bass player ’cause she sucked (laughs). It’s so great to have a bass player that can actually play. Plus, she’s a really sweet person too. And I’m not gonna talk about myself ’cause that’s not cool.
Paul Autry: Oh, come on…you can lie to me.
Mercedes Lander: Okay…I’m an evil bitch…no, I’m just joking. I think I’m a nice person sometimes and I think I’m alright at drums.
Paul Autry: Have you met a lot of the people you admire in this business?
Mercedes Lander: Yeah, I have met a lot of really cool people that I’ve always looked up to. But, at the same time, there’s still a lot of people that I haven’t met. For me, it’s not always the big bands that I freak out over. It’s always like, the little bands…the ones that nobody knows who they are and I’m a huge fan of ’em!
Paul Autry: I know that feeling. Do you ever get tired of answering the same questions over and over again…you know, have you ever gotten to the point where you’d like to say, “If you wanna find out more, go read another interview that I’ve done?”
Mercedes Lander: Uh, no, not really. You know, it comes with the territory and everybody has to do it.
Paul Autry: Does the internet hurt or help a band?
Mercedes Lander: I think it helps. There’s so many different ways to get your band out there. But, I think the internet…we have a huge internet fan base, because we started our web page early. We promoted ourselves on the internet even before we got signed. It’s really good for a band that’s just starting out.
Paul Autry: You have two albums and an EP under your belt and you still consider yourself a medium sized band. So, where do you go from here. I mean, do you wanna go to the next level?
Mercedes Lander: Whatever happens, happens. We’re just gonna tour our asses off for this album for the next year or two and have a lot of fun. That’s what we’re in this for, fun, because we love what we do. –
Paul Autry: Is it always gonna be about music for you or do you have something to fall back on?
Mercedes Lander: It’s all music. Of course I don’t have anything to fall back on. I’m a musician, I didn’t think ahead of time. I’m always gonna be doing something that’s associated with music.
Paul Autry: Like an instructional video?
Mercedes Lander: I doubt that. I don’t even know what I’m doing half the time.
Paul Autry: Is there anything about Kittie that you want people to know…or is there anything that the media got wrong and you’d like to go on record and correct?
Mercedes Lander: I just hope that people would ignore everything that they heard about us or whatever and go listen to the new album and then they can judge. That’s what I would want people to do.
Paul Autry: Like Aerosmith said, “Let the music do the talking!”
Mercedes Lander: Yeah!