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Progressive Rock Interviews

Sit Kitty Sit

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Sit Kitty Sit from 2011
MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a group?

Kat Downs: I’ve studied music my whole life – started piano the summer before second grade.  Switched to rock music well out of college – I tinkered around with folk and pop music for a few years – released a solo album, played in a few other groups that ranged from classic rock to heavy metal – of course love it all! I’m sort of a genre-junky, I want to try everything.  Currently along with Sit Kitty Sit I’m also the keyboardist for a San Francisco-based Goth band called “Saints of Ruin.”   Sit Kitty Sit had our first rehearsal in May of 2010.  I was working on a new concept album (yet to be completed) and had this idea of really complex classical piano with almost thrash-style drumming.  I already knew Mike from a mutual acquaintance, and we teamed up for the one song.  The song “The Push” was born and we realized that not only was there so much to explore with the meshing of these two styles, but that we loved playing together.  SKS was born!  We decided to name our first EP after the original song.

Mike Thompson:  I've been playing drums for over 20 years, following in the footsteps of my dad and a couple other men in my family.  Growing up in Rhode Island and Boston I played in a few bands of different styles throughout high school and on into college before moving to Austin, Texas with my rock and blues band, The Big Nasty.  We enjoyed moderate success and had a blast playing around the south.  When that band dissolved I lived in a few other cities before settling in San Francisco a little over four years ago. Been playing with my other rock project, Tokyo Raid, through which is how Kat and I met.  We formed an instant musical bond and have been rockin' since...

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Kat Downs: Most likely some other form of creating.  I seem doomed to an existence of being compelled to make stuff.

Mike Thompson:  That question always makes me cringe with fear!  I really don't know what I'd been doing, as music defines the very fabric of my being...

MSJ: How did the name originate?
Kat Downs:  My friend Ida named the band – it comes from the way I bounce around in my chair while I perform. For the life of me, I can’t seem to sit still!
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Kat Downs: All over the map.  Mostly I’d say other pianists, as I just love the sound of pianos, but what I’m attracted to in music changes almost daily.  Last week I was really into Burl Ives, Snow Patrol, and Lady GaGa.  This week I’m mostly listening to Nick Cave and Paul Simon. All of it influences me. 

Mike Thompson:  As a drummer, I can definitely say many of the great classic rock guys of the late 60s and early 70s like John Bonham and Keith Moon were what held my interest most.  In studying them I found their influences to be that of big band jazz drummers like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa.  Getting into big band and jazz led me to explore more into being able to adapt and appreciate any style be it rock, punk, jazz, blues, Latin. I think being well rounded is what's important.

MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Kat Downs: We’re working on new songs right now.  We have a few things in the works for some music videos, and another photo shoot coming up in the next month or so.  Mainly we’re trying to play out as much as we can and spread the word! Playing live is what keeps us happy!

Mike Thompson:  Touring, recording, touring, recording.
MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Kat Downs: I typically describe it as classical style piano with rock drumming. I’ve jokingly called it “Classical Rock” because while it’s absolutely rock, it’s a bit proggy and hard to be pop, but with no guitars it doesn’t really fall into most of the other existing genres.  We typically just call it “rock” followed by “it’s way louder than you think.”

Mike Thompson:  Classical Rock.

MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Kat Downs: I would love to open for Florence and the Machine.  If you could help make that happen, I would be really grateful.

Mike Thompson:  There are many of course.  We just want to share the stage with folks who have a similar drive and vision as us.  Connecting and forming friendships with other bands on the same path can only further our exposure to the people!

MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Kat Downs: It’s a hindrance and a help. Marketing wise, anyone who listens is a potential fan, and the more people can listen, the better.  But, the initial investment to create this music comes out of the artist’s pocket, and without gads of random merch to sell like t-shirts, the only real way to make back your investment or turn a profit is initially through selling your music.   So people downloading illegal songs makes it take longer to quit your day job.

Mike Thompson:  I think it can go both ways.  Young bands like us, while always concerned about making a living, are probably more interested in expanding fan base.  To that extent we will downright give our stuff away just to spread it around.  At the same time, hundreds or thousands of people finding it that hard to lay down 99 cents for a tune really adds up.  Young acts depend on that revenue to keep their music business moving forward.

MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
Kat Downs: This doesn’t bother me in the least – although, to be honest I would love it if they would send me a copy! 

Mike Thompson:  I personally have no issue with it at all.  If they pay to come see me play and go to the trouble of recording it themselves to remember the night, then I say “cheers” to them.  If we record the show and release it as a live album then I would expect them to pay for it.  I think that's a fair trade, no?

MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Kat Downs: Cookie-cutter bands.  I can even see what their evil super-villain uniforms would look like.  Labels that put out one band, and then seven more just like them – Ugh!  It makes me so bored that I just get angry!  
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Kat Downs: This morning I was listening to Gustav Holst and Crowded House.

Mike Thompson:  Well, as of writing this, the last album I bought was the new Dropkick Murphy's Going Out In Style…f***ing great time...one of my favorite bands without a doubt.

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately? 
Kat Downs: currently reading Kindred by Octavia Butler – really like it. 

Mike Thompson:  The Army of the Republic by Stuart Archer Cohen

MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Kat Downs: Florence and the Machine

Mike Thompson:  Motorhead and Social Distortion....separately but in the same week - both excellent.

MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Kat Downs: Hahaha – yes of course.  (silence)

Mike Thompson:  Haha, oh no you don't…

MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Kat Downs: Years ago in one of my older bands we were playing on a really cramped stage – the guitarist hit the boom on my mic stand which flung around and smacked me in the mouth so hard that I was actually bleeding from the mouth during the song.  I really wish I could say that it was this amazing rock star moment, but it was during a ballad, so it was just unbelievably awkward – also painful.

Mike Thompson:  Are you kidding?  I have at least one a day.  The next one bigger than the last.

MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Kat Downs:  Elizabeth Gilbert, Margaret Thatcher, and Chaka Khan.

Mike Thompson:  John Bonham, Clint Eastwood and Phil Agins.

MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Kat Downs: Sushi!

Mike Thompson:  Guinness.

MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Kat Downs: If you listen and you like it please pass it on!  www.sitkittysit.com

Mike Thompson:  Kat nor I never for a second take our gift to play for granted... so when you come to see us live you get 100% every time – because, people, after all, we do it for you.

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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