Beyond the Boys’ Club is a monthly column from journalist and radio host Anne Erickson, focusing on women in the heavy music genres, as they offer their perspectives on the music industry and discuss their personal experiences. This month’s piece features an interview with Morgan Lander of Kittie.
When Kittie released their seminal debut album, Spit, in 2000, they were an anomaly in heavy metal music. The Canadian band’s all-female lineup raised more than a few eyebrows, but Kittie quickly earned the credibility of the metal community as anything but a novelty band, thanks to their strong musicianship and blazing talent.
Over the past few years, Kittie have celebrated their legacy with a career-spanning documentary, Kittie: Origins/Evolutions (available on Prime) and a live video album, Kittie: Live at the London Music Hall, the latter featuring footage from the band’s 20th anniversary show.
Singer-guitarist Morgan Lander checked in with Heavy Consequence for the latest “Beyond the Boys’ Club” column to discuss how she and the members of Kittie broke “women in rock” stereotypes back in the early 2000s, her experience in the metal world, her current Witch Finger podcast, the possibility of new Kittie music, and much more. Read the full interview below.
On looking back at Kittie’s debut album, Spit
It’s been a very strange trip. Spit is 21 years old. That’s something that I could not have even imagined when we first released it — that we would be continuing to talk about it years later. To be quite honest with you, back in that time, I couldn’t even picture myself approaching 40, which next year, I will be 40.
It’s a very strange processes, getting older. It’s an interesting thing. But, when we first came right out of the gate, we were obviously really, really proud of what we did. We wanted to be taken seriously as musicians. We faced a lot of criticism strictly for being women and also for our age. So, right out of the gate, there was a lot that we were up against. But, it didn’t stop us. Over the years, we had a lot of personnel changes, but we continued to make music, and I feel like we continued to grow and improve as musicians.
There was a time period where we refused to play songs from Spit live, just because we wanted people to see who we are now and what we have accomplished since then. But, having stepped away from the band for a while now, like the touring life and all that, I have come to appreciate the things that we accomplished early on and the balls that we had back then.
On how Spotify and social media have helped bring Kittie’s music to a new generation
I feel like with the advent of social media and how prevalent that is with young people, it’s a great way to showcase music. People are rediscovering Kittie, even on Spotify. A lot of young people are coming to me and saying, “I love the band. You guys are incredible,” and they’re young people that were not old enough to have appreciated the music when it first came out. So, it’s very cyclical. It’s strange. It’s just a really neat feeling.
On Kittie being an anomaly in metal music when they first started out
Once we were out there, sort of in the height of that whole nu-metal thing going on, we were definitely a bit of an island in terms of feeling alone as women. But, it never really phased us. We were never expecting any special treatment or to be looked upon differently for that reason. We were there to do a job, just like everyone else, whether that was touring or being on a festival. We were musicians, and that’s just kind of how we saw it. We didn’t expect or require any special handling.
On the difference today versus when Kittie started out, when it comes to the number of women who are in metal music
Well, there certainly are a hell of a lot more women in metal, which is great. Representation is very important. Most of the time when you see a woman in a band, it seems she’s a frontwoman, but it’s always a wonderful surprise when there’s a female guitarist or a bassist or drummer. I love to see that. It’s an important thing that women growing up understand that they can do anything, whether it’s learning an instrument or anything else. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Those are things that I wish people told us back then.
On whether she feels Kittie helped pave the way for women in metal to follow
If we did, it’s an amazing thing. I think that’s a wonderful byproduct of being different in the scene. If that was the outcome, then I am absolutely all for it. I don’t like to pat my own back and be like, “Yes, we did that,” because we weren’t the only women. There were women before, and there certainly will be women who are paving the way after, as well. But, definitely a level of respect. I feel like there is an acknowledgement that has come with looking back, and I can see how we might have helped women of that era that listen to that genre of music to feel empowered. And, that’s a great feeling.
On if there’s pressure on women in rock and metal to look a certain way
Yeah! (Laughs) It’s ridiculous, because you can never please everyone. Just reading online comments, the things that people have said about me or whomever in the past are ridiculous. There’s always a funny comment that is just trying to be funny. And it’s like, sometimes people actually read this stuff. It’s not like it hurts my feelings or anything. But I do feel like it’s a not so fortunate side effect of the whole social media and everything like that. There is a pressure to put your best face forward all the time, and you always have to look a certain way. For women, that pressure is even more, and it’s silly, because we’re just musicians, too. It shouldn’t really have to matter. A women’s worth always seems to be equated with how they look in music, and it does a disservice to women everywhere when this sexualization in the media and on socials happens.
On her podcast, “The Witch Finger Horror Podcast”
I’m one-third of “The Witch Finger Horror Podcast,” and we’ve been doing this for five years now. It’s myself and two of my best friends, Yasmina and Megan, and we get together and watch and review really bad 1980s horror movies. Part of our charm is that we like to drink while we’re doing it, so there’s a lot of drinking. There’s a lot of burping. It’s very forward. We are just women being women in our element. I think it’s a lot of fun. It’s very crass. It’s 18-plus, with a lot of swearing and innuendo and whatnot. But, that’s just who we are. We started the podcast because we were like, well, this is what we do on a Saturday night. This is enjoyable for us. We love to get together and just have some drinks and laugh about movies and whatnot. So, maybe some other people will think we’re funny, too.
On the possibility of new Kittie music
Our bass player and great friend of ours, Trish Doan, passed away a couple of years ago, and so that’s made it really difficult to try to feel like it’s right to do more when she would have wanted to be the one to be there. So, that’s also a tough thing that we grapple with. But, individually, we’re all working on new music. Mercedes [Lander] is in The White Swan, which is a band that she actually fronts. She sings and plays guitar. Tara McLeod is playing full-time in an awesome country band. So, that’s really cool. I’m fronting a kind of melodic death metal band called Karkaos. So, we’re still all very close as friends and musicians, but it may not be the right time. But, we’ve always said, never say never.
On the kind of legacy she hopes Kittie leaves behind
To start off with, the word Kittie and legacy in the same sentence is mind blowing. It’s vindicating, in a way, because after all that people said back in the day, there are so many people that love the band and look back and say, “Wow. You might’ve paved the way,” or, “You guys have a legacy,” or, “You guys were a legendary band.” These are all things that I’ve heard recently that I don’t think we would have ever equated to Kittie 15 or 20 years ago. So, I think our legacy is that we were the underdogs, and as a band, we didn’t think that there were any rules that were made that weren’t meant to be broken. There were things that we decided we wanted to accomplish, and just because we were young and women didn’t mean that we weren’t allowed to do things that people didn’t think that young women should do. And, the music still resonates with people today, 21 years later. I think it’s a testament to the true heart and soul behind the band.