Kitty, Daisy and Lewis
Well it’s finally happened. The once outrageous nature of punk music has become so corporate (Hey, look, it’s My Chemical Romance!) that the new face of rebellion has turned into kids who dig ‘50s ska and ragtime, with brill-creamed hair and vintage suits. Leading this new rat pack are young London trio Kitty, Daisy and Lewis Durham who, armed with their 78rpm records and tape machines, are ready to wow Australian audiences once more following a hugely popular tour in 2009. Elder sister of the sibling group (at just 21) Daisy, begins our talk today with a thought many would find oddly appealing – missing Christmas day entirely.
“Well, we leave for Australia on Christmas and because of the time difference, by the time we arrive, we’ll completely miss it this year,” she laughs. The young group began recording in 2005, and have since toured all over the world with their authentically dated music. Despite going so far against the flow, they’ve earned some serious popularity in our corner of the globe. “Last time we came down to Australia, I remember we were nervous because we had no idea how people were going to react to us, but everyone seemed to get right into it.”
The key to the group is that they aren’t simply ignoring contemporary music’s influence, but Daisy believes, it’s that younger audiences are more open-minded to what the roots of current pop music have to offer. “I think now more than even a couple of years ago, more people are admitting to liking their parent’s record collections than they used to,” she reasons.
“When I was at school, nobody would admit to liking Motown or rockabilly, simply because it was played by older people, but through the internet, kids are discovering older music for themselves rather than just being told by their parents how much better it was and blah, blah, blah!” Daisy laughs, then continues. “Although a lot of people are downloading now, I think a lot are also starting to collect records again. I went through that phase of just downloading because it’s so easy and could get almost anything, but recently I’ve started collecting vinyl and have a turntable set up in my room, and to just know that you have a favorite song that you’ve had to search for feels so much more special.”
Between them, Kitty, Daisy and Lewis play up to 11 instruments including banjo, ukulele, trombone and lapsteel guitar. It’s hard to ignore the possibility of overbearing parents pushing their kids into the career they missed out on, but Daisy claims her music education’s been far more organic. “It goes both ways really. We influence our parent’s tastes I think as much as the other way round,” she argues.
“We grew up listening to rock music like Marc Bolan, Velvet Underground, and Elvis and then when we started playing our own shows we’d meet people who would come up and say we’ve really got an r’n’b sound, and then we’d maybe check out some r’n’b because none of us had listened to that before. A lot of our audiences are really knowledgeable about music and so we learned a lot from them as well.”
Kitty, Daisy and Lewis’ debut release was a cover of a 1950’s Johnny Horton song, Mean Son Of A Gun, which like its original counterpart, was released on 78rpm record. As Daisy explains, “Not many people know about 78’s because they only were made for a relatively short time, but my brother (Lewis in the band) collects them and actually DJs with them. He has heaps and heaps of them,” she laughs.
“He likes them because they’re quite heavy and yet also very fragile and they’re getting more and more valuable all the time. Only last week we found a box of them at a charity shop and they wanted 30 quid for them!” Daisy baulks.
The group have released their one self-titled album so far and are currently working on the follow-up. The latest set should be ready by now, but due to their insistence on only using vintage recording gear, delays are an inevitable fact. “The machines are constantly breaking down,” Daisy sighs.
“We’re recording our album at the moment at Atlantic studios, which is where people like Ray Charles recorded, so it has this amazing history and sound, but after we got just five tracks done, our tape machine broke down and nobody knew how to get parts or fix this thing because it’s so old… and so we spent three months just trying to recover what we’d done and it never happened.
“We’ve lost a lot of music and it seems like every day we have a problem with something breaking down, so it’s been a really long frustrating process just to make an album.”
It also seems this quaint approach to reviving 1950s music and styles can’t be written off as just a fad. Kitty, Daisy and Lewis have already supported Coldplay on their world tour and enjoyed comparisons with Sharon Jones And The Dap Kings. They’re part of a new breed of artists celebrating the music that paved the way for their peers and the twist is, they make the label-pushed hottest-new-thing seem like a far more dated concept than the traveling family band. The word on the street is, the youth have at last run wild again, and punks… they’re calling you daddy-o.
KITTY, DAISY & LEWIS are here as part of the Falls Festival line-up in Lorne and Tasmania over December 28-January 1 – all info from fallsfestival.com.au, but they also make a swing into Melbourne for a sideshow at the Billboard on January 6 (tickets from billboardthevenue.com.au, ticketek.com.au, 132 849 and moshtix.com.au). To miss this romp through rock n’ roll’s roots, you’d have to be a square. KITTY, DAISY & LEWIS’ self-titled debut is out now through Shock.