Imagine the Ramones with the Ronettes singing lead playing punk garage rock and you’ll have a fair image of Catfight!. Formed in 1995, featuring Katy Graves and Ann Ciovacco from Doll Squad and Jennifer Kraft from Bite, the band has released 2 singles and an album ( Kitty Glitter ) on Worrybird Records, garnered “Best Atlanta Band” kudos, and generally raised male pulse rates around the Southeast. But it’s been a while since they’ve released a record, a problem soon remedied by the upcoming album Frustrated , due out on Worrybird in March. It’s most likely going to continue their fascination with the “All-American” themes of sex and cars — and will probably find them in hot water again, because, as a reviewer in Texas remarked, “their subject matter makes me uncomfortable.” I spoke with Jennifer (guitar, vocals), Ann (drums, vocals) and Katy (bass, vocals) to get the lowdown on sex, parents, and Mamie Van Doren.
How about we start with a quick history of the band?
Jennifer: Well, it’s a long history now! We’ve been together since ’95.
Katy: Ann and I had been in this band together before, Doll Squad, and we were on Worrybird. That ended, and Ann and I were on our own, and we ran an ad, and 3 people responded. Jennifer was the only one who was sane! She was totally perfect and cool and we all got along. She was the only person we even talked to.
Jennifer: I had been in one band before, Bite, and we were just learning our instruments, and then I went to see Doll Squad and they had played out a lot more, they were “ROCK GIRLS!,” and I was kinda intimidated.
Ann: We wanted to go get a drink, and J wasn’t even old enough, and we didn’t know, so she goes, “Oh, I don’t think so.”
Katy: So we thought she was really cool, but that she didn’t like us because she wouldn’t go get a drink with us!
How do you come up with stuff to write about?
Katy: Basically, it’s whatever that is happening at the time.
Ann: I think everything starts at least with a real life thing, then maybe it becomes silly or entertaining.
Jennifer: True, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
Ann: Well, most of your songs come off being pretty funny.
Oh yeah, “Syphilis” is a real riot.
Jennifer: Well, that didn’t come from anything real!
All of that leads into something someone mentioned in a review, that he found your subject matter “uncomfortable.”
Katy: He did? I can’t even imagine that!
Jennifer: Well, I can. I guess some of it is kinda brutally honest.
Katy: I dunno, I sorta thought it was in the same vein as a Groovy Ghoulies or the Ramones, kinda a take off on certain things. Lighthearted, not serious.
But there is a pretty healthy dose of sexuality on the record. I’m wondering, if the Ramones put it out, or the Misfits, it’s okay, but if a girl band does it, then it’s a whole different ball of wax.
Katy: Even in the year 2000.
Jennifer: I guess, when you talk about wanting to get somebody in the backseat, when a girl says it, it’s kinda weird.
Katy: Oh hell, Mariah Carey is doing that everyday. In hot pants. I think it’s so funny, because when we were in Doll Squad, we made a point to do a lot of dressing up stuff, sort of a lingerie Runaways, to play off that sexual thing. But I think it got seriously misconstrued, so we had to be careful to not fall into that “oh, they’re just dressing up in clothes and can’t play” thing. It’s funny. I thought the record was more about cars.
Well, it is. Cars and sex.
Ann: True! That’s America!
Jennifer: Isn’t that rock and roll? Sex and cars?
Katy: Of course, we have people taking things the wrong way — like the song “Mustang,” the ending part about a car wreck. Someone on the radio was saying that was sexual, and in fact it’s a true story, about me wrecking my car!
Do you ever have anyone take you seriously on it?
Ann: My parents take it seriously. They don’t like it at all. So I guess a lot of people could. I think the people that like us know it’s fun.
Jennifer: I guess they’ll always be creeps who’ll take it the wrong way.
Ann: And I think it’s different if you see us, versus hearing it on the record. I think if you see it live, you get it.
Do you censor yourselves at all, when you write songs?
Jennifer: I think about that sometimes, I mean I cuss a lot throughout the new record.
Katy: Do you really?
Jennifer: Yeah, I say fuck a lot, motherfucker. I was thinking, they aren’t gonna be able to play it on the radio, with me cussing everywhere. But sometimes, nothing fits as well as motherfucker.
What sort of influences do you have?
Jennifer: I guess boys would be my biggest influence.
Katy: (Holding up her Ramones sweatshirt) The Ramones, all the 60’s girl groups, X, rockabilly, the Hellacopters. Garage stuff.
Points of Kitty Glitter sound a lot like the Cramps. The guitar sounds.
Ann: Oh yeah, we love the Cramps. That’s a compliment.
Jennifer: Well, the new record sounds way better.
You released a song called “Mamie Van Doren.” What lead you to write about her?
Katy: Well, I like movies, juvenile delinquent movies, and that’s how I discovered her. So I wrote that song and then Jennifer put up our Web site, and her husband was surfing on the Web and found us. Then Mamie e-mailed us, and we went, “Oh my god,” and sent her the record and everything, we talked on the phone.
Is recording pretty easy for you?
Ann: I don’t particularly like it.
Well, drummers never do.
Jennifer: I don’t get pressured too much…
Ann: I mean, you can tell from our records we’re not that particular about everything sounding exactly perfect. We have fun doing it, but for me, it can be fairly stressful.
Jennifer: I like really simple music, that’s what we’re drawn to, so we don’t do a lot of layering when we record.
Katy: But I think a Theremin is in order. We might put one on the next record. My boss collects them.
You did a great version of Cheap Trick’s “She’s Tight.” Who decided to record that?
Katy: David (Lindsay, owner of Worrybird) wanted us to do it for a Worrybird compilation of everyone doing covers, we picked that because we’re all big Cheap Trick fans, and that was my favorite song in the tenth grade or something. We also thought it would be funny if a girl sang it.
So, is David a good label owner?
Katy: Oh yeah, you can do whatever you want creatively, he doesn’t care. He’s great — he’s the sort of guy who’ll live on popcorn for 3 months just so he has the money to do a record right. He only puts out stuff he likes, and he cares about it so much.
Look for the new Catfight! release, Frustrated , on Worrybird soon. The girls also have contributed a cut to a upcoming Paul McCartney tribute, due out in April.