“No Crap. Just Rock Music”: An Interview with Mercedes Lander of
Kittie would be interesting even if they were only Canada’s greatest teenage all-female metal band. But they are much more. Their first album, Spit, sold many hundreds of thousands of copies, and their live EP Paperdoll showed everyone last year what the band is capable of doing in front of an audience. Their new record, Oracle, is now absolutely murdering the speakers of anyone with any sense at all, and the band (Morgan Lander, 19, guitar and vocals; her sister Mercedes Lander, 17, drums; and bassist Talena Atfield, who is 18) is now touring the United States to support it. We did a phoner with Mercedes before the band blew away Grand Rapids, Michigan.
How proud are you of Oracle?
Very proud, actually. It really shows where we’re at as a band right now.
When did you start playing the drums?
I started playing drums six years ago. I was playing for about six months when I co-founded the band [in gym class with now-departed member Fallon Bowman].
Was Morgan in the band from the very beginning, or did she only join later?
She was in it pretty much from the beginning.
What’s the division of labor in Kittie? The way it’s always presented is that Morgan writes the words; does she also write the music?
Morgan writes the lyrics and her own guitar parts. Then we all work on arranging our own parts.
This is the first studio album that Talena appears on. Does her bass playing change your attack on the drums?
Talena has been in the band for two and a half years, basically the whole time that anyone has heard of Kittie. So we’re used to each other. Her bass style is a trademark of who she is.
What do you think about the profusion of Internet sites devoted to Kittie?
The Internet has definitely always been a big help for us. We started our own site (http://www.kittie.net) in 1998, and up until 2000, Morgan did it all. Now we have someone else doing it, but they know that if they don’t do a good job we’ll kill them.
What about “Penis: The Mercedes Lander Site” (http://www.mercedes-lander.com)? The people who run that site must love you a lot.
Yeah, I guess.
I just want to point out that we’ve been talking for a while and you haven’t even said “penis” once. Congratulations on that.
Let’s just talk about music, here. What are your three favorite albums?
Wow. Um, three I really like are Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity, The Haunted Made Me Do It by The Haunted, and… Oh, man. [Contemplative pause] Oh my God, …And Justice for All. I can’t believe I forgot that one.
The best band you’ve ever seen live?
I just saw The Haunted, they were amazing. Pantera, of course. Slayer.
Who would you love to open for?
Metallica, circa 1988. [Note: She actually said “circa.”]
Who would you love opening for you?
There are a lot of groups we’ve been trying to have open for us. Today’s The Day; The Haunted; Code Seven. They’d all be great.
Who are some of your biggest drum influences?
I don’t like to say “influences.” I don’t think I have any influences. But I would say my three favorite drummers are Lars Ulrich, again around 1988, Vinnie Paul [Pantera], and Danny Carey, the drummer from Tool.
Who is a drummer that you think is massively underrated?
The drummer from Silverchair. I can’t believe I’m blanking on the name. [Ben Gillies.]
What kind of music do you listen to that no one would really think that you would listen to?
I like Hey Mercedes and Get Up Kids.
Kind of the power-punk-pop thing, huh?
Yeah, and all kinds of crappy emo music.
Are there any other female groups that Kittie looks up to as role models or pioneers?
No, not really.
What should people expect at a Kittie show?
No crap. Just rock music. Heavy metal.
What’s the best place Kittie ever played?
I’m not exactly sure. Amsterdam, maybe.
What’s the worst gig you ever had?
We’ve played in some pretty shitty places. [Here there is a mumble from the background from Morgan.] Oh, yeah, we played in a circus tent once. That sucked.
Where, outside North America, does Kittie get the biggest reception.
Germany, no question.
England, too, right?
Yeah, England. All of Europe, really. People like our music here, but in Europe, they seem to live heavy metal. We’re going to play the German MTV Awards. I expect I’ll get very drunk.
What’s your favorite Spinal Tap moment from the road?
I just had one in New York. I couldn’t find my dressing room and I was lost for about a half-hour. I found everyone else’s dressing room, but I couldn’t find mine at all.
You guys are in Michigan right now, right?
Yeah, Grand Rapids. We’re playing tonight.
Well, good luck. Kick someone in the head for me tonight.
Thanks. I probably will.