Say Hello To Kitty, Daisy & Lewis

Pollstar caught up with Daisy Durham of Kitty, Daisy & Lewis in the middle of the U.S. tour supporting the act’s third album, which was released just last week.  

The British trio features Daisy and her siblings’ take on pop, R&B, blues, psychedelic rock, soul, country, jazz and ska. Or, as the band’s Facebook page puts it, “A mix up of dirty R&B & blues, whiskey soaked country, haunting Hawaiian jungle drums and Gospel fever, with a punch in the face by Daisy’s hard beatboxing!”

KD&L’s new album, which is appropriately titled Kitty Daisy & Lewis – The Third, features the single “Baby Bye Bye.” The LP was produced by The Clash’ Mick Jones, who guests on the release, and recorded in the band’s new analog studio in Camden.

The Durhams grew up jamming together as a family and carry on the tradition by taking turns songwriting and playing various instruments on stage. The trio tours with their mother and father, who are no newbies to the biz. Ingrid Weiss, the former drummer for the post-punk band The Raincoats, plays bass while mastering engineer Graeme Durham (aka Daddy Grazz) is on rhythm guitar. The band also features trumpeter Eddie “Tan Tan” Thornton.

KD&L made its debut in the U.S. by supporting Coldplay in 2009. Since then the band has toured North America, Europe and Australia many times, picking up fans all over the globe, including David Lynch and Dustin Hoffman. Pollstar called Daisy hours before the band’s April 1 gig at San Francisco’s Independent.

Photo: Dean Chalkley
Kitty, Daisy and Lewis Durham

What are you up to before tonight’s show?

We’re just walking around San Francisco at the moment. We’re going to go find a record shop … go to Amoeba Records, maybe some vintage clothes shops and stuff.

How is the tour going so far?  

Everywhere has been really good, actually. It’s so weird – everywhere you go is completely different, even if they’re only a couple of miles away from each other. But yeah, it’s been really fun. It’s good to see some sunshine as well. (laughs)

During the live show you and your siblings often take turns on vocals and jump from one instrument to another. Take last night’s show, for example – which instruments did you play?

Well, I play drums, piano and I sing as well. Kitty and Lewis both play drums and guitar. Kitty plays harmonica. It’s just kind of the way we grew up playing music, jamming together as a family. We all just used to pick up various instruments so it all happened naturally that way. When we’re developing songs and stuff … someone will go and sit down on something, on the drum kit for instance. If it doesn’t really work out, we’ll [switch it] around. But yes, it’s all kind of natural how it turns out. It’s good because you can get bored of playing the same thing.

How do you decide who will play which instrument on stage?

Well, we all write our own songs. So, say I’ve written a song, I’ll be singing it. And then it kind of depends what the feel of the song is because we play all different sort of styles. And we all play the instruments in our own sort of way. So like, me, Kitty and Lewis all play drums completely differently. You just kind of know what would work best. 

At what age did you start learning an instrument?

It was before we can remember, really. There’s pictures of us as like babies playing instruments, there’s one of me reaching up to the piano and stuff. My dad used to sing to us when we were little. And we’d all just end up jamming for fun at home. We never really thought of ourselves as musicians or musically talented, it was just something we did at home for fun. We always had instruments lying around and there were always records playing and stuff. So it just kind of happened really, without even knowing.

When you and your siblings decided to pursue music professionally? Wikipedia says it was about 15 years ago. Does that sound about right?

Yeah, I’ve lost count; I’m awful at remembering dates. We never really decided to do it professionally. We used to go down to this club night sort of folk thing every Sunday at a pub with our parents and there were lots of live bands and stuff. And we were always fascinated by it. One day we got asked to get up and just play one song. Well, actually Lewis got asked to get up and play banjo. And there was a drum kit there so Kitty joined in. And it went down well. And the next time we did it, I joined in. And then people just starting asking us to come and do one-off little things at various club nights and then we got asked to do a festival. All through kind of like this small circle of people that we knew from around Camden. And then it just kind of grew from there, really gradually, until we got signed. And now we’re here, touring the USA!  

Did you and your siblings grow up with similar tastes in music?

We all have similar tastes but we all have different things that we like as well. Because obviously growing, different stages at school and stuff, you’re into what your mates like. When I was at school, there was … house music, really bad. (laughs) So I went through that phase [and] the pop, ‘90s Brit pop phase so we all have our little other things but we’re all into the same music as well. A lot of the songs we started out as playing we hadn’t even heard of the records. We just sort of played them. And then when we heard the records it was kind of weird because we had gotten so used to playing them in our own sort of way.

Photo: Dean Chalkley

You tour with your mother and father. Has that been the arrangement since the band first started?

When we started off, at that pub, the guy that ran that sort of [open mic] night [was] called Big Steve and he played acoustic with us for like the first two gigs. And then one of my first boyfriends was a double bass player so we asked him to join the band as well, [but] then he went and joined a punk band. And Big Steve moved to America. And it just sort of seemed right to get Mom and Dad in because we had been playing with them all of our lives. So yeah, it just worked out well.

They’ve been playing pretty much since the beginning. It was only for a short period of time that we played with other people.

Congratulations on the new album that came out! Can you talk about what the songwriting process was like for Kitty, Daisy & Lewis – The Third?

We’re not really one of those bands that sits down and bashes out a load of songs. It kind of comes gradually and you wait for inspiration to hit you. And I guess since the last album I’ve been through a lot … boyfriends and all that kind of thing (laughs), I was growing up a lot. So I think in some way I’ve changed quite a bit. But with me, each song comes completely differently. Sometimes you’ll just be walking down the street and a melody will pop into your head, or a couple of words, and then you kind of just take what you’ve got and build on it. Once you have that first part it’s kind of easy to write the song, but it’s just waiting for that thing to hit you.

If you’re walking down the street and inspiration hits, do you write down lyrics or record it into your phone?

If you don’t have your phone or paper you just have to keep singing it over and over so you don’t forget it. … I’m quite shy so there’s a lot of recordings of my phone in the van, where I don’t want anyone to hear it. It’s just like mumbling and I have no idea what I’ve recorded. (laughs). It’s like,“Do do do do.” (laughs) It just makes no sense.

Your bio mentioned that the band really wanted to take the album to the next level as far as songwriting, instrumentation, styles and production. You talked about the songwriting – was there anything else you wanted to comment as far as what the band wanted to bring that was new with The Third compared to previous recordings?

Well, before we were recording at my Mum’s house, like with an 8-track recorder. But since then we moved into a bigger studio and got a 16-track. Because we had this machine and a bigger space, we knew that we could do a lot more with it. Yeah, we just kinda thought we’d go all the way and get violins … and try and go for a cleaner sound. Everything’s a lot more sort of layered up. We just kind of knew that we wanted to make this one really good. The last one felt a bit rushed. We thought, this is the third one, we have to pull [out] all the stops. That’s why we got a producer, as well – Mick Jones. Because that’s what people do. (laughs) … We didn’t really know why, or what would come from it. But we thought yeah, we may as well do it. Yeah, it turned out really well.

Photo: Dean Chalkley

What was it like working with Mick Jones?

Really good, actually. He had a really positive energy and we rehearsed a lot with him. He actually played along with the songs so that he knew them inside out. And we did that for a long time while the studio was still being built. So that was one of the main things because by the time we got into the recording we knew exactly what we were doing. And he just had a really positive vibe and was always like, “Yeah, that sounds great! Just do that.” He never wanted to change anything. He just wanted to bring out the best in what we did.

That sounds great to work with a producer with such positive energy.

And he brought us blueberries because he said they’re good for the brain. (laughs)

Do you have any favorite tracks from the new album?

I like playing “No Action.” I think that’s the one that means the most to me and it can get emotional sometimes when you’re singing it. Also, when we just recently did the European tour, we had a string section, which really uplifted it. A really good experience to play with them live, especially on that song for me.

What’s one of the best things about being in a band with your family? And one of the worst things?  

The best thing, I think, is we’re all close and they don’t care what you say to them. You can be as open as you want. You can tell them to piss off, fuck off (laughs) and you know they won’t take it too personally. And obviously we have a good connection musically because we’ve been playing together for so long. So those are some of the great things.

One of the bad things is they do bug you a lot and stuff. But five minutes later, whatever you’ve argued about is forgotten.

Do you still spend a lot of time with your family when you’re not on tour or recording?  

Yeah, yeah, we go to the pub together and stuff; we’re always hanging out together.

Anything else you’d like to tell readers about the new album?

It’s a big mishmash … there’s a lot of different styles and feels because all three of us are writing differently. I think you kind of have to see it live as well because it’s a completely different thing from the recording. The recording is sort of controlled, whereas live, you just sort of let go.

Photo: Harcourt

Upcoming dates for Kitty, Daisy & Lewis:

April 10 – Ferndale, Mich., The Magic Bag
April 11 – Toronto, Ontario, Lee’s Palace    
April 13 – Brooklyn, N.Y., Rough Trade
April 14 – New York, N.Y., The Bowery Ballroom
April 15 – Philadelphia, Pa., World Cafe Live
April 16 – Cambridge, Mass., The Sinclair    
April 17 – Washington, D.C., U Street Music Hall  
April 18 – Nashville, Tenn., Grimey’s New & Preloved Music
April 19 – Nashville, Tenn., 3rd & Lindsley
April 23 – Osaka, Japan, Shangri-La
April 24 – Osaka, Japan, Club Quattro          
May 20 – Belfast, Northern Ireland, The Limelight  
May 21 – Galway, Ireland, Roisin Dubh       
May 22 – Dublin, Ireland, The Green Room
May 24 – Southampton, England, Southampton Common (Common People)         
June 14 – Landgraaf, Netherlands, Megaland (Pinkpop Festival)
June 20 – London, England, Hyde Park (Barclaycard British Summer Time)
July 10 – Perthshire, Scotland, Strathallancastle (T In The Park)     
Sept. 2 – New York, N.Y., SummerStage Central Park / Rumsey Playfield (Summerstage / Lake Street Dive)

The band also appears at England’s Red Rooster Festival, Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival, France’s Le Cabaret Vert and Germany’s Pure & Crafted Festival. These events have not released their daily schedules yet. 

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