Kitty, Daisy & Lewis will play a Splendour In The Grass sideshow at the Rosemount Hotel on Wednesday, August 5. GARRY WESTMORE speaks with Kitty Durham.
In a day and age where, for some, using analogue technology is somehow a kind of status symbol, we’re pretty sure you can’t beat London’s Kitty, Daisy & Lewis – the trio of siblings who still record on tape.
On their recently released third album, the aptly named Kitty, Daisy & Lewis The Third, they’ve doubled their recording capability.
“We used a 16-track recorder instead of an eight-track,” says Kitty, the youngest of the Durham family siblings. “We wanted to up our game and get more channels, and I think for this record we all kind of knew that we could put together a bigger sound, a bigger production I guess. We just wanted to add more stuff, like a string section. If we had just eight channels we would have run out!”
As a result, the trio’s third outing is a notably fuller-sounding record, with strings and horns in abundance yet subtly placed behind the chief instruments. The taut musicianship and songwriting sees it traverse genres such as country (Whiskey, Bitchin’ In The Kitchen), R&B (Feeling Of Wonder), blues (Good Looking Woman) and even reggae on the thoroughly enjoyable Turkish Delight.
“When we did the overdubs we kind of had in mind what we were going to do,” says Kitty, “but then we came up with some new parts which, in a way, transferred some of the tracks, writing new bits in.”
And though their producer Mick Jones (of The Clash fame) has been overseeing records since the early ’80s, the old recording gear took some getting used to. “I think he was a bit blown away, because today he’s used to working with computers – that’s kind of what he knows – and obviously when you’re working like we do you can’t add in a bit later on a computer, you just have to get it right, get all the overdubs right. He got used to that quite quickly – we were like, ‘No, you can’t go on a laptop afterwards!’”
Rather than being snobbish, there’s something endearing about how Kitty, Daisy & Lewis go about recording – an approach probably influenced by their growing up in a musical household where instruments and records were always being played. “We grew up playing music,” says Kitty. “A lot of it was rock’n’roll and all that – my mum, she was always well into music. She never did it professionally, but she was in a band when she was younger –she’s got a pretty big collection of loads of different kinds of music, so we were always just listening to everything at home.”
Even as early as their teenage years, the siblings were performing together. Their knack for music raised questions early on as to what to do about their schooling, as Kitty explains. “By the time it got to me graduating high school, the band had reached a stage where it was like, ‘We may as well carry on with this, it seems to be going well’.”
Indeed, two days after Kitty finished her exams, they were off to do a tour of the US with Coldplay. “We were thrown in the deep end!” she admits. “But it was really incredible. Obviously being at school we weren’t able to tour, it was just gigs on the weekend. But now it’s a full-time job, which is great because we all love doing it.”
In the years since their self-titled album of 2008, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis have come into their own. When they started out, they were pigeonholed somewhat, defined by the 1940s retro aesthetic that dominated their album design and marketing material – all pinned-up hair, wartime dresses and black-and-white photography. Nowadays, they seem much freer to be who they are and not necessarily prescribe themselves to a particular look.
“The whole retro thing, it was weird,” says Kitty. “We play all kinds of music and it was a little frustrating people latched onto one kind of aspect of that. With this album, we didn’t say, ‘We’ll do this or do that’ or ‘We’ll go in that direction’ – everything just happened and unfolded as we went along. I think the music and songwriting came first… it’s literally just us writing about shit we’ve been through. We’ve all kind of grown up really.”
Though it’s been a while between records, with their last album Smoking In Heaven coming out in 2011, Kitty insists their time was spent effectively, making sure they got it right. The band rehearsed for five months before heading into the studio to produce the 12 tracks for the record – there were 13 written, but Jones was superstitious about having 13 tracks.
“It’s special to us,” says Kitty of the album. “We haven’t released anything for a long time.” And nor have they toured Australia for some time, which is soon to be rectified. “I can’t wait – I love playing in Australia, it’s brilliant.”