By Joseph Sutton-Holcomb
Katie Kate — real name Kate Finn — has been steadily gaining praise in the last several months, and even a cursory listen of her dreamy minimalist single “Uhh…no” shows why. She talked to us about her sound, being an extrovert and her love of Kate Bush.
Katie Kate plays Capitol Hill Block Party Sunday at 8:45 p.m. on the Barboza stage.
Q: Have you been to block party before?
A: Oh yea, but I’ve never played my own set before, so that will be fun.
Q: Could you tell me about a few good shows you caught last year?
A: Last year I caught Black Breath, and Pollons. I don’t tend to spend a lot of time at festivals though. I tend to focus in on what I’m there for and scoot (laughs).
Q: What about festivals turns you off that way?
A: I don’t like crowds.
Q: How is it being a performer if you don’t enjoy crowds?
A: That’s a different space. When I’m in performance mode it’s exhilarating, but on a day-to-day basis I’m more of an introvert. That’s what they say: If you’re an extrovert that means you get energy from people and if you’re an introvert people take your energy. I have both those qualities, and when I’m performing I get a lot of energy from people. But day-to-day I prefer to keep it low, relaxed, stay at home.
Q: So people call you hip hop, but could you tell me a bit about your sound?
A: Damn, I wish I could answer that. If you could come up with a term that would help me a lot. I’ve been trying to figure out what to call it. It’s not hip hop, it’s not Top 40 pop, but I’m not indie. Do you have any ideas?
Q: I hear hip-hop, I hear pop, but I also hear dance and electronica…
A: (laughs) Yeah, I have no idea. I could throw out some stupid stuff but I have no idea. I’m playing a lot of new material. I have a whole new second record, and it’s very different from the first — much more involved musically. It really lends itself to live instrumentation, so I have Trent Moorman on Drums and Lena Simon from Kairos and a bunch of other bands doing a multi-instrumentalist thing. It’s a different set up; It’s going to be live music as opposed to a hip-hop, rapping-over-a-track kind of feel. And I’ve been able to adapt some of my older pieces to that new set up.
Q: Could you tell me more about the process of adapting those older songs?
A: For “Uh…No” it’s a programmed beat, and it’s very sparse and minimalist 808 stuff. I basically just gave that drum part to Lena. It gives it a more organic feel. Plus, it’s fun to see her rock out on a beat. With other pieces like “Tote Bag” I went through and redid the music underneath it to make a totally new adaptation. I took it as an opportunity to remix my own stuff, in a way. I hade “Tote Bag” much moodier and less poppy. It was really fun to revisit those and take a whole album in a new direction by integrating new stuff.
Q: It’s so interesting to see bands do that. I remember when Iron and Wine got a bigger band a few years back Sam Beam reformatted his older acoustic songs and it was mind-blowing.
A: Yea, I love doing that. It makes it interesting again. It makes you fall in love with your own stuff again. Normally when you first make a song it’s like “oh great!” and two years later it’s like “I never want to hear that song again.”
Q: Are there any acts at Block Party this year that might tempt you to brave the crowds?
A: I haven’t even given it any thought yet to be honest. I’ve been so busy getting ready. I’m used to just showing up at the venue and being like “here’s my computer, let’s do it. Now I have to make sure I have extra batteries and cables and everything.
Q: What other hip-hop do you like?
A: I listen to a lot of Kendrick Lamar, and also Nicki Minaj. I really like Don’t Talk to the Cops because I can’t think of another group that does what they do. I much prefer hip hop where I can’t here the same sound from other groups who do it better. I think a lot of hip hop is very well-done for what it is, but it’s not really my style because I’ve already heard it.
Q: But you like Kendrick Lamar
A: I really do. The production is interesting and I really like the way he raps. It kind of reminds me of Kate Bush, who is my absolute favorite musician of all time. He has a lot of different voices that he does. I just listened to the new Jay-Z and I feel like he’s just yelling at me about how much money he has. Which is a shame, because the production on [“Magna Carta Holy Grail”] is so cool. I just wish he’d change it up a little bit. With Kendrick it varies so much.
Q: I love [Kendrick Lamar’s] “Backseat Freestyle” because he adopts a Weezy voice and sort of beats Lil Wayne at his own game.
A: I know, right? So great. I love Weezy though, forever.