Even with the bucket seats removed and the gear still in the venue, the van is as cramped as a crypt. Through its stock tweeters, Bessie Smith's voice lopes in a forlorn lilt, and with the jalousies cracked just enough to stir the air, Kitten Forever talks crabbiness and pre-show warm-ups.
"If we're crabby before a show, we gaze into each other's eyes and smile as big as we can until we laugh," says drummer Corrie Harrigan. "Then we remember that it's fine." Then, a qualifier: "It's mostly me and Liz," she says, glancing into the cargo hold where Laura Larson sits in gloomy shadow. "Laura hates when we do this."
"Today we did a new thing," says singer Liz Elton. "We all held hands together while we were gazing into each other's eyes."
"Laura really didn't like that," says Harrigan.
Larson gives her eyes a roll. "I hate that shit," she says, and a peal of laughter rises.
Kitten Forever are a crabby lot, or so they say. They claim to be sometimes angry, often bitter, and they insist that the art of making an enemy is no more complicated than acting like a snot.
"I bottle my anger," shrugs Elton, "and it comes out in every song that starts with 'Fuck you.'" Her eyes gleam through bedazzled frames and locks of Manic Panic crimson, delighting in the bitterness that informs her lyrics.
But Harrigan, Larson, and Elton don't seem bitter. Being near them isn't scary. When they talk, they smile, and when they perform, they beam, and their crowds, be they gathered on the Triple Rock's dance floor or a in musty south Minneapolis basement, dance with dervish abandon.
Somewhere between the feuding nation-states of punk's iconoclasm and dance music's party imperatives there is an unclaimed frontier, and it's a space that Kitten Forever occupy beautifully. In that unspoiled glen, they have built their house, and in its basement they throw shows which pop with all the gleeful joie de vivre of a gymnasium sock hop. On their handmade, four-song EP Fat Crush, Larson's bass, Harrigan's drums, and Elton's voice box snap a surfy, driving, no-wave rhythm that infects like a benevolent pathogen.
"It's the ultimate minimal setup," says Larson of the freedoms afforded by such bare-bones production. "It's so much easier. You don't have to worry about trying to get two parts to sound good together, or someone being crabby about the sound."
The ease and glee with which they create and perform is palpable. It fills the air between them on and off stage, and proves their greatest virtue as a band—they are friends first, as close in kinship and in musical conspiracy as a guild of spies.
"If one of us wasn't in Kitten Forever, there would be no Kitten Forever," says Larson. "We could never be like, 'Corrie sucks, let's get another drummer.' There's no way anyone else could ever drum for Kitten Forever." As if the mood is becoming too precious, Larson shifts gears. "But you guys could get another bass player if you want."
"It's safe," Harrigan agrees. "I don't feel scared to do anything. No one's going to tell me that I was stupid, and I never feel embarrassed for saying a personal line."
For Kitten Forever, friends are always near. In the parking lot, Deanna Steege of Unicorn Basement loiters curiously, and inside the venue, Baby Guts' Taylor Motari watches the next band tune up. Their fans are their collaborators and their peers and their housemates, and around one another they form a fine netting that binds them together, a group of adventurers who scavenge their good vibrations from beautiful scrap yards of the imagination. Theirs is a network steeped in the DIY aesthetic, where each record sleeve is folded as carefully as an origami swan and where, as Elton bluntly insists, "shit gets done, and you don't need to worry about someone else's needs."
These principles infiltrate the shows they play as well. Of the basements and living rooms Kitten Forever inhabit most naturally, Larson points out an obvious advantage. "There's less of a chance that there's gonna be the regulars at the bar that hate your band but still hit on you after the show," she says. Harrigan and Elton laugh in knowing contempt.
It's a sweltering climate that all-girl bands face, and the topic settles Kitten Forever once more upon snottiness, the stance that they valiantly defend. It may not be the sole ingredient of their dazzling sonic presence, but it's nothing Kitten Forever are ashamed of. More than just a posture, it's a potent defense against the more menacing show patrons that unsteadily leer from every barstool in town, blind and deaf to all but the most lascivious visions. On the benefits of being a snot, Kitten Forever grind it to a fine edge.
"They are endless," Larson says.
"You can always turn it into something funny," says Harrigan.
"Or a zing," says Elton.
Larson shrugs. "We're catty," she says. "And it's a pun."
KITTEN FOREVER play the Pi Ladyfest Benefit with Sharp Teeth and Unicorn Basement on TUESDAY, JULY 8, at PI BAR; 612.877.4640
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