Sunday, March 10, 2013

Artist Primer: Sleepy Kitty

You might remember me writing about Sleepy Kitty last summer after being blown away by their mesmerizing but under-attended performance on a slab of sun baked concrete at the Electric Petting Zoo. I chatted with both drummer Evan Sult and singer/guitarist Paige Brubeck who were nice enough to slip me a copy of their album, Infinity City. At the time I made a mental note to write about it once I'd fully digested it. Well, it's eight months later and now I'm finally making good on that promise. It's my goal to use the month of March to buckle down and put digital ink to digital paper about some of the many great local bands I haven't yet found time to sing the praises of and I couldn't think of a better place to start.

Technically, Sleepy Kitty is really more of a St. Louis band, by way of Chicago by way of New York. And even more technically  they're a "graphic arts and music project,"   No matter, I'll take any connection, no matter how tenuous to lay claim to this duo on behalf of my city. They're the kind of band who you feel like could be way bigger if they cared half as much about self-promotion and "making it" as they do about the artists and communities that they're connected to. For example, upon starting this article I checked in with the group and, despite following them on Twitter and Facebook saw that they'd snuck a new album out this fall and played Chicago multiple times without my knowing! Saddened by the missed opportunities but excited for some new tunes, I quickly downloaded the songs and got to writing.

Sleepy Kitty with the ability to always sound like at least twice their number. In the studio, they're masters at layering tracks and mixing styles, live their manipulation of looping pedals lets them create invigorating collages of sound and fury. They wear their influences on their sleeve, drawing on everything from showtunes to "White Light, White Heat" while managing to make the whole thing sound fairly organic. Their debut album, Infinity City is packed with songs that are able to mix noisy hell-raising with heartfelt charm. Songs like "Gimme A Chantz!" and "NYC Really Does Have It All" just . Throughout the album, Paige Brubeck channels the confessional charm of Jenny Lewis and the pop hooks of Bethany Cosentino while kicking both of their asses sonically with well-crafted mountains of sound courtesy of Sult.

For me, however, the song most deserving of special mention from that album is the swirling, distorted Beatles cover, "Seventeen." It's more an experience than a song that starts with a basic electric guitar riff then puts it through a psychedelic washing machine. Brubeck's singing is full of sex and longing and blends perfectly with the wall of feedback, effects pedals and percussion that threatens to swallow it whole but never does. It's enough to make me get to work on my next installment of favorite Beatles covers.

Oh, and as for that new single from this fall? As it turns out it consisted of two lovely tales of love from afar. "Don't You Start Now" sounds like it could be a vintage Rilo Kiley track, sung to an ex whose love she still craves even though she knows it's ultimately a bad idea. Meanwhile, the b-side a demo of a song called "All I Do Is Dream Of You" is charming as it is, a lo-fi girl group-style pop song, but promises to be so much more with a few sonic bells and whistles.

At the end of their set this past July they played a song that Brubeck said she'd written about the experience of going on Batman The Ride  as a kid. I can't remember any of the lyrics but I remember the song being wry and wistful, smart and funny and absolutely lovely to hear. I remember thinking that I couldn't wait to see hear it on album. I still can't.

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