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Morgan Lander & Tara McLeod

Besides coping with the usual female rocker stereotypes, the ladies in Kittie have had more than a few obstacles in the past year. The Ontario natives were all set to launch a new label called “Kiss Of Infamy,” but according to vocalist Morgan Lander a certain fire-breathing musician apparently thought that the name hit a little too close to home. Kittie had little choice but to shake it off. The ladies selected the new moniker “X Of Infamy” and soon after released its 4th album Funeral For Yesterday, a release that accentuates the more melodic side of Kittie.

Since the album’s release, there has been yet another big hurdle. News was swirling that bassist Trish Doan would not be participating in this summer’s Sweet Revenge Tour, while Jeff Phillips from Thine Eyes Bleed would be her temporary replacement. Lander and new guitarist Tara McLeod recently spoke openly with UG writer Amy Kelly about Doan’s departure and the continuing evolution of Kittie.

UG: I understand that Trish won’t be able to go on tour with you this year. What happened?

Morgan: She actually has a really bad eating disorder. So we felt it necessary, as well as herself felt it necessary, to take time to reassess the situation and straighten out her priorities, seek help, and get better.

Will she be coming back to the band?

Morgan: Yes, but these things are unpredictable. We are not sure what the situation is going to be. It could be 2 months, 6 months, a year, 2 years before recovery is 100 percent complete. It’s all very up in the air, but we support her 100 percent. We think this is the best thing for her.

Tara, considering this is your first album with the band, were you heavily involved with the songwriting?

Tara: To tell you the truth, when I joined the band about half of the songs were actually already written. So they just handed those over to me and told me to learn them so we could start jamming new songs right away. Morgan and Mercedes (Lander, drums) mostly did this album by themselves. They are the main writers of Kittie, always have been. Just as any new member coming into an established band, they never said, “Add some layers or texture to it.” And I never said, “Hey, I’m going to go ahead and do this.” It just kind of fell together.

After asking if it was okay to write a solo for one song, they started writing in solo parts to the newer songs they were working on and telling me, “Hey, go figure out a little lead for this.” I didn’t write the album. It was definitely an album that Morgan and Mercedes needed to do by themselves, I think. There’s a lot of heart and soul and meaning in the album to them. I pretty much came in as support.

When did you receive the offer to be Kittie’s guitarist?

Tara: I’m from the same town as them and just in the local music scene. I was playing in another band and kind of met their manager. We chatted for a bit and I came over and jammed with the girls. We just came together that way, really.

So is it safe to assume that pretty much all of Kittie’s albums have been written by the Morgan-Mercedes duo?

Morgan: The way that things have happened, it just sort of left Mercedes and I as the foundation of the band, which by no means is a bad thing. I think with us being the main songwriters, it’s always going to sound like a Kittie album. With the addition of Tara, with her outside influences and outside opinions and ideas and the team player attitude and everything, it’s going to open a lot of doors for us. It’s going to make us sound a lot better and it’s all good.

Since the band originally formed over a decade ago, have you noticed a change in audiences’ reaction toward an all-female band?

Morgan: When we’re playing to a crowd, it’s usually our fans and our audience. They react really, really well. I think the criticism or whatever comes in as the media and people that are sort of uneducated as to what we’ve been doing lately as a band. I don’t know whether or not there has been. I mean, since we first started and since our first album came out, there has been a lot of changes in opinion and views. It’s just based on the amount of women in metal now, as opposed to 7 years ago when we released our album or 10 years ago when we first started.

But there’s still definitely a lot of work to do and there’s definitely still a double standard. I think, for us, our purpose is to prove to people that our musical abilities go beyond…

"We're bursting with ideas and we're really excited to get to writing."
Tara: The fact that we’re girls.

Morgan: Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly true. It also goes beyond what people initially saw in this band. When we first started, we were really young, really naïve. Not the best band in the world! I think since then we’ve become a well-oiled machine. We’re players. We’re good at what we do and we’re great songwriters and we’re a great band. I think that is what is going to change people’s opinions. Whether or not people decide, “Well, I don’t like a female’s voice” or “I don’t like women in music…” Whatever. That’s irrelevant.

Tara: I’ve been approached by plenty of bands who said, “You know, I dragged my cousin in, my sister, and my best friend.” They’ve dragged someone they know out to a show who has pretty much prejudged the band. They’ve come to a show and totally changed their mind about the band, just by seeing a live show and giving it a chance and not prejudging a female perspective. That happens a lot. I can’t really blame anybody, really. I mean, it is the first thing you see, the fact that we’re female. It’s really nice when we do get past that and people see that we’re actually talented. It’s also nice to be able to show someone up.

Were you inspired by any female musicians when you first started learning to play guitar?

Morgan: No, definitely not. I think that had a lot to do with the fact that there weren’t really all that many females to look up to out there. Honestly, idolizing just great guitarists in general was what made us be so fearless with our songwriting and our style of playing and the genre of music that we chose. We had no boundaries. We idolized a lot of different styles of music, but there was not any particular female icon that I really looked up to.

Growing up, for Mercedes and I, we definitely knew that this was the path that we were going to take when we were old enough to do it. We used to make up songs. Back then, we idolized bands like Van Halen, Ted Nugent, a lot of bands that my parents were listening to. We sort of got into more guitar-driven styles of hard rock and metal based on my parents’ interests. Once we were able to develop our own taste and got to an age where we wanted to blaze our own trail and make up our minds, it was bands like Tool or Helmet, Alice In Chains, Pantera, Metallica, Slayer. We were like, “Wow, these people are amazing at what they do and we’d like to do it, too.”

Tara: We were pretty much raised on the same music. My parents were not musicians, but they’re big music fans. There was always the classic rock going. I actually had one of my parents’ friends kind of mentor me with guitar. He would let me come and jam with his band. I got to listen to a lot of great music through him and started listening to a ton of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. Those 2 guitar players are 2 guys that I idolized for a really long time. I tried to learn a lot of their songs and steal their tricks!

Tara, your website is very cool in the way it shows all of the different guitars you’ve played over the years. Have you recently added to the list?

Tara: I’m playing a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop. I’ve never played a guitar with a better neck. I was playing an Explorer before. Once I tried a Les Paul, I’ve been just hooked on it. It’s amazing. It has the original pickups in it. It’s a nice crunchy tone, but it’s really full, which is what I like about it. It totally has a classic rock sound to it, which is what I’m definitely into. So it’s perfect.

Morgan, how about you?

Morgan: I’m actually using a custom Hamer Vector. For me, I’ve always been drawn to the V-shape. Over the years I’ve tried a number of different brands of V’s. I’ve played everything from ESP, Gibson, BC Rich, a homemade one from a guy from London even. I got a tour of the Hamer shop and I really liked the personability of the company. It’s a really small company and they really just want to work with the artist and get exactly what you want into it.

For me, the size of the guitar is definitely a factor because I’m really small! It’s not short scale or anything, but it’s the weight and everything for me. It definitely always plays a factor into choosing a guitar. And also, it just sounds great! It is a great guitar. I know Hamer has been around for a while, and they’re mostly known for their 80’s kind of metal band kind of sound. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that retro kind of sound. I think it works well with what we’re trying to do, which is balance heavy metal with melody.

"Our purpose is to prove to people that our musical abilities go beyond the fact that we're girls."
Are there certain effect or pedals that play a big part in your recording process or live setup?

Morgan: I think the difference comes from with the dynamic of the song and the way that it’s written, rather than switching from different sounds of different pedals. We’re pretty basic in terms of our live setup and also the setup in the studio. The change and the dynamic comes more with the way the song is written, as well as my voice and that sort of thing. There are not really too many songs that we have now that we go from heavy to clean. I don’t think we’ve done that for a very long time. For my setup, it’s pretty much just basically plugging right in to triples.

Tara: For me, it’s a really basic rock and roll setup really. I just use a Vox wah, Boss DD-3, and a Blues Driver.

When you’re on the road, do you find time to write songs or at least bounce ideas off of each other?

Morgan: Traditionally we’ve always held back our ideas until we’ve had time to let them go. This time around it’s a little bit different. We’re bursting with ideas and we’re really excited to get to writing. We all bounce ideas off of each other and I think the next album’s writing process is going to be slightly different. I think Tara has a lot of really great ideas and it’s really refreshing to have somebody that has an outside opinion if Mercedes and I ever were to get into a rut. I highly doubt that…

Tara: I was going to say! I don’t see that happening!

Morgan: Knock on wood. It is really wonderful to have somebody that has the best interest of the band in mind and wants the band to succeed and evolve musically, contribute and be a team player. That’s what we’ve always wanted with members of this band. I’m really excited for the writing for our new album because we have a lot of great ideas. It’s going to be pure evil.

And you have your own label now, too.

Morgan: Yes, we do.

I’ve seen it called both “Kiss Of Infamy Records” and “X Of Infamy Records.” Which one is correct?

Morgan: X Of Infamy. Actually, what happened with that was that it was originally Kiss Of Infamy. We ended up getting a Cease And Desist from KISS’ lawyer, from Gene Simmons. He was concerned that somehow KISS fans would be confused by our label’s name, which I’m totally baffled by. But he does own all the rights under the umbrella of the music genre and entertainment business. He owns the word “KISS” for everything. It’s actually rather flattering even that he acknowledged our existence. Obviously it wasn’t something that was that big of a deal. We decided to change the name. X is the universal symbol for kiss anyway, so we sort of got our way. We just got around it a little bit.

Are you excited about your upcoming Power Box Festival gig? It looks to be an impressive all-ladies lineup.

Morgan: I think it’s going to be a really, really good time. There are a lot of bands that we’re familiar with, and a lot of bands that I think I’ve seen play before. They keep adding bands to it! It’s a good cause and a wonderful celebration of female musicians. We’re just excited to be there. The guy who is setting it up and putting it together, he’s doing a great job.

Do you foresee Kittie releasing a live DVD in the future?

Morgan: We’ll see what the future brings. We have the tour coming up and that’s about 5 weeks long. After that, we’re hoping to perhaps finally get back to Europe, hopefully do some South American dates and perhaps some Central America, Mexico kind of stuff. We’ve done quite a few tours so far in the States, so we really just want to let our fans know abroad that we still love them and that we still care. Regardless, we’re going to keep on playing, just have a good time with it, and rock out.

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