AN INTERVIEW WITH KITTY TSUNAMI
I first photographed Kitty Tsunami in August of 2017 at their show at the Mothlight in Asheville, North Carolina, alongside Asheville bar-fighting local rock legends The Missing Stares. The Stares’ sticker still graces the window on the left side of the venue, but at this point, The Stares really do seem to be missing.
However many changes have occurred within the Asheville music scene since August of 2017, Kitty Tsunami has remained a constant within the scene, playing shows across the city; a personal track favorite of mine, “Riptide,” has been described by our very own Eva Montoya as “soaked in vintage reverb, [having] a timeless quality.”
On the 10th of June, 2019, the day after a small Melted-booked show in Asheville, Kitty Tsunami opened for Chicago duo Grapetooth and Los Angeles power trio Cherry Glazerr at the Orange Peel in downtown Asheville. At this show, I had the opportunity to chat with them about their influence, their experience with the shifting climate of Asheville, and how the two factors contribute to their music as a whole.
HEY! WHO IS KITTY TSUNAMI?
TOMMY: It’s an amalgamation of our misery. It’s a lot of anger and aggression.
WELL, YOU CHANNEL IT IN A REALLY GOOD WAY.
T: We’re trying to be negative but it comes out happy.
MEG: We are a rock n’ roll band who is trying to make the most of the rise of the Asheville music scene. We’re riding the wave of the music scene.
T: We’re riding the wave of life!
M: When Kitty Tsunami started there wasn’t that big of a music scene and it’s grown and grown and grown and we just never quit.
IT SEEMS LIKE THIS THANG HAS BEEN GOING FOR QUITE A WHILE. SINCE 2014, RIGHT? TELL ME ABOUT THE BIRTH OF THE BAND BACK IN THE DAY.
M: The band started as me and Tommy. [We] have been playing music for forever. Since high school.
BENITO: High school sweethearts!
M: -- and we started a thing called The Headies which we would jam with sometimes, and it turned into Kitty Tsunami, and since then we’ve had quite a few members.
AT THIS POINT, YOU ALL HAVE ELI, BENITO, TOMMY, AND MEG. HOW DID THIS DYNAMIC BEGIN? WAS KITTY TSUNAMI, AT ONE POINT, A SMALLER PROJECT? HOW DID IT GROW?
M: [It used to be] a three piece. We didn’t even have a bassist.
T: We didn’t even really think we were gonna go anywhere. We just wanted to play shows. Just write music, drink 40s.
M: Let’s see, Benito came about when we met Shaken Nature.
T: He took over on the bass.
M: Hopped on the bass. Our old drummer ditched the tour, we went into desperate mode [. . .] and Tommy hit Eli up because he’s a fucking rocker and he’s in like ten bands.
T: I knew he would do it.
M: He’ll never [turn down] drumming in a band
ELI: Kitty Tsunami is like one of the first bands that I saw in the scene when I was like 19 or 20.
WOW. DID THEY INTRODUCE YOU TO THE SCENE?
E: No, I’d been to a few shows, but they were the first that I really liked.
AND NOW YOU’RE HERE. WOULD YOUR PAST SELF BE PROUD?
E: Fuck yeah.
TELL ME ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF LIVE EXPERIENCES FOR YOU. ESPECIALLY AS A LOCAL BAND WITH INFLUENCE IN TOWN RATHER THAN JUST ON THE INTERNET OR ON STREAMING SERVICES. HOW DOES A LIVE SHOW -- ESPECIALLY A LOCAL SHOW -- CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR OVERALL EXPERIENCE WITH CREATING MUSIC, PERFORMING MUSIC, AND JUST BEING MUSICIANS?
E: That’s pretty much all we do.
B: We don’t even focus on getting on the internet.
T: That’s what people want to see. Live bands, rocking out.
E: Passing off energy between yourself and the entire crowd.
T: And we never really had that energy until Benito and Eli joined the band.
M: A different dynamic.
T: It was like everyone clicked then. I remember the first time we jammed with Eli --
B: Eli joined the band and it became really aggressive. It was more pop centric, and now it has this aggression.
M: Faster, harder hits.
THAT’S PRETTY GREAT. WHEN I THINK ABOUT THE ASHEVILLE MUSIC SCENE, I IMMEDIATELY THINK OF YOU GUYS. IT LOOKS LIKE LIVE EXPERIENCES ARE PRETTY IMPORTANT FOR YOU. SO WHAT ABOUT LISTENING TO MUSIC IN AN ACTIVE WAY? FULL ALBUMS RATHER THAN PLAYLISTS, RECORDS RATHER THAN MP3s?
T: That’s how the band intended it to be.
B: I’m kind of ADD when I listen to more than one artist.
E: There’s also something about holding a record in your hand, physically.
T: Especially if it’s warped or something.
AND WHAT ABOUT IN RELATION TO YOUR MUSIC. WHEN YOU MADE COSA NOSTRA, DID YOU EXPECT PEOPLE TO LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE THING LIKE A JOURNEY OR DID YOU HAVE ANOTHER VISION FOR IT?
T: Hit singles.
HIT SINGLES! AN ALBUM FULL OF HIT SINGLES?
ESPECIALLY IN THIS AGE.
M: I think we’re going to start releasing singles, one at a time.
E: I was definitely listening to it all the way through, in my car, when I had a car.
FOR THOSE OUT-OF-TOWNERS, WHAT WOULD YOU WANT TO SAY ABOUT THE ASHEVILLE MUSIC SCENE AND HOW IT’S CHANGING ALONGSIDE SOMETHING LIKE GENTRIFICATION, FOR EXAMPLE, IN THE CITY TODAY?
E: It’s something to take in strides, for sure.
T: It’s growing way huge right now.
B: I think it is a boom.
M: Yeah. Venues, popping up all over the place. There are a lot less house shows then when we started.
B: I think gentrification probably aids the music scene, as shitty as that sounds.
T: It kind of does, and it kind of doesn’t.
WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A MUSICIAN IN THE 21ST CENTURY? YOUR SOUND SEEMS AS THOUGH IT IS SO HEAVILY INFLUENCED BY 1960S GARAGE SURF ROCK, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, THE BAND ADDS FLAIR THAT SEEMS AS THOUGH IT DOESN’T FIT INTO A LABEL OR GENRE. IS THIS JUXTAPOSITION OF ERAS IMPORTANT TO YOU AS A MUSICIAN?
B: It’s incredibly important.
T: A psychedelic journey!!
B: 1960s music is the best --
T: the best out there.
B: I know Eli mainly doesn’t [like it] but us three, yeah.
E: I’m definitely more 80s, punk.
I SEE THAT.
E: That’s why it got more aggressive and changed when I [joined].
B: That’s why, honestly. It did sound pretty 60s before Eli joined. Once Eli joined it definitely changed. I think Eli has a lot to do with the reason our sound changed. The band changed from kind of a jam band rhythm section, a crunchy type of hippie guys, to an aggressive rock.
M: I like any kind of music. Country, rock, all that.
AND YOU CAN HEAR THAT, TOO! YOU CAN HEAR THE DIFFERENT INFLUENCES.
M: But I’m all about pop. If it’s not catchy to me I can’t hear it.
I THINK THAT’S IMPORTANT TO HAVE IN A LOT OF SUCCESSFUL BANDS. SO WHAT’S NEXT FOR KITTY TSUNAMI?
M: Hopefully a tour! The van is in the works. It’s been in the works for a year. Definitely finishing up our recordings. We have a new EP coming out!
B: New songs!
ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
T: Audrey is the best photographer eva!
AWH, YOU’RE SO SWEET! WOW! THANK YOU!
Check out Kitty Tsunami when you have the chance ;~) Also check out Eli Raymer’s house venue in east Asheville for all your DIY show needs. It’s called “Garagemahal.”