Interview – The Katherines

Vancouver based alt-pop group The Katherines have been making waves with the release of their debut album To Bring You My Heart. As front woman Kate Kurdyak began writing the album under a solo project, her younger sister Lauren Kurdyak and close friend Kaitlyn Hansen-Boucher joined to form the trio. Their album, To Bring You My Heart is a well crafted debut showcasing Kate’s talent as a songwriter and Lauren and Kaitlyn’s creativity as musicians. Following a successful show at The Drake Underground in Toronto, we caught up with them to discuss their new album, their single “Better Off Now,” the experiences that inspired the album, and what’s next for the group.

The trio was formed with Kate performing as a solo artist and Lauren and Kaitlyn joined in to create The Katherines. What was the transition like working as a solo and having the other two step in and have a larger role in the creative process?

Kate: It was pretty seamless. We formed the band in high school because I entered in a “BC’s Best Teen Band” contest and I ended up getting into the final round to compete in the Battle of the Bands and I didn’t want to just stand up there with a guitar, I wanted to have more musicians to represent the songs. So I knew the vocals were going to be a pretty important part of that process and so I asked them if they wanted to join and they said yes. It was a huge group initially. There were 10 people and it was all high school friends. There was a string section from my orchestra and we had another girl on vocals and there was a violinist as well. A whole mess of instruments. Two guitars at one point, a bunch of vocals. It was crazy.

Kaitlyn: Two guitarists and no bass.

Kate: Yeah it was a mess. But people went off and did useful things like sciences and became doctors…doing smart stuff.

Kaitlyn: And then there were three!

Kate: Yeah and it just made sense. We’ve always been the closest.

Lauren: I think it was easy to start incorporating more and more harmonies. We got into a groove of things.

You recently released a single for “Better off now,” which is from your debut album To Bring You My Heart. The video is really visually-engaging. What was the thought process when you were creating the image of that video?

Kate: We had a pretty small budget to work with for that one cause we put out so many singles on the record…so our record label built a huge building where they have a sound stage, one section is a music studio where you can record and the other section is like a filming, sound stage, green screen situation.

Kaitlyn: It’s a really cool room, it’s all white all around, curved wall. It looks like an infinity wall.

Kate: We knew we had to use that space and the song is really 80s influenced and so we wanted to do something that represented that visually.

Kaitlyn: It was cool because it looked super green screen-y but it wasn’t. It was all made with projections so the background and everything while we were filming, that’s exactly what we saw so it felt like we were floating in space with all the lights and everything.

Kate: Some of the parts with the dancers, like they had all of these lights going at once. It looked like what I imagine heaven, if heaven does exist, would look like….whatever that video looked like we were actually in it for the entire day.

The single features vocals from electronic artist Frederick, who also appears in the video. What was it like collaborating with him?

Kate: It was awesome! He’s one of the resident producers at 604 Records so he was the first person they put me with when we started out at the label and it was like a test period…so he was the first person that I wrote with there. He was so nice and talented, he’s a piano guy and so that was really nice because he just comes up with the most interesting chord progressions. So he started out as our producer and we were working on that song, it just turned into a duet and he sang on it for the demo. It just worked so well that he had to do it for the real thing. I was really glad he did.

What were the biggest milestones while recording the new album?

Kate: I think it was probably writing the songs, which was so incredibly fun. But then when you actually want to bring them to life, what was really cool for me was we were in the studio with professional musicians. So you come in and you have the bones of the song -the lyrics, the melody, the chord progression – but then these incredibly talented people come in and they add their flavour to it and it totally changes it. I don’t think I realized how important each individual instrumentation part is until that happened. For example, there were some bass sessions where the bass player would come into the studio and just completely change the song in the most incredible way. For “T.B.Y.M.H” the bass player added this bass line that was so funky and for me, the song just clicked.

Kaitlyn: We also got to record in a lot of beautiful places, Vancouver has some beautiful recording studios so we were really fortunate to get to record there…seeing on the walls everyone else who has recorded there really takes you back. It’s very humbling.

If there were any challenges, what were some of the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Kate: I think picking songs was hard. With the record, you write so many songs that when it comes time you have to not only pick your favourite songs but you have to pick songs that work together. So I think narrowing it down was a little bit difficult cause everyone had different favourites.

Kaitlyn: And some of our group favourites didn’t make the cut for the album cause we couldn’t capture them. We’ve been playing a lot of the songs live for a really long time and bringing them into the studio, it just takes something to get it right and some of the songs that we love and we still get to play live didn’t make it to the album.

Kate: It can be a little frustrating when you can hear it so clearly in your head but you don’t have the technical skills to put it down in programs. One of the reasons I’m going to stay in Toronto now is to intern at a studio, so I want to start to build the skills to be able to produce it. Having that control and ability to transfer what you hear onto the computer would be huge.

The album draws from a number of feelings and moments. You’ve described it as  “the expression of a particular moment.” What kinds of experiences or influences were you drawing on when you were writing the music?

Kate: There is a whole bunch. A lot of it is love and relationships because those lead to some of the most intense feelings that you feel, so there was some serious heart break and longing. Also just exploring independence, you know when you go through that part in high school when you’re like “wait a minute, I don’t have to do everything my parents say!” And also it’s not just my relationships but it’s also there’s. So some of the songs are not only my personal experiences, but about something what they went through….it’s a little mix of everything.

Do you have a favourite track from the album that you loved recording or that you loved playing live?

Lauren: Mine’s actually changed, I used to love playing “Minefield” the most. That’s my all time favourite live, but recently the title track “T.B.Y.M.H” just gets me now! That’s my new favourite…it’s punchy, it just drives.  I feel really good playing that one.

Kate: “T.B.Y.M.H” and “Primitive” for me have stayed the most relevant coming out of high school and going to university and being this age. I still connect to…the lyrics of this song. They still feel very current to me and how I feel being this age.

Kaitlyn: “Minefield” is my favourite recording and my favourite to perform live. I really, really love that song and now that it’s been my favourite for so long I feel like I can’t change it. It’s grown on me so much and now whenever it comes on I feel great. It’s so easy to groove to and I love the rock vibe.

For people who haven’t seen you live yet, what can we expect from one of your live shows?

Kate: Lots of awkward dance moves.

Kaitlyn (whispers): Guys, don’t say that!

Lauren: Kate saying weird stuff on stage.

Lauren: I think the biggest difference between our record, just listening to it on the CD and seeing it live, is we strip things down a little bit more and you get to hear a little bit more vocals. We’re much more vocal heavy on stage.

Kate: There’s no tracks.

Kaitlyn: Yeah, we do everything completely live so all the songs that have more of an electronic vibe get switched to a bit more rock n roll or jazz.

Can we expect a tour anytime soon?

Kate: It’s in the works…we’re going to say a tentative yes.

Following this big step, releasing your debut album, what can we expect next? What else would be in the works for you?

Kate: Im staying here to write and then they’re going to come here to record and write as well. [The new music] should be entirely different because this record is actually three years old for us. It was written when we were [teenagers].

Kaitlyn: Also writing the record, it was written as a solo project.

Kate: Yes, they’re on the record as the BG’s and vocalists, as well but it was written with a solo project in mind and so making that transition, I’m so excited to write for the three parts cause we’ve been doing that live and we changed a lot of the songs to have those harmonies.

Lauren: Yeah cause it’s kinda dumb to have three girls on stage and one line.

Kate: Yeah, you gotta use it cause we’ve all sung in choirs our whole lives so I’m excited to write for The Katherines.

Since we love to support Canadian artists, who are some of your favourite Canadian musicians?

K.D. Lang
Arkells
The Zolas
Alessia Cara
Drake
The Weeknd
The Tragically Hip
Feist
Carly Rae Jepsen
Marianas Trench
Scott Helman
Mother Mother

What’s your current go-to song?

Kate: I like “The Drugs” by Mother Mother right now!

Lauren: “Take it Easy” by The Eagles.

Kaitlyn: I literally only listen to two albums right now, I listen to Harvest Moon by Neil Young, like that album, just constantly. Just cause it’s so nice and easy and beautiful.

What would be your dream venue to play in?

Kate: In Vancouver it’s the Commodore, and then here it’s Massey Hall.

What’s something your fans would be surprised to learn about you?

Lauren: I like eating cinnamon sticks.

Kate: And, like tea….

Kate + Kaitlyn: SHE EATS TEA!

Lauren: Not tea leaves, like David’s Tea, you know how they have the little apples…it’s like trail mix.

Kate: It’s like soggy trail mix.

Lauren: No, no I eat it dry. You don’t eat it wet.

Kaitlyn: Umm..my secret? I have all of the hobbies of a grandmother and I love knitting. My mom owns a knitting store, it’s in my genes. I learned to knit when I was five and I can turn the heel of a sock in a second and I really like knitting. Now I’m trying to take up embroidering and it’s just a slippery slope from here.

Kate: I live in a trailer in the forest, yeah, that’s cool. I also can’t leave a writing session without -for some reason when I’m writing a song – I always get pen all over myself. I don’t know how it happens. I’ve come back from writing sessions with pen all over my boots. Like it’s really weird….anyway trailer in Squamish with a hound dog is probably cooler.

Make sure to check out the video for their single Better Off Now and take a listen to To Bring You My Heart!

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