For Kittie, touring with metal's reigning royalty is the cat's meow.

Cat Powers 

For Kittie, touring with metal's reigning royalty is the cat's meow.

Yes, Kittie is an all-woman group. Yes, the average age of Kittie's band members is 17. Yes, Kittie is from Canada. Now that the painfully obvious parts of the Kittie profile have been dispensed with, it's time to focus on something far more important.

Dude, Kittie rocks. In the twelve months since releasing its now-gold debut, Spit, the group has earned a devoted following first by stunning fans of theatrical rockers Slipknot and then by stealing the show at the rap-metal-by-numbers-dominated testosterone showcase OZZfest. Kittie won third place in last year's Alternative Press readers' poll, and the band is now performing its first stint on the SnoCore tour, opening for industrial-metal titans Fear Factory.

Some critics have written off Kittie as a novelty act or a marketing gimmick, but while Spit has some studio polish (courtesy of Rage Against the Machine and L7 producer Ggarth) and its lyrics occasionally betray the age (13 to 14) at which they were written, the group's enthusiasm is infectiously genuine, and its death-metal screams, angelic harmonies and constant sonic pummeling distance it from nearly every act to which it is compared.

Lazy critics have likened Kittie to a variety of all-female groups, and most of the tags make about as much sense as Kid Rock at Lilith Fair. Much more serious than The Donnas, more complex than L7 and much, much heavier than Veruca Salt, Hole or Sleater-Kinney, Kittie's distinctive sound contains traces of other artists, all of whom are in all-male rock bands. Spit echoes Helmet's precision, Slayer's power and (with some songs dealing with body image and self-esteem issues) even Nirvana's confessional songwriting. Spit feels more like a new brand of melody-oriented death-metal than a representative of either of the genres into which it's often inaccurately placed: nü metal (there's no full-time DJ or whack rapping) or riot grrrl (the blunt lyrics never feel like a graduate thesis in feminism).

The group's first single, "Brackish," with its flurry of high-speed breakbeats rumbling under the riffs, offered fans an irresistible introduction to Kittie's fury, though its Ministry-influenced (or Static-X if you're under 15) industrial grind bore little resemblance to the rest of its offerings.

"We decided [the song] needed something different, so we called a local DJ and paid him a case of beer," says Kittie lead singer and guitarist Morgan Lander. "We don't use [backing tracks] live, though; we're a real band." (No disrespect intended to the machine-happy SnoCore headliners Fear Factory, she hastily adds.)

Indeed, only a rough, rugged "real band" could endure one of the harshest baptisms of fire that a metal band can receive -- a night of drinking with Pantera.

"Reinventing the livers of steel," Lander says of the experience. "What else can you expect from the cowboys from hell but booze and debauchery? We even got to go to The Clubhouse (a gentlemen's club in Dallas owned by Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul)."

Did Mom and Dad, the group's road managers, have any problems with this?

"Oh, no," she assures. "On the road, it's a business relationship. We can differentiate being a family and work."

Work started in the family's basement, where Morgan, her sister/drummer, Mercedes, and guitarist Fallon Bowman, whom she met at a gymnastic class ("That's so un-rock 'n' roll," Morgan admits) wrote Spit as a trio. After playing high-school talent shows and clubs in the Ontario area, the group scored a deal with start-up label Artemis. Kittie recorded the album with bassist Tanya Candler, who quickly left the band. She was replaced by Talena Atfield, who Lander says "brought a new sense of maturity" to the group.

While Kittie remains proud of Spit, having just released an EP spotlighting the most mellow selection, "Paper Doll," band members are eager to get something new out. While songs such as "Spit," "Choke" and "Get Off (You Can Eat a Dick)" remain vital, vitriol-filled jabs at men who think women can't play rock, these tunes were written four years ago, and the band has more to say, quite possibly in an increasingly eloquent manner. After SnoCore wraps up in early spring, Kittie plans to write and record, with hopes of a new release before the end of 2001.

"It will be a diverse album," Lander says. "I utilize a spoken-word approach, a singing approach and a screaming approach. It'll be heavier than Spit, but with an acoustic side."

The bio for this next record should focus less on obvious factors, as Kittie is now old enough for three-quarters of the band to be heavily pierced and tattooed. It's also proud of its Canadian connection ("Our beer is fucking Labat!" Lander announces). But there's still one goal the band would like to accomplish: getting journalists to quit asking women-in-rock-related questions.

"That makes me so mad I want to pull a pin out of a hand grenade," Lander jokes. "We've just learned to shy away from that. We're not playing to any one audience."

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