Infectious Magazine recently caught up with glam rocker Kat Robichaud, the mastermind behind Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits. We discussed all the details of her forthcoming self-titled album (continue reading for the release date), her thoughts on the Spotify revenue debates, the possibility of playing some shows with an old friend from The Voice, and much more.
The last time we talked, you were back home in Raleigh but since then you’ve relocated to San Francisco. How’s life been treating you out west?
I love it. And I hate it. And I love it. There are definitely pros and cons. I sold my car because you don’t need a car in the Bay Area and also it’s too expensive and too much of a pain to park. So I’m sharing a Prius with my husband, although I’ve yet to drive it and I haven’t had the time to get my California license. And although I miss my friends and the green quiet life of North Carolina (and its amazing local fare), there are a million and one things to do in San Francisco at any given moment. The music scene welcomed me with open arms, which was a blessing. I’ve been here six months now and in addition to forming my west coast Darling Misfits, I’ve joined a David Bowie tribute band called The First Church of the Sacred Silversexual. I’ve also performed in drag for the first time, donning the name “Kat People”.
Your long-awaited first post-Voice album, Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits, is set to be released on January 27. Can you tell us a little bit about the recording process? What did reaching your extended Kickstarter goal of $40,000 allow you to do on the album that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible?
We had wings. 20k was the bare bones of what we would need to record a great album. With 40k we had the ability to record in a beautiful state of the art studio called Manifold, located in Pittsboro, NC (right outside of Chapel Hill), where Carol King and Bella Fleck had just recorded. I was able to hand pick my musicians on the album and I was able to hire a lot of extra musicians, like Joseph Kwon from The Avett Brothers, who plays cello on the album. It gave me the luxury of working with producer Ian Schreier, who sat with me for weeks in front of the piano while I pounded away my ideas. We had the time to get to know each other and to really understand what this album wanted and needed to be.
With the album being fully funded by your amazing fans, did you feel any added pressure in the studio to make it the very best it could be?
Oh my goodness, yes! I had about two months between the Kickstarter finishing and band rehearsals starting to finish the album. At one point, I was singing one of the songs to [my husband] Guillaume, and he said, “That’s good, sweetie, but it’s not really rock and roll. That’s what your fans want.” It made me angry and determined and I got a frantic melody in my head. I went to the piano and started hashing out this song called “The Apple Pie and The Knife,” which I had in my head since I’d been eliminated from The Voice but didn’t know how to put down on keys. The song is about the double standard – why is it okay for men to behave however they want, but I’m having to check myself constantly? Am I being too forward? Is my behavior coming across as cocky instead of confident? ARE MY SHORTS TOO SHORT? It was a lot of fun to write. The most wonderful gift I got from the show was it connected me with people who love me and accept me for who I am, and this is who the album is for, and I never forgot that, and I don’t forget it. It’s a ride. I think my backers are going to love it and hopefully they’re [going to] share the album. Nothing is more powerful than word of mouth.
You’re giving the fans an early Christmas present by releasing the album’s first single, “Somebody Call The Doctor,” on December 23. Can you give us a hint about what to expect from the song and what made you choose this particular song as the first single?
I had originally planned to release the song on the same day the Season 8 premiere of Doctor Who aired in August. The song is about Doctor Who (I’m a fan) and I created a lyric music video for the song. Some behind-the-scenes stuff happened that was out of anyone’s control, and I had to take a step back and get things in order. The music industry is tough, and it’s only getting tougher.
The song is campy as hell, and I specifically wrote it for Doctor Who fans. I grabbed a bunch of DW fans in the Bay Area, had them dress up as their favorite Doctor or villain/monster/companion from the show, and had them run around the city. We went to China Town and Dolores Park and The Mission and just ran. It was supposed to be a simple little lyric video but I got carried away with it, and now it’s an acid trip. Hopefully it doesn’t give anyone a seizure. And for a budget of $25 for ice cream at Bi-Rite and two months of my time, I love it. I shared it with Neil Gaiman and he said it was adorable. I hope the rest of the world feels the same way. Whovians are usually pretty loving and accepting people. The video, as well as the single, will release on December 23rd on Yahoo Music and iTunes, two days before Christmas and the Doctor Who Christmas episode.
Can you tell us how many songs are on the record? Are there any other titles that reference some area of pop culture?
There are 11 songs on the record. There were supposed to be 10, but no one working on the album was willing to let one go. There are two musical interludes, and there’s one song sung twice on the album. Ian Schreier, my producer, told me to try singing “The Elephant Song” like a ringmaster in a circus, a la Eddie Izzard’s performance of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”. The result was hilarious, so it was put on the end of the album. I suggested that it should be a hidden track, but Ian refused. I think it’s his favorite. That, and my Darling guitarist, Eliot Wilcox, is a combination of Marc Bolan [T. Rex] and Brian May [Queen], which really adds to the fun and theatricality of the album. At one point, we left the tapes running and Eliot did this whole bit on Marc Bolan interviewing Jack Nicholson that had us all on the floor. I thought Eliot had memorized an interview that he’d seen on television, but as it turns out, the interview never happened and he was just making it up. Some of that got left on the album.
“The Elephant Song” is a strong nod to The Beatles. I didn’t do it on purpose, it just came out that way. Lots of horns and playfulness. I’m a broadway and rock and roll junkie, and the two get fused together. There was no one in the process of making this album that said, “No no, Kat, you can’t do that.” There was only, “FUCK YEAH. Do more of that. Really dig into it.” My influences over the years of David Bowie, Queen, No Doubt, Amanda Palmer and The Dresden Dolls, and Marilyn Manson really got to pop their heads out and say hello in the geekiest way. The only song on the album that is a direct reference to pop culture is “Somebody Call The Doctor”. It’s about Doctor Who.
Many times when artists choose to self-title an album, it is to make a statement that this is the album that represents them completely. Do you feel this album represents Kat the woman as well as Kat the musician?
For the longtime fans in particular, what would you say is the biggest difference between your previous work with The Design and Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits?
For the first time, I was really allowed to be myself.
Whether through the album’s Kickstarter campaign or voting on album/single covers, you’ve always gone the extra mile to make your fans feel personally involved in your career. That said, you recently questioned them on whether or not it was asking too much to launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund a tour in support of the album. We’ve seen many fans’ feelings on the topic, but what are some of yours?
A long-time idol of mine, and now friend, Amanda Palmer, just released a book called “The Art of Asking”. I read it and it blew my mind. Why are artists so afraid to ask their fans for help? Take the damn donut. As the music industry continues to struggle with new technology, it is becoming increasingly important to communicate directly with fans and to let them know, “Hey guys! I’m not rolling in cash over here. I’d love to play for you, but I have to eat, you know? Can you help me do that?” I had been asked if I would consider doing a Kickstarter for a tour, and my initial reaction was, “NO WAY! I just asked my fans to pay for my album! I’m not asking them for more stuff.” -Please, sir, can I have some more?- But Kickstarter isn’t charity. Everyone is getting something in return. And Amanda’s book made me realize, I shouldn’t be afraid to ask my fans for help and furthermore, I shouldn’t be afraid to SHARE with my fans what I’m going through as an artist. Because the thing is, until you ARE a musician, you don’t realize what goes into it. You don’t factor in costs of travel, costs of paying performers, costs of manufacturing albums, costs of making albums, etc. And I understand, it’s a bummer to talk about money. I got mad because a recent episode of The Mindy Project made light of Mindy’s character stealing music and they didn’t really correct it on the show and I thought it was incredibly irresponsible. If people don’t pay musicians for their music, the musicians aren’t going to be able to afford to keep making music. For most musicians, including this one right here, it really isn’t about the money. But we have to be able to afford to live, and there’s no way of getting around that.
It’s my responsibility as a musician to communicate with our fans and not expect them to know everything. They’re good people and they want to help. You just have to let them know how.
Going off of that, are there any specific tour plans in the works to support the album next year? I saw you recently got in touch with your friend and fellow former Voice contestant James Wolpert…
Yup. James and I were so excited about an upcoming show in San Francisco until we realized that I was talking about December and he was talking about January. WHOOPS. Logistics are tough, but I bet we’ll play a show together in the future. Out of everyone from my season, he and I are the closest in musical style and performance. It makes sense.
But right now I’m focusing on the album release and seeing how it does. I’m going to start working on a Kickstarter for a tour and that will take a lot more planning than an album. 2015 is looking pretty good for getting out on the road. In the meantime, I’m playing a lot of shows in the Bay Area and working on building a following here.
Of the numerous cover songs you’ve done for fans, backers and friends this year, which one has been your favorite and why?
“Children of the Damned” by Iron Maiden. The song is ridiculously over the top and I decided to play it on the ukulele in full goth. It was too much fun. Of course, I messed up and said it was by Judas Priest, because I know nothing about either band and I don’t pretend to. Still, I felt bad.
You also recently asked fans about the Spotify streaming revenue debate and said you were unsure if you were going to put your new album on Spotify when that time comes. It’s safe to say all fans agree that streaming revenues for artists are far too low, but do you think the sharing and exposure you could get – resulting in more people buying merchandise and attending your live shows – would make it worthwhile for you in the long run?
I’m releasing my album through RED Distribution and I am totally putting my album on Spotify because I want it to be available everywhere to everyone. A lot of bands say they don’t care if you’re paying for their music or not, as long as you’re coming to their shows. I think that’s a white lie. I think what they’re really saying is, “Please pay for our music somehow. If you’re not paying for it at home, please buy a ticket and come to our shows so we can eat.” That’s like the owner of a restaurant saying, “I don’t care if you come in and pay for a meal, just as long and you tell everyone how good our food smells.” And you would never go to a restaurant and expect not to pay for your meal. Why is it different with music?
Taylor Swift started a conversation about Spotify, and that’s great. And I’ll admit, I use Spotify to check out new music, and then I go and buy that music. If Spotify is introducing people to my music, that’s wonderful. But I hope that people who realize how much we’re actually getting paid by these streaming services at least go and buy a song they like afterwards. People have come up to me at shows and asked, “Should I buy your music online or should I buy a CD from you right now? Which will you benefit more from?” And I think that’s wonderful. I brought Spotify up on my Facebook page because I wanted to start a conversation and raise awareness. If Spotify is used correctly, it can be a positive platform for artists to gain new fans.
Now that we’ve just about reached the end of the year, what are a few of your favorite albums that released in 2014?
I’m in love with St. Vincent. I first saw/heard her on SNL and I thought she was such a unique performer. Her album is killer. I discovered Sia this year and “Chandelier” was basically my anthem, although I wonder if I would have paid attention to the song if it hadn’t been for the video. Die Antwoord is always great. I recently got Jason Webley’s compilation album “Margaret” which is incredibly haunting and beautiful, particularly “Lark of My Heart”. I bought a lot of singles this year, which is what most people do now, I guess. I think I’ve bought every single that Bruno Mars has released in the past two years because his music is catchy as shit and he knows how to perform. I’m a Lorde fan. Mary Lambert’s “Secrets” makes me wish I had written it. And I’ve been having a love affair with Kate Bush, whose music somehow slipped past me in my adolescence. “Wuthering Heights” makes me so happy.
Any last words for all the loyal Kat Pack members and readers out there?
You keep me alive. Thank you. I hope you love this album. Thank you for supporting me.
Kat’s long-awaited post-Voice album, titled Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits, will be officially released on January 27. The album’s first single and music video, “Somebody Call The Doctor”, will premiere on Yahoo! Music on December 23. For more information on where you’ll be able to purchase the album, keep up with all of Kat’s updates via the links below.