Chicago – On a recent crisp night in Chicago’s Logan Square, local band Kittyhawk was hanging out with friends and family over beers and laughs at Township. Guitarists Erik Czaja and Mark Jaeschke, singer and keyboardist Kate Grube, and drummer Evan Lorusch, were celebrating the end of their North American tour and the release of their album Hello, Again (Count Your Lucky Stars Records). The band’s debut LP has garnered attention from music critics who quickly labeled the band as emo, and that emo label has the band falling under many people’s radars. Although Kittyhawk will tell you they think of themselves more as indie rockers, they’re happy to wear the “social tag” of emo.
Before their homecoming set, Erik, Kate, and Evan sat down with Best New Bands in their little old school bus turned touring van named Balrog – which you can see in the music video for “Welcome Home” – and talked about the emo revival, balancing relationships, imaginary cults, and Denny’s.
Sarah Hess: How did you guys meet? Are you all from Chicago?
Kate: I’m from Chicago. Evan is from the suburbs.
Evan: I am from Arlington Heights. Mark is also. Mark and I went to high school together. And then we met Erik, who is from New Jersey, through just playing music together. Mark and I are in another band, and I think [our bands] played together at some point.
Erik: Probably at Hipster House in Rockford.
Evan: So yeah, we met him and we just…
Erik: I know when I met you! We were at [a party]. I met you on the Fourth of July cause I’m scared of fireworks. I was drunk and ran into the house when it became dusk, and I said to you, “I’m so afraid!” (laughs)
SH: What is Hipster House?
Evan: It’s like a DIY venue in Rockford.
SH: How long have you guys been playing together?
Erik: Two and half years.
SH: What inspired the name Kittyhawk?
Kate: I think it was really just one of those “this is a word that sounds good” type of things. And I remember always thinking that Kittyhawk, North Carolina was such a whimsical place for an airplane to be invented. How interesting is it that this amazing invention came about in a town with that name! It’s almost like a fairytale. Like, man defies gravity in this place called Kittyhawk! (laughs)
SH: You just released Hello, Again. Tell me about this LP.
Kate: Well, it’s our first actual record, our first LP, first full-length. We have it out on Count Your Lucky Stars Records. Erik’s other band, Dowsing, is also on Count Your Lucky Stars, so we already knew those people and knew that they’d be a good fit for us. It was exciting for me [because] this is the second record I’ve ever put out, but the first that I’ve had so much writing input in.
Erik: It was cool because I feel like most of the bands I’m in, we take forever, well not forever, but it seemed like we wrote it all in a certain time frame, which I liked. We flushed out everything in a moment of time, and we got to preserve that moment. I kind of like that.
Evan: We wrote it really quickly, recorded it really quickly, and then mixed it really, really slowly. (laughs)
SH: What is “Better Homes” about?
Kate: Originally Mark wrote that song, and it had this big open. It was “Better Homes” and “Better Gardens” in one long track, like seven minutes long. I guess we just had to split it in two. Both of them are lyrically about my relationship with my boyfriend and living with him in an apartment. This was the first time that I had ever lived with anyone. He is a touring musician. He plays in Into It. Over It, so when he is touring, he’s away from six to nine months every year. So “Better Homes” is about having a routine at home and trying to figure out the duality of existing with your partner at home. Figuring out how to make those things work together, and how to have some sort of symbiosis without their physical presence.
SH: And “Welcome Home”…is that about your boyfriend coming home? (laughs)
Kate: “Welcome Home” is a little story about someone who has joined maybe like the Heaven’s Gate cult or something. It was meant to be this story about someone who wanted to escape from regular reality or you know, the problems you have in your daily life. And that if you join a thing like [a cult], then there’s this other thing that is so definite to you that you believe in, then what an easy way to escape everything. I think it’s important to believe in things strongly, and to an extent we all have something that we believe in strongly, that is really a distraction from every day life. So I guess [“Welcome Home”] takes that to an extreme.
SH: There’s been a recent emo revival, and you’ve been lumped into the category of emo. How do you feel about this? Do you feel you’re emo?
Erik: Eh, well I think that we’d prefer not to be called emo at this point. I mean I get why. I get it. We all like emo bands. I’m in an emo band, but I think we’re more of an indie pop band.
Evan: I think it’s more of a social association than the actual music that we play.
Erik: Sure, we play guitars heavily here and there. Mark’s not here, but he knows how to rock. I’ll give him that. (laughs)
Kate: I think it’s sort of an interesting time for that right now because it’s very exciting to be in this group of people that all love that type of music. And as Evan said, it is more of a social tag rather than something that describes music sonically. This idea of not being afraid to write about emotional things, taking cues from indie alternative rock from the late 90s and early 2000s, being a person who cares about doing things for themselves and not following some stupid corporate trend, and doing things with a lot of honesty. I think really that’s what the whole thing is about. And that feels really good to me. That feels great! Because there are so many other genres that can so easily fall into this world where you’re being influenced by a lot of different people for the sake of making money. Not to say that bands aren’t things that need money to survive, because they do! But I think that what I’ve always loved so much about emo is that it’s about people being true to themselves, doing what they love, and writing about stuff that’s kind of embarrassing or like not being afraid to be dorky or weird. You know, not having to have this image. It’s just real people doing real stuff.
SH: Yeah, I feel that’s definitely a big thing now. It’s great to see, especially with younger kids not having to fit into a box.
Kate: So if that is what emo still means right now, if that’s what it is, then yeah, we’re totally an emo band!
Erik: I take it back. We’re an emo band! (everyone laughs)
Kate: But like with anything, once it starts getting popular, all of a sudden it starts getting weird. Then maybe you don’t want to be a part of that.
SH: Well, I think you guys stand out because there aren’t a whole lot of female fronted emo bands or emo bands with female members. Emo is rather male dominated, and if you’re emo, then you guys are changing that.
Kate: And you know it’s nice just to see a lot more ladies at shows. I feel like I see a lot more women in general at emo shows now than I ever did before.
SH: Today is the last show of your U.S. tour, but you’ll soon be heading off on a European tour. Do have anything planned for overseas adventures?
Erik: I think we’ll map something out. We’re a big “tour tour” band.
Evan: Yeah, we like doing fun stuff on tour.
Kate: We try to make the most out of seeing a new place. Nobody really minds waking up early to go sneak out.
Evan: Like today, we woke up after three hours of sleeping to go to Denny’s. (everyone laughs)
SH: Was it because you were back in the Midwest?
Evan: Well, the English lads* with us wanted to go to Denny’s really badly.
Kittyhawk will be touring Europe throughout November and December with Dowsing. Perhaps you’ll catch them sneaking out bright and early on a “tour tour” adventure, but you can definitely catch them rocking out. Head over to facebook for tour dates. Hello, Again is available for purchase on iTunes.
*Note: Kittyhawk was on tour with Nai Harvest
Photo Credit: Joseph Klomes & Mitchell Wojcik
After attending The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Sarah went on to study education at Dominican University, earning a degree in history. When not teaching, writing, or taking in a show, she is most likely to be found with a camera to her eye or hanging out in a darkroom.
You can follow Sarah Hess on twitter at @Sarahhasanh and view her music photography on her website: smhimaging.com.