What’s in store with your set today?
Zan: We haven’t written it yet, so we don’t know. On this tour we’ve been letting the fans pick the songs each night, with a little help from us. We’ve been trying to include everyone’s suggestions, so we’ve been playing a different set each night. There’ll certainly be a lot from our album, Sequins and C-Bombs, and there will probably be some old ones. Hopefully there’ll be lots of singing along.
Jen: Yes, that’s what we want. We hope Birmingham are up for it!
You guys released Sequins and C-Bombs last month. How do you feel that the general reaction has been to the new album?
Timia: Amazing. Way more amazing than I ever dared to dream, and I’m sure that the other two would agree.
Zan: We’ve sold loads of them and that’s a good thing. We haven’t really seen any bad reviews yet and the fans have certainly let us know what they think. So far it’s all been really positive, so it seems to have gone really well.
Jen: It’s a relief!
Timia: It’s always a bit of a gamble to release a record on your own independently, so it seems to be going really well.
Your previous EP is called Just The Tip, which is something that they say in the TV show Archer. Are you fans of the show?
Zan: Yes we are! That’s a long running innuendo joke. There’s always innuendo jokes with us. Basically, if I can say “That’s what she said” at the end of anything, I will.
Timia: I don’t think she’s ever going to grow out of it. I think we’re stuck with it forever.
Jen: Even if she doesn’t say it out loud, she’s saying it in her head.
Zan: Most of the time I’m saying it out loud.
You run workshops where people can learn to sing in the same style as you. Can you tell me a bit about that?
Jen: We’ve only just started our Sing Like A Kitten workshop this year. It’s where we take arrangements from all of the years that we’ve been doing this, and pick the ones that we think would work best in a choir format. People come and sing with us and they will sit in a harmony part depending on whether they want to sing like Zan; the pink kitten, Timia, the blue kitten or me; the red kitten. Then we teach them one of our songs, so that they can literally sing like a kitten.
Timia: Jen leads the choir from up front and Zan and I sit amongst the people to encourage them and sing along.
Zan: We’ve only done one so far; but we’ve got another one at the end of next week and one in December. So far they’ve been really popular, and it’s just a nice day for us to hang out and meet some of the fans and also get people singing; which is a really important thing.
Jen: It’s interesting to hear our arrangements in a choir setting as well. It’s an amazing experience.
Zan: We let the attendees choose from a selection of songs. The first song we did was I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, and hearing that sang back at us by the end of the afternoon was just amazing.
Do you think that you might bring it to Birmingham at some point?
Zan: Yes. We’d really like to bring one further up North. Unfortunately we’ve been trying to fit them in around our tour dates and we have to fit it in on a weekend. It’s a bit much to fit it in on a day that we’ve got a show on the evening, because obviously we have a lot of other things to do in the afternoon like sound check. So we haven’t been able to fit one in yet around here; but hopefully will do next year, if people are interested.
The songs that you cover are originally very different to your own unique style. Is it difficult to get the harmonies sounding right for you when you begin to arrange a song?
Jen: Do you know what? I find the harmonies really easy to do, but it’s finding the style in which we want to change the original or even just pay homage to the original that is difficult. You have to find the right style to fit. Once you’ve got all the chords that you want to use and the harmonic structure on the piano, the harmonies just fall out.
Timia: It’s tricky trying to find the vibe. It’s like ‘Ok, here’s this song originally and it’s really heavy’. Then you think, ‘What are we going to do with this?’ Once you’ve got a plan in place, you get the piano laid down and then it’s ok.
Do you find you have to re-arrange songs a lot?
Timia: The whole thing. Each song gets ripped apart and then built back up again.
Jen: It’s not all the time. Sometimes there are songs that quite literally just fall out. Sometimes it’s a bit like ‘What if we try this?… Oh that works.’ Then bam! It’s done. In terms of changing the arrangement from the original, it’s always going to be a bit different. With certain songs like Africa for example, we didn’t want to change it too much. The original is so epic and important to so many people that we didn’t want to change it that much. There’ll always be an element of change in the arrangement, as that’s what we do; but sometimes we just want to keep it like the original arrangement and do our own version.
Have you ever tried to cover a song that just hasn’t worked?
Zan: All the time. There’s always ones that just don’t quite work, or you can’t get it to do what you want it to do. It also might just be a nice version of a song, but not necessarily exciting for singing or watching. There’s quite a lot of them on our repertoire list that we don’t play very often. They’re not really that exciting to listen to, so there’s always going to be a lot of other stuff that we’d rather perform instead of those.
Timia: Yeah, they always get relegated to B squad or C squad; so they don’t really get played that often.
What has been the strangest or funniest thing that you’ve ever seen on tour?
Zan: Not a lot. We’re so boring on tour. I wish you could see the reality.
Timia: The reality of the mange-tout and hummus.
Zan: We just got really excited today, because we can put our diet cokes in a fridge!
Jen: That’s the reality of it.
Timia: Jen fell over.
Zan: Yes, Jen fell over the other day during load in; so that was quite funny. Stupid stuff happens to us all the time, but nothing particularly outrageous. The fans do cool and outrageous things. In Nottingham we had fans providing us with pyrotechnics during our Rammstein cover by the use of party poppers. They timed them perfectly for the moments that went ‘Bang! Bang!’. We’ve also had people bring us gifts. We’ve had embroidered hats and tour branded bottle openers. On this tour people keep bringing us presents, which is really lovely.
Jen: We had chocolates!
Zan: We had a circle pit in Leeds. A lounge circle pit! We also had projectile vomiting during one of the shows, but not from us!
Timia: We actually don’t drink before a show as well as we take what we do very seriously. If we drink then we won’t sound as good and then people will complain. Touring in reality is a lot of sitting quietly in a van driving places and then sitting quietly looking at our phones and nibbling some food when we’re there.
Zan: If we’re really lucky and we’re pushing the boat out then we might have a hot honey and lemon.
Everyone knows that you are The Lounge Kittens, but if you had to choose a favourite animal; what would it be?
Flamingo? That’s the same colour as your hair.
Zan: That is just pure coincidence. The hair came first before the Flamingo. If I could make my own animal; I’d choose a Flamingo crossed with a T-Rex probably! It’d be called a Flamingo Rex.
Jen: A T-go. A Tamingo. A Tamingo sounds like you Timia!
Zan: Actually Flamingo Rex would be a really good drag name.
Timia: It does. That’s your drag name now, Zan.
You started the band as a bit of fun doing covers of things like We Like To Party by The Vengaboys. However, it’s grown to be a huge thing now though; with support slots with bands such as Steel Panther, The Darkness and Status Quo and festival appearances. Did you ever expect it to become this big?
Zan: No. I don’t think that anyone ever does really. That’s not why you start a band. We literally started the band thinking that we’d play at some pubs in Southampton and some weddings and parties to earn a little bit of extra money. Mostly we did it just to get together as a social and fun thing for the three of us; then it turned out that other people wanted to come and watch us.
Timia: It was like ‘What? We’re going to need a bigger boat.’
Zan: It’s just constantly evolving around us. We’re always having to make things bigger and make things more sparkly. It all came as a surprise. We were totally bind-sighted by it, and we just feel like we’ve spent the last three years going ‘Oh really? Ok, we’ll do that. Ok, if you really want us to, then sure.’ It’s pretty magical in that way.
You perform a wide variety of songs; which seems to indicate that you have rather varied musical tastes. What sort of artists inspired you while growing up?
Zan: I went through all the phases really. I started with The Beatles, and went through a Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan sort of phase. I then got into Indie; which was massive when I was younger, along with Britpop. Then I went through that and into the world of metal, but I’ve always had this wonderful streak of pop in me as well; a well written pop song is great.
Jen: I’ve always had music in my household. One of the first albums that I can remember listening to was AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. My dad loves AC/DC! There’s always been rock in my house; but I’ve done music since I was four years old, so I’ve always been very interested in classical music as well. I also like jazz, Motown and classical singers too. Eva Cassidy is my vocal idol; I absolutely love her, but I’ve also got Aretha Franklin on the other side. They’re totally different worlds, but they’re just as good as each other. It was always the kind of thing that I needed to keep quiet at school, because most of the other kids were all into garage and chart stuff. That’s just not my thing, so I was always a bit of an outsider when it came to music. With me there was always things like rock, metal and pop; but then there was also ‘musician’s music’ underneath all that.
Timia: I grew up with a lot of classic rock in the house; but I also super loved punk, pop-punk, ska-punk, reggae, ragga and that whole route. I love dance music, hard house, jump-style, techno; which is all quite different. Now I’m super into the whole trap movement. However; I actually learnt how to harmonise through musical theatre. I went to theatre school from a really young age; so that was all about being on a stage, performing and learning how harmonies work.
Zan: I didn’t do any of that. I was the kid standing in my bedroom singing along to Motown songs, pretending I was a big black woman!
Timia: That’s still performing though. It’s just you’re performing to yourself and not on stage.
Zan: I always say that I like good music. Music is genreless; it doesn’t matter where it came from. If it’s good music, then it’s fine with me. There’s no guilty pleasures here with The Lounge Kittens; we lay everything out on the table.
What’s next for the band this year? Have you got any more touring planned?
Zan: We’ve got Status Quo in December. We’ll finish this tour and have a couple of weeks to re-set and sort ourselves out for that; then we’ll spend the whole of December on the road with them and REO Speedwagon. Then we’ll have a sleep, because it’s been a really big year. We’re going to have most of January off, then re-group and work out what’s going to happen next; so we’ll see what happens next year.
Photo by Paul Harries