The Cat’s Meow: Kitten Forever to play Kitty Cat Klub

The Minneapolis feminist-punk trio eschews standardized guitar and embrace noise with an empowering sneer.

Kitten Forever singer Laura Larson and guitarist Liz Elton rehearse on Sunday in Uptown. With Corrie Harrigan, the three make up the riot-girl punk band. Their next show is at Dinkytown's Kitty Cat Klub on Tuesday.

Juliet Farmer

Kitten Forever singer Laura Larson and guitarist Liz Elton rehearse on Sunday in Uptown. With Corrie Harrigan, the three make up the riot-girl punk band. Their next show is at Dinkytown's Kitty Cat Klub on Tuesday.

Jared Hemming

On the dashboard of Minneapolis feminist-punk trio Kitten Forever’s touring van sits an eternal cat, made of ceramic with a faded floral print.

According to Laura Larson, the ceramic’s “wretched” look spoke to her and fellow band members Liz Elton and Corrie Harrigan, who picked up the curious kitty, Pe-Ell, at a Value Village in Seattle, Wash.

“He’s got this look on his face — you can project any emotion on him,” Larson said. “Like, ‘oh my god, Pe-Ell is so pissed right now.”

Harrigan agreed. “[Or], ‘look how happy Pe-Ell is.’”

“Sometimes we put a little crown on him, or flowers,” Elton added.

Naming Pe-Ell after a dinky Washington town the band drove through on tour, the cat has sat on the dash ever since. Though he’s been with the band for only two years, Pe-Ell’s become Kitten Forever’s mascot and titular feline.

Adopting the talismeow late in their 9-year career is not the only change Kitten Forever has made since hitting the Minneapolis punk scene in 2006.

The three formed Kitten Forever as a riot grrrl-inspired trio showcasing Elton on vocals, Harrigan on drums and Larson on bass.

While the band’s setup skewed traditional, their roles remained fluid, and before recording their 2013 full-length “Pressure,” Kitten Forever decided to switch instruments for each song.

At shows, the group brings its manic girl-power energy on “Pressure” to life with Elton’s cheerful shout, Larson’s yelping cheerleader sneer and Harrigan’s commanding howl, drawing comparisons to Bikini Kill and Karen O in the process.

Without resorting to using the murky “riot grrrl” tag, the band struggles defining their sound in words.

Genre debates aside, Kitten Forever’s jagged bomp — like old-school proto-punkers the Sonics and the Stooges — stems from limited technical tinkering, giving the band a raw sound.

“A lot of it had to do with us not knowing anything about sound when we started,” Larson said. “We knew what we liked, but we didn’t know how to find it.”

Part of that search ended after Kitten Forever found a telephone-shaped microphone that distorts their vocals, sharpening the edges of tunes like Larson’s “Rat Queen.”

Without a guitar, all three members switch bass parts, which the band connects to a guitar distortion pedal for crisp crunch.

While the lo-fi aesthetic has stayed with the band through the years, it wasn’t intentional, Harrigan said.

“It didn’t start because we were looking for the right tone, it started because that was the guitar pedal in our basement,” Harrigan said, a statement Elton agreed with.

“We didn’t know what we were doing, but the choice to keep those things has been intentional,” Elton said of the band’s minimalist sound.

Fleshing out Kitten Forever’s garage-punk spark is the band’s five-piece drum kit. Staying true to their original basement sessions, Harrigan shrugs at the idea of a hi-hat.

“We didn’t have [a hi-hat] in the basement when I was learning to play drums,” Harrigan said. “We had these five pieces to play drums with, which is all we used.”

Kitten Forever’s riff-based, two-minute punches reflect this instinctual spirit, which is present throughout their two-LP catalog.

“We don’t waste a lot of time perfecting a riff,” Harrigan said. “I don’t know any of the keys the songs are in.”

This low-hassle working style suits the trio, who formed the band amid other pressures with different projects.

“We don’t put pressure on ourselves to come to practice with really good songs,” Harrigan said. “It’s pretty much on-the-fly — someone just plays something …”

“… And then five minutes later, it’s a song,” Larson said.

 

 

 

What: We/Ours, OAKS and Kitten Forever

When: 9:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Kitty Cat Klub, 315 14th Ave. SE, Minneapolis

Cost: Free

Age: 21+