Saint Agnes 2023 Photo : ©Blackham Images

INTERVIEW — Kitty and Jon from Saint Agnes about touring and creating music

We had the pleasure to interview Kitty and Jon from the band Saint Agnes before their BLOODSUCKERS UK/EU tour that will start in a couple of weeks!

SOB : First of all, congratulations! We just saw you guys were booked for Hellfest festival in France. It’s amazing. And it’s the main stage!

JON and KITTY : Yeah. Yeah. So excited.

JON : Very excited. You know, already feeling a little bit of nerves.

SOB : Congrats again. How are you guys?

JON : Good. Yeah. We’re well. Thank you. Just very busy. Busy all the time. Music? Yeah.

SOB : It’s a big moment for you guys because the deluxe version of the album just came out. Can you tell us a bit about why a deluxe version of this album?

KITTY : Yeah. It was really nice to go back and record some more music for the album. Because albums, you know, they’re a relatively short form. It’s like 11 songs. It never feels like enough. You never feel like you get to properly explore all of the ideas you want to, I think.

JON : I think most artists would happily do like a triple album.

KITTY : Yeah, exactly. It was really nice and we really wanted to go back and take some of the songs and rework them and explore like different sounds and yeah, it was cool.

JON : Even the live version of This Is Not The End felt like we really wanted that to be something that people could actually listen to because we recorded that when we did the video for it. And as soon as we had recorded it and mixed it, we were like, well, this should be heard more than just someone having to watch a video. And then that gave us the idea of, well, let’s do some more music for the record. And as Kitty said, exploring the songs but not changing the fundamental meaning behind those songs with the remixes, but looking at how can you dig deeper into the feeling by slightly reworking something? And yeah, I’m really happy they don’t just feel like remixes where it’s something that you can dance to. You know, that’s not the intention. The intention was how can we explore the feeling behind the song in a unique way?

SOB : You were talking about the feeling that it’s never enough or it’s a really short media. Do you think that in the future your albums may be longer? Is it something that you want to do eventually?

KITTY : Probably not because I think it’s self-indulgent, really. Like we want to do it, but you can’t expect a listener to, you know. I love The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails, which is like a double album, isn’t it? 20 something songs. I think for some fans, they love that opportunity to dig deeper. But I think for most fans it’s a lot to ask of someone, and especially now with the way that music is consumed, like streaming. Do people even really listen to records? Like, not really.

JON : You’re constantly weighing up between what you want to say and also what you actually want heard because you think, this is something I really want to say and I feel is important, but if it’s track ten on an album, you just know with the way things are now, way less people will listen to it. And then that feels like a little bit of your soul that you’ve put out there that was just as valuable as track one on the record, but has been kind of not as, um, looked at and you think, how can we constantly make sure that each of these things that we love can be served best? But who knows, the next record might be short. It might be really long. We really don’t know at this stage.

SOB : Are EP more suitable with the way people listen to music nowadays?

JON : We’ve done a couple of EPs in the past and we’ve really enjoyed that process. But I think the next record is still going to be an album format, but how exactly that’s going to be, we don’t know. It’s too early for us to say.

SOB : How do you feel about the 2024 tour that’s coming?

KITTY : Really excited because we haven’t done a headline tour in like a long time.

JON : Since 2022.

KITTY : And we’re just so keen to get out and play this record to people. We’ve started already putting a set list together and crafting the set and thinking about lights and thinking about how we want it to be. And we’re just we’re really excited. I think one of the main things about this tour that we’ve been talking about a lot is, because this record for me was very emotional and personal, it was a way of putting all these difficult feelings I had into the art, into the music, and it really helped me. It made us think that with this tour, we really want it to be a space where people can come and just let go and feel whatever they need to feel in like a very safe place to do it. Like if you want to feel angry and there’s a mosh pit, you want to crowd surf, that’s great. If you want to just like, cry, that’s great. Like, if you just want to stand and feel joyous and happy, that’s great. We just really want the BLOODSUCKERS‘ tour to be a place where the fans can come and just feel, you know, let go. It’s an evening where you’re just going to feel everything. That’s what we’re trying to create.

JON : Because it’s been such a personal record for Kitty. It’s not about saying « you have to feel how Kitty feels ». The record is about Kitty saying: this is how I feel. And then the listener can hear what resonates with them. I know for me that if I hear a really angry song sometimes, it makes me really happy because it’s so exciting and it’s so liberating to release the anger. Other times it does make you feel angry, and another time it might make you feel sad that you have this anger in you. And all of those things are valid. And I don’t think it’s up to an artist to tell people, you should feel this, you should feel that. And I think as a band, it’s something that we’ve really learned by seeing how our audiences varied the reaction to our music and how intense it is and personal, and how the connection that Kitty totally throws herself into the performance every night is emotionally draining. We feel a responsibility to open that door to the people who are coming to see us, that they can enjoy it in their own, and intense way.

À l'occasion du Bloodsuckers Tour 2024, Saint Agnes sera en concert à Paris dans la salle Les Étoiles le 6 février.

SOB: The venues you chose play a big part in the atmosphere/experience of the concert. How do you search those venues?

JON : We’ve done a lot of gigs as a band in a lot of various places. We’ve played the main stage at Download Festival, and we’ve played in a garden to a load of punks in Italy and everything in between, and whatever the situation, we always really are trying to convey the same message. So yes, it’s important each venue has its own atmosphere, but we will always do our best to bring what we think is important to it. And it is about the music. It is about how you carry yourself and really think. It’s about what’s in your inside and your intention. I think that people, human beings, are very capable of picking up on authenticity and picking up on emotion. And if you see a performer and whether there’s the most amazing light show or there’s hardly anything happening, if they’re delivering something that matters to them with heart, I think that always wins, and we’re very lucky that Kitty, as our front person, is so capable of engaging emotionally with the songs.

SOB : That’s an awesome compliment.

KITTY : Yeah haha

SOB : Is there some things that you like more than others during the tour?

KITTY : It really is the show. You know, we don’t go on tour to party and have a good time. It might have used to be more about that when we were younger, but as I’ve gotten a bit older and I’ve been doing this quite a long time, it just is all about the show. Like the only satisfaction I get on tour is when we delivered a great show. The satisfaction of that is so much deeper and more long lasting than just wanting to drink or have a good time. I’m not saying that we don’t drink and have a good time. But the focus is always on tonight, all day we talk about it in the van. We look at the set list. We talk about what didn’t go so great last night, what worked really well. Every day in the van we are discussing how do we make tonight better? How can we improve? How can we connect more? How can we blah blah blah.

JON : We do enjoy as like secondary thing, getting to travel and getting to see places, getting to eat. As a band, we all really like food. We like cooking and stuff. So it’s kind of nice to go around the world, and it’s great when we meet people who are similar to us and we have a day off and there’s a promoter who’s like, you have to come with me to try the food at this place. We love all of those things, those personal connections, and we love with the fans. After shows. You know, sometimes you can play a gig in a pretty horrible venue. It’s maybe not been loads of people there that night, like they can be lots of problems or the van broke down. But if you’re playing and afterwards you speak to 2 or 3 people who feel passionate and they felt more alive because of something. You did that to be honest, the satisfaction. It’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche because it’s true for artists. It feels amazing.

KITTY : Just the fact that we’ll play in some small town in Germany, you know, and there’ll be fans of ours there. I still find that just mind blowing. Like you’re singing my lyrics like, back to me. What? I still think I’ll always find that just crazy.

SOB : Do you have a dream collaboration for an album or a tour ?

JON : I mean, Nine Inch Nails would be pretty much like a dream collaboration, although it might be one of those situations where we would be pretty overwhelmed. I feel like if I was involved in such a collaboration, all I could do would be slightly spoil it. And I’d probably rather just hear a new Nine Inch Nails album than be involved in it in some ways.That’s something that would be incredible. But there’s a lot of bands that we’re fans of, bands like Ho99o9, that’s a band that we played with once before, and it would be great to tour with a band like them. We love The Prodigy and they’re a big inspiration. But I think as a band we’re quite insular, Kitty and I are quite private. We’re not necessarily the most sociable of people. And so our main focus is on making our own music. We did have the exception with Mimi Barks sang on one song on the record, on Body Bag, and that came about because we did a tour in the UK and we needed a support band for the tour, and we were looking and came across Mimi and really liked the music. We really just liked her work ethic. There’s a lot of smaller bands in the UK that may be in it for kind of just for fun but I felt like she had something she wanted to say, and she was working really hard to put it out there. And we really respected that because that’s how we see ourselves. And so there was kind of a meeting of minds, and by the end of that tour, she had come up and sung songs with us. Anyway, each night on stage, it kind of seemed like a natural fit for her to sing on a song on the album. And Body Bag is a minute and a half of kind of raging noise, and it made sense that that’s the one that’s going to suit her voice best.

SOB : It was spontaneous.

JON : So pretty spontaneous. Yeah.

KITTY : Kind of organic thing that happens. Yeah.

Saint Agnes - Body Bag Feat. Mimi Barks (Official Video)

SOB : Speaking about smaller bands, do you have some recommendations of UK bands, upcoming bands?

JON : There’s a few bands. There’s a band called BEX. Slightly industrial grunge, they’re a good band. CRASHFACE is another good band. Younger, energetic, kind of prodigy influenced rock.

SOB : Thank you, we’ll definitely check them out !

SOB : How did your musical style evolve from the time you started the band to now ? And where will it lead?

KITTY : When we started out, it was quite different. It was kind of like blues. I’d say we were like a punk blues garage rock band. We started playing shows and we were playing those songs in a very Metal way. We were playing like with slide guitar and these kind of quite classic harmonica, like blues instruments. We didn’t know what we were going to be like. But when we got on stage, we found ourselves feeling like very aggressive and delivering these songs in quite an inappropriate way for what we were playing.

JON : We were like the Slipknot of blues punk.

KITTY : At the time there was the psychedelic scene in London and shoegaze scene, which is very like restrained and like shoegazing. We were very different to that. We were in people’s faces, getting in the audience, it was very inappropriate. And that kind of led us to think we should make heavier music. We realised, this is actually what we want to do. We love it when the crowd loses themselves and everyone’s going wild. So we kind of started writing music for live. That was the inspiration, what will work well on stage. It’s just gone from there, right?

JON : Yeah, definitely. It has evolved very naturally. We haven’t really made a specific decision. And the first album that we did is quite clearly different to what we’re doing now. For all the reasons that Kitty just said, because we wrote it before we’d really done much, it was just kind of an experiment. We didn’t have any ideas beyond just we wanted to make a record that sounded how we wanted it to sound, and we hadn’t played together that much as a band. But then after lots of touring and stuff, we then came back and as Kit said, we wrote songs more for the live environment, and that first EP that we did is called The Family Strange, and I think there’s a very obvious line from that EP to where we are now. I think if you were to listen to that EP, the next EP and our album now, you would hear a clear progression that kind of makes sense. That first album was definitely sort of an anomaly, really, but it was something that allowed us just to feel totally free. You know? We weren’t part of any scene. We were a kind of a fly in the ointment of London rock music. At that point, we used to say we were a psychedelic band so we could get gigs and then turn up, and we really were not a psychedelic band.

SOB : We wanted to ask about the vocals you are doing on this album. It’s pretty raw and harsh so we imagine you have to train not to hurt your voice, right ?

KITTY : I kind of had to sing the songs and hurt my voice, and then I’ve had to learn how to sing them in a way that doesn’t hurt my voice. Because when we recorded the vocals my mum had passed away and we started making the record like straight away after that. So I was in a very difficult place. I was grieving, I was devastated, and so the vocal performances were done in like 1 or 2 takes per song because I couldn’t do it. I was opening myself up emotionally when we were making the record that I just couldn’t do it for long periods of time. So I would just sing and then be like, I just can’t do any more today. Like, that’s it for today. I was absolutely going for it, because I knew that I didn’t have it in me. So I was like, this take has to count. I can’t do multiple takes. This has to count. So yeah, it was tough. I’d have to recover as well between singing and I’ve really had to work hard this year to figure out how to deliver in a way that’s as energetic and raw, but is safe in my voice.

JON : When you’re creating art in the moment, you’re just trying to engage with an emotion and just trying to capture that. In the recording, you’re not thinking about, how are we going to do this? When we’re putting the set together, realising this set is intense, it’s physically quite demanding but that’s part of it. You know, you. I think some of it, the fight of it, the fight of having to push yourself also makes it feel more authentic. Doing it forces you to forget yourself and really live in the moment when you’re performing.

SOB : It is important to take care of your health, what do you do to reconnect with yourselves during those times?

KITTY : We live in the countryside now. And before we were in the city, in London, in east London, and we moved out. That’s had a huge effect on both of us, on our kind of staying healthy and happy, because living in the city, it’s tough. I think living in London in particular, the people, the noise, how dirty it is, it’s relentless on your senses. And now we live somewhere where when we look out the window and there’s deer like in the field opposite, it’s just lovely.

JON : Yeah, it really makes a big difference because if you’re living in London, as a musician, you don’t have much money and it’s hard enough living in London if you have some money. And then when the pandemic happened, we were like, this is just too much. And where we lived, the exact area of London was the total epicentre of the UK kind of problems with the pandemic. So it was just a frightening time. So we moved out and we feel way better. So our way to kind of relax and reconnect really is just to kind of like look around where we are and feel some level of peace from that. And really music is work, but mostly it’s just what we gravitate. Music is the thing we do to make ourselves feel healthy.

SOB : Time for one last question. What’s your next big dream or big goal for the band?

KITTY : I just want to play to more people. That’s kind of my main driver, playing Hellfest is just incredible. And just more of that, you know, I just want to play these big stages because the set that we’re crafting deserves to be on a big stage. What I’m kind of envisioning, and that’s what I want to do, is just play more festivals, really just be able to connect with more people.

SOB : Do you have more festivals coming next year?

KITTY : We do, but we can’t say. But we will play in Paris on the 6th of February 2024.

SOB: We’ll be there !



Photo : ©Blackham Images

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