“We’re like an alternative version of The Andrews Sisters”, is how The Lounge Kittens would describe themselves – if The Andrews Sisters traded their carefully coiffed hair for neon; if they ditched the ditties for comedic, genre-spanning covers from System of a Down to Usher with their own cabaret flair. After a tumultuous period that could have seen the end of The Lounge Kittens, they’ve instead returned with their latest EP, ‘Have Another…’ and a UK tour to boot.
As a cover band, The Lounge Kittens have an overwhelming source of material at their fingertips. When asked how they discriminated between tracks for ‘Have Another…’, they are as sharp as you like: “They’re songs we like – done!”. They cared to expand, explaining that “each of the tracks came about in a slightly different way. Some were written specifically for the EP; ‘Love Walked In’, for example, was written for our friends’ wedding, as a gift to them. We loved singing it so much, we decided to record it.”
Making an unexpected appearance is The Lounge Kittens’ cover of Jimmy Eat World’s ‘The Middle’. Putting their own jaunty spin on the pop-punk classic, with a tongue-in-cheek a cappella rendition of the electric guitar, ‘The Middle’ has become “a bit of an anthem among the fans”, they assure us.
Despite having been in the repertoire for years, and falling out of the live setlist, The Lounge Kittens almost neglected to give it an overdue revival if it weren’t for the input of friend and YouTube channel manager, Lee. After playing the rough, uncut tracks that would later form ‘Have Another…’, “he asked what we were going to do for ‘The Middle’. At first, we had nothing planned because for us it was quite an old song, and not as technically complicated as some of our newer material. We’d written it off as just a song on the EP. He told us we were missing a trick; it was one the fans have always loved. That was when he said ‘Why don’t you do a 360 video and put the fans literally in the middle?’” What followed was a panoramic music video that was a meta dream: as witty as The Lounge Kittens themselves. “We should listen to Lee more!”, they laugh.
How do they finalise a decision between the three of them for what songs to use? “We fight,” is how they put it, plainly. “We usually try and gather a cross-section of genres because we like to give people something a little bit different. We’ll usually have two metal songs together, and then counterbalance them with a dance song, or a pop song. Once we’ve recorded them, we usually take away a list of the songs each, and make what we will of them separately and try and make a playlist.” Like all bands, compromise is the very stuff of their work.
“‘Violent Pornography’ was going to be on the debut album, but we thought it might be a little risqué for that, so we’ve saved it for our second – which is not rude at all!”, they confess, with only the smallest hint of sarcasm.
After the release of their debut album, ‘Sequins & C-Bombs’, in 2016, The Lounge Kittens disappeared for a year. “We all suffer with mental health, and have done for our entire lives,” they admit. After a series of creatives taking their own lives after losing the battle with their own mental health issues, The Lounge Kittens have been among the chorus of emerging voices willing to start a conversation about it. “We wanted to try and reach out to people who are struggling – or people who know those who are – and make sure they know it’s okay not to be okay. It was also the timing of it. We disappeared for a year because we all went through a really rough time. We talked about it in our shows, later on, and explained to people quite frankly what had been going on. It has been received really well. Individually, we’ve always been very open about our mental health, but last year we weren’t even sure if there was going to be a band anymore. When we came back with a new EP and tour, we agreed we would tell the fans and not hide it. There was no use pretending everything is always glitter and light – sometimes it’s hard for everybody on all sides of the scale.”
The Lounge Kittens’ have far more than a fanbase, but something of a community. “We’ve had lovely messages from fans sharing their stories about their own struggles. We’ve always said you’re never alone at a Lounge Kittens show. People have made friends through our band. I think that’s happening more and more: people are connecting with each other, and starting that conversation. We feel like it’s something working in all directions. They talk about how our music has changed their lives, and how it helps them get through the day. We’re just doing this because we love it, but to see such a positive reaction from someone we have never met is so rewarding.”
The Lounge Kittens’ appeal is found in the way they delight to toy with genre, upcycling the antiquated classics and giving them a loving dusting off. They breathe colour and new life into the work: they have fun, with table-dancing glee. It’s not that they don’t care who’s watching – they want you all to watch.
Words: Sophie Walker | Interview: Anthony Neylon