Interview with Katy Mae
While corresponding with vocalist/guitarist/ founding member Phil Doucet via email, he touched upon Katy Mae's influences and style as well as what sets this now quartet apart from the rest of the rough and tumble pack of musicians that hail from the Big
How did you come up with your band's name? The name is based on the Lightnin' Hopkins song, "Katie Mae Blues" He was a Texas musician considered to be the father of country blues. I liked his story and the way he would record for anyone on the spot for money or whiskey.
What sets your band apart from other bands? What I like about our band is that is soley based on songs. Possibly to our detriment, we have never been concerned with image or things like that. It makes it hard, especially in NYC. We try and write the best material we can and present it with no pretense.
How has living in NYC impacted your music? I've lived in NY for 12 years or so and I've never really thought about it. From a songwriting perspective...NY doesn't have any impact. From a personality standpoint...I'm sure a great deal, especially when we tour.
How does a KM song get written? Typically an idea will be brought in, and we'll play with it until it seems right. Regardless of where the seed starts it has to get filtered through the band and thats what makes it a Katy Mae song. The real trick is not letting your brain interfere with your guts.
How has adding a second guitarist affected your music? Hans (2nd gtr) is great, he opens up our sound to brand new ideas. lead lines on top of the main melody, stuff that was impossible to do with one guitar. He is a great musician and his ability to sing as well makes it a lot of fun writng and performing. It has changed the dynamic a bit but like anything new, I feel confident that it will be positive. Our newest songs sound fantastic.
How would you describe your music to someone who never heard you before? In my mind, we are a rock and roll band. We often get lumped into "alt-country", and that's fine, but it is a small part of what we do. What always meant the most to me about rock and roll, is that it can be so many different styles and attitudes. We don't posture to anything specific, but we'll go from "full on" guitar fury like "Let Me Bring You Down", to an acoustic drone song like "Pigtails and Ponyrides" or "Cigarette Song". I'm glad that we can do that and it won't effect our demographics...beause we don't have any.
When I'm not in KM, I'm...? When I'm not doing Katy Mae, I'm being a father to my 16 month daughter. Let me tell you...music is a cakewalk compared to that.
Who are some of your musical influences? Any we'd be surprised by? I grew up with my dad playing The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Meat Loaf, and Elton John in the background, while I would play with my Hot Wheels and Matchbox Cars on the floor. I'm convinced that that firat stuff that gets in your heart has the greatest impact. If I had to, I could listen to the Beatles exclusively for the rest of my life. As bands and songwriters go beyond the Beatles...Hank Williams Sr., Buddy Holly, The Who, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Everly Brothers. I don't consider this a "closet thing", but many people do...I am a huge fan of the Doors, and I don't give a fuck what anybody thinks about it.
Why should we see KM live? If you like our songs on CD or MP3, and you want the, undistilled, unabridged audio experience, come out and see us live. I love records, but when a band can add to that on stage it makes me love that band even more. And hopefully we do that.
What has been your best musical experience thus far? Your worst? The one you've learned the most from? We played a venue in Philadelphia earlier in 2008, World Cafe Live, with Back Door Slam. It is a great big beautiful room with a balcony and it was packed. That experience was pretty special to me. And we sold more CD's than we ever had before at a show. The worst...just the opposite...anytime we've been on tour and had to play for less people than were on the stage. It makes you appreciate those great shows even more, but it also keeps your head in check. It keeps you in balance...you're not as big as you think and your not as small as you think. I learned the most from a band I was in before Katy Mae...lesson learned...never try to grow pot on the dashboard of your van while on tour in Texas!
What are some of the advantages/ disadvantages of being a NY band? I don't know if there are any advantages being in a NYC band. I'd say that for the most part its a disadvantage. There are too many scenesters who want to marginalize the music in New York. There is no community, just trends.
Do you prefer the studio or the stage and why? I love recording and I love playing live equally. They're two different beasts, to succeed at either you need to prepare your mindset accordingly.
What bands are you currently listening to? Current bands I like are Midlake, Centro-Matic, Black Mountain, Bonnie Prince Billy, Drive By Truckers. Older stuff that I've been into lately, The Creedence Clearwater Revival Reissues...amazing sound and amazing music. I'm kinda caught in a Creedence obsession right now...if you don't own any CCR albums, pick up Cosmos Factory, listen to the first track "Ramble Tamble"...if I wanted to summarize a certain facet or aesthetic of what Katy Mae attempts to be, it is in this song.
What are the plans for KM in 2009? We did a residency at The Living Room (NYC) every Friday night. We will be a slightly stripped down set, and I'm very excited about it. It gives us a chance to play our material in a different way, and try out songs that we don't ordinarily do live. Then we leave for week long tour down to Atlanta in late January. We'll being playing in DC the night of the inauguration, which is great. Then in March we'll be heading down to Austin for some SXSW shows. After that I would love to start recording a follow up to the EP we just put out, YOU MAY ALREADY BE A WINNER.