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Introducing Kitten Heel: redefining cowbell and ’80s new wave

Kitten Heel’s debut single Peephole Gallery sits at a unique intersection between punk and new wave, boasting a very polished, very edgy sound. The song is rooted in off-kilter synths, slightly left-of-field percussion, and a romp of angular riffs. It’s quite honestly the best cowbell cameo we’ve caught since Christopher Walken took it on.

If you’ve got a fever, Peephole Gallery may be the prescription you’re after.

Kitten Heel have found their groove and hit their stride hard. Peephole Gallery is the outcome of much contemplation, a considered romp through ’80s new wave attitudes.

Comprised of Jareth Leslie-Evans, Jourdain Vitiello, Mitch Fisher, Ellis Birkby, and Felix Smith, Kitten Heel are relative newcomers. Jareth and Jourdian spent three years refining the band’s sound before dropping Peephole Gallery.

While Jareth refers to those years as “procrastination”, it’s clear they’ve lent the band a considered edge. Every note is struck with intention.

“Jourdain and I met at uni. I’d just left a band and had started writing demos for a new project – not really knowing where it was going. I asked Jourdain to collab and we bonded over mutual influences. That was three years ago, so we’ve been procrastinating for a while.”

Those mutual influences, centred mostly in ’80s new wave, create the foundation of Kitten Heel’s sound, subliminally seeping into their approach to songwriting.

“We love the ’80s new wave stuff. Byrne and Eno obviously. While it doesn’t really surface in our music I love the chaos in James Chance’s output. Though we have a lot of influences.

“The mid 2000s indie scene had a big impression on me when I was in high school. I guess I traced back their influences a bit. Synth Pop – Cabaret Voltaire, OMD, New Order etc.”

Kitten Heel are a Wollongong band, but seem to subvert the heady, garage surf rock the city’s music scene centres on. Jareth attributes this to age, amongst other things.

“Jourdain and I write and record everything ourselves so a lot of importance is placed on production. Hence the reason things have taken so long. Everything is very intentional. I don’t think we’re trying to distance ourselves from Wollongong’s sound, it’s just the way it’s played out. Though it’s definitely not a beachy sound for mine – that’s not really for us. I’m 27 and pretty set in my ways so that might have something to do with it, ha!”

As for the cowbell in Peephole Gallery, Jareth said that physicality plays an important role in the band’s production. They’d rather bring a bunch of instruments to stages and studios in lieu of soft synths.

“We have a lot of percussion in our music. We’re big fans of it. Even the guitars act as percussive elements. We have a bunch of synths, all of which accompany us on stage. In production we prefer to use hardware and hands-on instruments, rather than soft synths. I guess the tangibility is appealing to us, the musicality of it all feels better as well.”

The future is certainly looking bright for Kitten Heel. Their debut record Club Dust is set to drop soon, and they’ve got a spate of shows coming up. Definitely watch this space.

“Yes lots of new music. We’ve been sitting on this stuff for far too long. Peephole Gallery is the first single off our debut record – to be released later this year. We’re well into production on our second full length as well. So lots to share.”

 

If you’d like to catch Kitten Heel live, they’re doing “a sing release of sorts” at The Lansdowne on Sunday April 28. Find the event details here.

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April 19, 2019