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A Dirty Dozen with JON TUFNELL and KITTY A. AUSTEN from SAINT AGNES – August 2023

| 4 August 2023 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Saint Agnes have released an emotional live video for their poignant new single “This Is Not The End,” a tribute to Kitty A. Austen’s grief for her late mother. The track is taken from the band’s upcoming album Bloodsuckers, out July 21 via Spinefarm. Hailing from the UK, Saint Agnes are all about honest lyrics, intense vocal performances, plus rage-fueled music intended to give a voice to those closer to the fringe than the center. As much gang as band, Saint Agnes seek to empower those who’ve been battered and bruised yet refuse to lie down, and it’s a thread that runs deep within Bloodsuckers — SA’s first album for Spinefarm and the follow-up to 2019’s Welcome To Silvertown, issued on the band’s own label.” We get Jon & Kitty to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release. What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through? Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Jon: Yes, that is something we have done on every release. From subtle hints at melodies to be used on future songs, to outright backwards messages.

Kitty: Bloodsuckers was created in the months, the year, following the sudden and unexpected death of my mother. I was either struggling to get out of bed or I was recording the album in that time. So the album is incredibly raw and very emotional. It’s got extremes on there, rage, sadness but also hope and joy. When you’re grieving, your lows are very, very low but your highs are incredibly euphoric too, it’s a very surreal, strange time and the album really captures that moment in my life.

2. What got you into music and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Kitty: My dad is a musician and so I grew up in a house with instruments around me and music always being played or written so it wasn’t really a conscious decision, it was as natural as anything else you’re around when you’re a kid. It’s your normal. My brother, naturally, plays music too and we were in bands together growing up, swapping instruments and roping our mates in. When I turned 18 I escaped from the countryside to East London and joined a band and started touring the UK and Europe straight away and that’s when I felt like I’d come home. Being on the road, having these adventures with your gang and getting to play shows – every night a different city, nothing is better than that. I’ve been doing it for a while now and the thrill is exactly the same as the first time.

Jon: I had a few formative experiences, the first being a little kid in my first trip to the cinema and seeing Back To The Future. The “Johnny B. Good” scene blew my mind and I was obsessed with obnoxiously inappropriate guitar playing ever since. I think playing my own songs for the first time in a band as a teenager, hearing it become more than the sum of its parts and seeing the audience react was magical. I have been combining these two experiences ever since.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Jon: White Zombie on the album Astro Creep 2000. They  seemed so alien, I felt I had no point of reference for them, so they were able to make their own rules. This “otherness” really appealed to me as it resonated deeply. As soon as I could play guitar I was writing, I had no desire to learn flashy tricks, I just wanted to make riffs and sounds that’d soundtrack what was in my head. White Zombie were the first band I heard that had the heaviness I loved in metal bands, but stripped it of any musical ego, just cut all the fat and jammed simple riffs that they made 100% theirs with their unique playing character. I realised when I tried to play their songs that it was really hard to make them sound right despite the musical simplicity and in the process discovered how important an individual’s character is to the sound of music and how much that appealed to me. Do simple things, but in the way only I could do them. It was a revelation.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Jon: Trent Reznor. From listening to his work and reading interviews I think we approach music in a similar “anything goes” way as long as it serves the mood of the song. His production techniques of taking things in an unconventional, but brilliant direction are incredible and I’d learn everything I could.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour? What do you like to do to unwind?

Kitty: Being out in nature is a great way to reconnect with something much bigger than yourself and remember that you’re not the center of the universe (just a silly band!) Me, Jon, and Andy all surf and often jump in a car and drive down to Devon and get in the water. No matter what the weather is like, or how cold the sea is, I just love being in the water feeling the power of the waves. With music I have high expectations for myself and my ability, but I put no pressure on my surfing, I just embrace it fully and have no need to be good to feel the benefit which is really relaxing for my brain.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Kitty: If you’re a woman in rock music there’s literally like three singers you’ll be compared to over and over. Lazy comparisons always say more about the writer than they do about me, but it always makes me cringe regardless.

Jon: Describing your own music is always really hard as to us it is a whole world, a whole life to sum up. Its always easier from the outside. But if you take the intense punk metal elements of early Nine Inch Nails, the garage darkness of The Dead Weather and the not giving a fuckness of PJ Harvey you’d have a starting point.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Kitty: I like to cook, but Jon likes it even more, so he’s the band chef. All three of us are agreed that a  huge character flaw is to not get the rounds in at the pub, so we have that pretty balanced. The acoustic guitar singalong is a pet hate of mine, so that never happens. I veto the acoustic sing alongs. Andy and me both love ABBA so often we’ll do an acapella medley of ABBA Gold in the van, that or a much more depressing Mark Lanegan medley. We do also all love to dance, any opportunity we get to cut loose on a dancefloor, the three of us take it with a lot of enthusiasm.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

Kitty: Oh god, Peter Hayes backstage at a BRMC gig. I had just watched them perform one of the most beautiful, jaw dropping and inspiring sets of my life and I bumped into him coming off the stage as we headed to our own van. I panicked and gave him a double thumbs up and said “great show, really cool.” so awkwardly. He openly laughed in my face. (In a nice way, I think he felt sorry for me).

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Kitty: I make art and I write a lot, if I could make money from that, I’d be pretty happy.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Jon: Definitely tired of answering where the band name comes from. We have been asked in nearly every interview for years and just started making up answers. But it continued and even that got boring, so we just tell it as quickly as possible.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Kitty: No, everything we’ve done felt good at the time and is all part of the journey. I’d say that it has taken me a long time to learn about myself, what I like and don’t like, figure out who I am, what my boundaries are and to trust myself too. I feel more comfortable and strong now than I ever have done and I think the art just gets better the more authentic a place it comes from. But I look back really fondly on everything I did when I was younger, and I’m proud of the person who did it: it’s the story of me figuring stuff out and fighting to find my voice. I wouldn’t be here now without her carving a path then.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Jon: It’d be cool to be around for the making of Metallica’s Black Album. Seeing something so musically important, sonically impressive and painstakingly produced would be incredible. Plus I love Lars and he was in peak “cocky, but lovable” mode back then. I’d also make sure I added a small detail to a song so I got a songwriting credit and never have to work again.

Kitty: I’d love to be in the studio with Otis Redding recording anything, I’d just sit quietly in the corner and soak it up. Some music has the ability to reach through time and do something to you and Otis Redding heals me a little every time I put a record on, every time I hear his voice.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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