words by victoria parkey
When Kitty – then making music under the name Kitty Pryde – released Okay Cupid in 2012 as a fresh faced 17 year old with a Macbook covered in Lisa Frank stickers she embodied the messy, DIY internet culture of the time. Since then, her sound has evolved and matured and five years on she’s just released her debut album, Miami Garden Club. The record is a near perfect blend of dreamy enigmatic pop – equal parts sunbaked and trashy, sticky floored 3am club songs, marrying 80s inspired beats with lyrics that will resonate with any of us stumbling our way through the 2010s (see: Mass Text Booty Call).
She deftly blends moments of real emotion throughout the album alongside humorous lines and interludes and more experimental production, creating a collage of songs that set her up in a good position to shed the teenage YouTube persona she’s become known for and reinvent herself as a certified pop star.
With the album now released, we spoke to Kitty about the roads which led to Miami Garden Club, her attempts at leaving the past behind, and how backing yourself is often the most important thing you can do. Check it out below.
Does living in Florida has a direct influence on the sound you make?
Yeah, definitely. [There are] a lot of influences from ‘80s and ‘90s pop music, and I think during those times Florida was a lot more glamourous. Now it’s the place where everyone’s like “Oh god, horrible things happen in Florida!” but 20, 30 years ago, it was the cool place to go for Spring Break or a vacation. Pop music then was very focused and there was a ‘Miami sound’ and Miami colour schemes… I think when you hear pop music from that time it reminds you of that, and that’s a lot of what I used in my album.
Are you trying to reclaim that image of Florida that’s maybe got lost?
Sort of, but I also feel like it’s kind of a fucked up place. I don’t ever want to be deceptive because I use a lot of autobiographical stuff and I want everything to be really personal. There is glamour still but it’s more of a dirty, trashy glamour. More like Spring Breakers.
When I listen to the record, there are times when I thought it could definitely have sound tracked that movie.
It’s funny because it’s just so on point. Florida’s just gross and pretty.
Could you tell me about how the record came about?
I started working on it in 2015. I was living in Los Angeles and I was working with a bunch of producers but I wasn’t happy with any of the stuff I was doing in the studio with bigger producers so I decided I wanted to do it by myself and not have a label. So I did a Kickstarter and raised way more money than I was hoping to. That ended in September, so then I really started working on it, and working with another producer in LA. I went home to Florida that Christmas and when I was flying back to LA I went to pick my suitcase up and it never showed up. It turned out there were a whole bunch of thieves stealing suitcases, so my suitcase got stolen and it had all of my album stuff in it. My hard drive, my notebook with lyrics…
Did you freak out or were you like, “Okay, maybe this is a sign”…
I was like “everything’s going to be fine, I’m not going to freak out about this, I just did a really big Kickstarter and everything’s going to be good” and then I started working on it with this [producer] and all sorts of shit happened and we didn’t get along at all so I had to stop working with him or I was going to go crazy.
It got kind of messy because he was saying “if you’re not going to work with me you can’t use anything we’ve made so far” and I was like “well, you know what, it’s worth it. I’ll start it over” So the first 6 months after my Kickstarter, I had to abandon everything. After that it was another year of doing it, I was like “you know fuck this, I’m releasing it myself, I’m not going anywhere or doing anything until it’s done” and it worked out.
I guess if it’s a personal project like this you don’t want to have involvement from people you just don’t get along with too.
Yeah, I know I’m not a brilliant fucking musical genius so there’ll be things that people will be like “you can do that better” but with this album I just didn’t care. I am enough of a perfectionist that I’ll know if I can do it better.
Miami Garden Club reminds me of the pre-2010 vibe of people like Uffie, but there’s definitely a huge shift from the sound of your older songs. How did that change happen?
Well first of all I was sick of rapping, but I was [also] really sick of how every single song sounded the same. I always wanted to make pop music – Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were my heroes, so I wanted to make songs like that and I was working with pop producers in LA but it was a real shame because they would play a song and be like, “This is what the kids like right now! Let’s write it the way that we’re supposed to and we can finish it in an hour”.
Obviously there’s a pop music formula but I just got so sick of how all the instrumentals sounded exactly the same and they’d use the same chord progressions and it was just lame. So I stopped trying to do that and I was like I’m just going to make songs that sound like everything that I like the most and that’s what I did. I never like it when people are like “wow this sounds exactly like this Carly Rae Jepsen song”, or whatever so I didn’t want any of that. I was just like, I’m going to listen to Paula Abdul and 90’s trance and all of the things I like the most and absorb them all and make something that is mine. But yeah I did listen to a lot of Uffie though!
Could you tell me a bit about the lead single, Miami Garden Club?
I used to sit on Soundcloud and look for new things to DJ and one day I found this guy who made the most beautiful song ever and I was like, “Holy shit, I want to use this song on my album, what do I do?!” so I messaged him and he said “you can just use it… you can change it however you want to”. And I was like, “oh my god, I have this beautiful song. What am I going to write over this for lyrics? This is so special.”
So I wrote that in about 15 minutes and it was about when I was young and some traumatic shit that happened to me and I was like “wow this is a really intense personal song” and then I played it for that producer I told you about earlier. I was really nervous and he was like “I don’t like this… this is not good.” So I held onto it for a while. It wasn’t even supposed to be a song on the album until way later when I was like, if this is going to be a personal thing, this is my most personal song and these words are really special to me.
So you weren’t even going to include it and then it ends up being the title track?
The whole time it’s just been a song that sounds like an intro. So when we were talking about what to put out first as a single that one didn’t really come to anyone’s mind because it’s not as catchy, and the rest of the album is a lot more fun. But we made this video, and after I was so glad because you want everyone to get an idea of the album before they hear it, so even if it’s slow and chill, I feel like it was the most personal way to introduce everyone to it.
Between looking at your old videos and looking at Miami Garden Club there’s a very obvious shift in maturity over the years. Was there something that marked the change between these two periods?
Well when I first started making music I was 17, I’d lived in Florida my whole life and I worked at the mall, so my world was very small and I would be online a lot. And then that song [Okay Cupid] got huge and my identity became these dumb songs. I wasn’t expecting that and I don’t know if I even really wanted it, but I was like “well this is a cool opportunity I’ll just see how far it goes” and it’s still going.
But in the meantime, I’ve grown up. I didn’t take any of it seriously back then, it was all kind of a big joke to me. I thought it was really funny when people would take my music seriously and critique it as if it’s some fucking thought out art while I was like, “dude I’m literally talking shit in my closet, this is so dumb”. So I sort of treated it as a parody of myself for a long time but I really liked making music. I guess the big transition was when I was like “I guess I’m going to stop treating everything in my life like a joke”.
Were you worried about putting out more serious music and what people would think of you?
I was kind of worried; I didn’t think it would be so hard to change my image. I stopped calling myself Kitty Pryde 6 years ago and people write articles about me and still call me that. And I’m like, “damn that really was my most impactful moment, when I made this stupid joke song”.
When I was researching for this interview I was seeing a lot of things referring to you as a ‘2012 viral rapper’, which I thought must be frustrating for you.
I had to stop reading stuff about my own music, especially with this album because of everything that I put into it. I know I’m not supposed to care as much as I do but it’s very hard not to see that shit and be like “damn, after all I went through to make this project I’m so proud of y’all are going to compare it to some dumb bullshit from when I was 17.” I mean it’s my fault, that’s just how life works but I wonder if I’ll ever be able to get rid of it, even if I’m old. I need to just join a witness protection program.
So I’ve been dying to ask – what it was like to work with Riff Raff?
He’s not that weird! He asked me to do a song with him because I said something about him because I was such a fan at the time. I sent him a beat that I had and he was like “sure” and in two hours he recorded a verse and sent it back to me. Riff Raff was literally just normal and nice. He got along really well with my Dad, they went and got beer together.
What are you working on now?
Well I’m trying really hard to tour Europe and I’m also working on my next project. I didn’t lose a ton of momentum because it took me so damn long to finish my album, in the meantime I just carried on making songs. I want to start making videos, it’s very inspiring and fun and I think I could do a good job. I want to do a video for all of the songs, like a concept album of short films. That was my first idea but I was like ‘damn that’s pretentious as hell.’ I want to direct one for someone else so they can look pretentious.
‘Miami Garden Club‘ is out now – listen to it here