Interview: Julia Cafritz of Free Kitten
"New York was going to get taller, there would be sex clubs in buildings that catered to hospital fetishes. And there would be freeze-dried drinks at bars. In reality, because of 9/11, it's a run for comfort. It's the proliferation of cupcake shops."
If your resume includes being in the band Pussy Galore, no matter where you are these days, chances are you still kick a certain degree of ass. Julie Cafritz, indeed, still kicks ass. Whether it's talking about her kids' bedtime reading material or my own reproductive capabilities, Julia hasn't been changed by living in Northampton, Massachusetts, nor has her "I'll-throw-mud-in-your-eye-and-laugh-about-it" spirit. As one third of all-female trio Free Kitten--which includes Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and the Boredoms' Yoshimi P-We--Julie is now returning to this whole recorded music thing after a decade long absence. While her bandmates have been steadily making music, Julie has been doing things a little differently. You'll see. -- Michael D. Ayers
It's been awhile since you have released something. It must feel pretty good.
Yeah, it feels great, man. It's been a long time, it's been not so busy--doing the little shit of regular life, like raising two kids. I'm ready to throw them the car keys and tell them to get lost. I've been teaching and going to school. Teaching fulfills a lot of performance desire. I wasn't exactly missing doing music. But at Kim's not-so-subtle suggesting, I started to fool around with the guitar. Girls don't sit around their living rooms and pick guitars up at random moments and fool around with them while watching reality TV. If they claim to, they're liars. And it's not something they have always at the ready. And so, I had to have had some vague goal in mind, and it was what I was doing--in what I would term a secret love affair with my guitar. Between student appointments I'd pick up the guitar, and that's the genesis of that. We added some structure to the situation. Kim said, "Let's practice." And we did about once a week in Kim's basement, about three or four months before Yoshimi joined.
I'll tell you, we had a baby stay with us recently and the amount of scheduling those things take--the time consumption that they demand--is mind-boggling.
Did your sperm dry up?
Did mine dry up? No, it didn't dry up, but maybe its [production] downshifted--just a little slower.
I would suggest that your sperm run and hide and stay hidden for many years. One of the things I could never fathom is why anyone would be a roadie. The pay was no good, and you spent your time doing other people's shit. With children, it's like a lifetime of being a roadie. Sippie cups. If you don't have that shit, they yell at you. And you don't get paid. And you try to plan for every variable in as small a package as you can. I got everything in this little bag, and if you don't have something, it's trouble. In between being a roadie for my kid, real work--being a real person--becomes hidden. Because your children have no interest. I asked my daughter, "What do you think of the Free Kitten record?" She's like, "I'm bored with it."
Well is she into pop culture herself? That's what scares me, feigning interest in those things. Like The Hills.
I don't understand those who can say, "That's a good kid's movie" and have half a brain. Same thing with those books. The supposed kids' books are still terrible. They're not interesting, and they're terribly written. I want to read about class warfare and pillowbiters, not guys on broomsticks. A successful parent can become a dissassociative sociopath. And my children want me to love them, so they realize they need to like the stuff I like. And they're pretty good at that. Alice's big thing is, "All the music you listen to sounds the same" and it doesn't matter if it's the new Malkmus record, or the Fiery Furnaces.
Oh, maybe she'd like the Dresden Dolls. They kind of have that goth-theatric thing going on that people love, I guess. What do you see that was different about the late '90s Free Kitten and the late '00s Free Kitten?
Well, I do think not having Mark [Ibold] makes a big difference. Mark was a bridge between Kim and me. He made songs sort of come together, as only a good bass player can do. Without that--it was harder work, for me, to figure out what I wanted to play. I tried to come up with bass lines that pulled something together. He would've been better at it. We're missing that testosterone. Kim and I have that testosterone, but it's artificial. Here's the thing: Kim's continued to make music, so for her, its seamless. For me, it's not. I've listened to a ton of music, and my tastes have changed, but to a certain extent--where I last put down my guitar, it's in the same place.
To me, the record sounds a little more darker, a little more abrasive. What do you think about that?
I think that may be true. I think partly back then, our main lives, our main jobs and gigs were darker so Free Kitten was an opportunity to make light. And now, Free Kitten is an opportunity to express more dark as we live lightly. Back then I had come from two angry bands. To do something frivolous and light was fun. I wanted to do something now that had more heft. Also we're not in New York anymore. If you had asked me this in '90s, I would have predicted New York City was going towards Tokyo or Bladerunner.
That's how you saw it going?
New York was going to get taller, there would be sex clubs in buildings that catered to hospital fetishes. And there would be freeze-dried drinks at bars. In reality, because of 9/11, it's a run for comfort. It's the proliferation of cupcake shops. New York has tried to recast itself to look like the rest of America. Instead of rising like a phoenix, it retreated into itself. There are Crate and Barrels here. And you can get your Ikea crib right in Brooklyn.
Well, the architecture to me is very old-looking. And there's lots of garbage on my street that won't go away. There are things that definitely feel like an old town--and I think that has to do with the buildings. But I guess the Crate and Barrel in SoHo is reflective of what you're citing.
Your town doesn't look at nearly as different as my town. Which is a bit disappointing. What I would have wanted is I go and sit down at a restaurant and you get a mallet and bang the brains out of monkeys. Instead I read about fried chicken and dumplings--Old New York would've existed, as you say. But it should be existing in the shadows of some insanely modern Euro-engine city. And I'm surprised. I'm surprised and a bit disappointed. My mall has all the same shops that your mall does.
You're in Northhampton now? I've heard it's really nice there.
It does have a good vibe. Shopping is not its strength, and I'd probably be shopping at Old Navy if I lived in the West Village. In my world, I'd be writing my Free Kitten record on the back of a flying car. There would be no oil crisis, because I would be using the placenta of dead babies or something. And Free Kitten would be an anachronistic with its use of guitars and live tapes, or something done from the back of the flying car, the flying tour bus. But it's just Free Kitten. I'm a little bummed out.
It seems like it's hard to find three ladies dedicated to more experimental rock. Why is that?
Because girls are lame, Mike. Myself included. There are some girls who are doing some stuff in their bedroom that they put out in small numbers. I don't know how to account for it. It seems right in this instant--this instant seems devoid of particularly interesting women in any sphere of music. And the ones that are interesting have always been there. But I'd say there aren't many boys doing it either. Maybe they're having babies.
Free Kitten's Inherit is out now on Ecstatic Peace. It might make your sperm dry up.
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