Shut Up And Dance EP on iTunes
Kitten and The Hip started almost by accident in 2011. Ashley Slater & Scarlett Quinn had been working together as a songwriting team for a few months when Ashley presented Scarlett with an idea for a song in a call & response style called 'Don't You Worry'. Lyrically, the song follows (in the time honoured tradition of many jazz & popular songs such as Curtis Mayfield's 'Pusherman' to Fats Waller's 'You're a Viper') the trials & tribulations of someone trying to get hold of some 'reefer' late at night.
The music was in a swing style, though composed by Slater and not sampled, and fit easily into the current genre called 'Electro Swing'. The track was signed by HedKandi records literally the day it was finished and released several months later. The YouTube videos for the track have a combined hit total of over 50,000. "Don't You Worry" had radio support from Radio 1, Kiss FM, Jazz FM and local radio.
Slater and Quinn decided to launch a band off the back of the single and toured a bit during the spring and summer of 2011 as well as performed at a number of small festivals and gigs. In 2012 the band was on the road from April until September, playing at a number of festivals, including Bestival, Beatherder, Boomtown, Wilderness, Secret Garden Party & Glade and a number of concerts abroad including Paris, Odessa, Moscow, Kiev, St Petersburg, Luxembourg, Amsterdam and Madrid.
Shut Up and Dance' was released on 3Star Deluxe, their single with Rory Hoy called 'Who's Gonna Pay for That?' is out on Tall House Digital! Their '2013 warm up' single 'Shake It Out' is on Bandcamp, and had airplay on
Kiss FM, Jazz FM, XFM, Radio Reverb & Juice FM.
Kitten and the Hip's debut album Hello Kitten
"It's a masterpiece of an album - Some real bangers, Don't You Worry, Shut Up And Dance, Love Is A Stranger & that song that a certain Rory Hoy produced." (Rory Hoy).
What was your first musical memory?
TheHip: *I can't remember my first memory*, but I do remember going to see a production of 'My Fair Lady' in San Francisco when I was quite young and being absolutely blown away by how noisy it was. I think I was pretty hooked by the idea of live music right then and there.
Kitten: I was singing and dancing from the age of six, so I suppose
first memories would spring from that experience.
When did you decide to make your life in music / did it choose you?
Kitten: Music has always been part of my life. I didn't get serious about music until my
early 20s. I've written songs for school productions and plays since I was ten,
and have carried on
doing that ever since. All through my school years,
my main focus was on dance
and I did really well at that.
Same question for voice/trombone/writing/production...
TheHip: I loved singing when I was a very small boy. *I remember my mom recording me singing Christmas carols one year, I couldn't have been much older than 4. It's really stuck with me, that memory*. I sang whenever I could at school, including high school. We had a couple of great music teachers at our school, Gene Petrick and John Starets. They were both super teachers and very inspiring people. Gene taught band, so all our instrumental music was under his guide. I got into trombone because my dad, who is an amateur string player, wanted to start a dixieland band and he needed a trombonist. He bought me one for 12 dollars from a kid called Billy Perry. I had a few lessons from another music teacher called Tom Habens and I was off with my tune a day book pretty much teaching myself. We did a lot of gigs and I have to wonder how dad's band mates put up with me playing terribly in their band. The were really encouraging, I'll say that for them. And patient.
Singing didn't really come into my life for real until quite late. When I was posted in Northern Ireland, I joined a Blues Brothers inspired soul covers band. One night their singer couldn't make the gig and I did a couple of songs. We were all a bit surprised at how I sounded. I liked being at the front of the band instead of the back for a change.
I still didn't sing much until the end of the 80s when I decided to form a band inspired by some of the New Orleans street bands that were around at the time, but with songs. I'd never written any songs up until then, so I wrote some, and then realised that no-one in their right mind would want to sing them.... Who wants to sing a song called 'My Dog's an Animal'? Rob Partridge from Antilles Records pretty much offered me a deal after coming to see Loose Tubes at Ronnie Scotts for one of our notorious seasons there. He asked me what else I did and I told him about this band I wanted to start. He paid for John Eacott and I to make a demo at Island's Hammersmith studios. We did, and that became Microgroove. We made an album for them, which Norman Cook described as a “good demo for a brilliant album”. Listening back, he may have had a point. I know I was conflicted about using drum machines instead of drummers because I'd been ruined by my years with Loose Tubes. My mind was closed...
Anyway, we did this and that, blah blah, Freakpower with Norman Cook blah blah Number one record blah blah Levis blah blah Fatboy Slim blah blah...
Production is another thing entirely. From when I can remember, my dad listened to a lot of jazz and big band music. When it wasn't on, I was always arranging songs in my head for that kind of ensemble. When it actually came to learning music theory though, I was hampered by my lack of piano playing ability and my stupidity. I just couldn't get on with it. So, when Notator showed up alongside the Atari 1040ST and samplers, I realised I could start to arrange and compose music the way I wanted to do it. That was my introduction to production.
What would advice would you give to other people pursuing a similar path?
What mistake(s) would you like to be able to undo?
TH: I wish we hadn't wasted a year waiting for a well know Brighton label to sign us.
That was an annoying waste of time.
* Actually 10th JANUARY 2015*
On Wed the 28th of August 2013, I went to London's Royal Albert Hall
to attend Prom 62: A Celebration of Charlie Parker. It looked like this; these
photos, by John Kelman, were from an event in "Luleå, Sweden, where the
commission first came together, and which [John Kelman] covered here -
not a review, but a piece on the commission's genesis: allaboutjazz.com."
Ashley Slater played trombone and sang....
".... it was clear that Slater's chops and reading skills haven't diminished one bit; with a song as deep as "A House is Not a Home," Slater's delivery—smooth, but with just the right touch of grit and a perfectly controlled vibrato—was perfect, bringing multiple layers to the simply repeated word "goodnight" that took the tune out on a vamp filled with contrapuntal interplay between various groups of instruments." (Kelman)
Then I connected with Ashley Slater on twitter and facebook and discovered his
current project - an electro swing band called Kitten and The Hip. I listened to
some of their music and watched some of their youtube videos....
Photos © John Kelman (allaboutjazz.com)