It’s the start of a new year which means countless music journos telling you which bands will be big this year and why you should be listening to them.
“Callum (Wiseman, mandolin) used to be in a properly manly rock band and Sorren (Maclean, guitar) has his fingers in many folk pies”, explains front-woman Anna Meldrum. “For myself, female songwriters such as Regina Spektor have had a big influence, as well as folks like Ben Lee who sing in their own accents which I really love. We’re also influenced by lots of local acts, in particular Frightened Rabbit, Jo Mango and Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers.”
And when it comes to lyrics, Anna is always sure of which direction she wants to take. “My parents playing Lyle Lovett on car journeys definitely made me want to write lyrics that were witty rather than whiney and worthy”, she says. “Having studied English at uni, I spent a good portion of my time meticulously analysing other people’s words, so that intimidates me and encourages me in equal measure into trying to make my lyrics half-decent!”
In the past year Anna and co have gone from strength to strength, from playing small pubs to slots at T in the Park and a cushy spot on ITV’s The 5 O’clock Show. After winning the highly coveted ‘Hog The Stage’ competition, their year then culminated in opening the Hogmanay Street Party in Edinburgh, supporting the likes of Newton Faulkner and The Coral on Waverley Bridge. I bet you’d like to know how it all happened, wouldn’t you? Well, you’re in luck because this, my friends, in the words of Miss Meldrum herself, is the story of Kitty the Lion… so far.
It all started when Anna, playing solo gigs under the Kitty the Lion name, met her band mates Callum Wiseman on mandolin, Sorren Maclean on guitar, Nick Roan on drums and Joe Rattray on upright bass. “I met the boys through playing on the same bill as their respective bands, and through mutual friends”, recalls Anna. “Eventually I shyly asked them if they would mind playing some shows with me and Kitty the Lion began!”
Since then, the band have experienced a wealth of success with highlights including slots at goNorth, Rockness, Wickerman, Belladrum and, of course, T in the Park – “Much mischief was made including some petty theft and Nick befriending Ed Tudor-Pole.” The band also released their second single, ‘Gutted’/’Split Ends’, the follow-up to their 2009 debut ‘Lion in the Bed’ and have received high praise from the likes of Scottish music guru Jim Gellatly and Radio 1 Scotland’s Vic Galloway. “Playing a session on Vic’s show was a big highlight too, being in that lovely studio and being provided with really nice sandwiches”, says Anna.
But as she explains, reality has helped them keep their feet firmly on the ground. “It’s been quite a strange year because of its peak-and-troughiness. One day I was getting told we’d be performing at T in the Park and the next day I was sitting one of my finals”, she recalls. “So in a way I feel like what’s happening to the band isn’t really happening to me at all but is happening in some kind of parallel universe!”
This humility stayed with Anna even when they entered last year’s ‘Hog The Stage’ competition. “Since the prize was advertised as a support slot with Biffy Clyro (who headlined the Concert in the Gardens) I didn’t fancy our chances too much since we’re not really a ‘taps-aff’ rock type of band.” You can imagine then how they might’ve reacted when they were announced as the winners: “We all just burst out laughing and stared at each other in disbelief! It was the tin hat on a year that, like I said, has felt very surreal. Then we packed up sharpish and headed back to Glasgow to drink a lot of Jura before the judges changed their minds.”
But change their minds, they did not, and rightly so. The plan then was to just play a cracking set and the band didn’t disappoint as they played to a crowd of thousands. “Literally the whole street from Waverley Bridge right up to Princes Street was rammed full of people when we wandered onstage which was terrifying, but also really exciting obviously”, says Anna. “The gig was great because the crowd were in such a party mood. Everything went without a hitch and we were treated like real stars.”
A fantastic end to a fantastic year, I’m sure you’ll agree, and the beginning of potentially an even better one. This year, the band will be busy writing and recording their debut album in Sugar Mountain, a studio run by drummer Nick, and will no doubt continue gigging around the country. “Hopefully this year we will have just as much good fortune as we were so lucky to have last year!”, exclaims a gleeful Anna.
So let it be known, so let it be heard. 2011 is the year of the Lion.
Thanks to Gregor MacEwan for the use of the image taken at the Hogmanay party in Edinburgh.