What exactly is “Soul Punk” you ask? Kitana describes Sister Anne’s special sound as a potent mix of punk rock, a lil’ melodic metal, and rounded out with the soul that comes naturally when your singer grew up in the high-energy gospel church.
Kitana began her singing career in her church choir. When she was in high school she joined an all-female acapella group, and her confidence in her vocal ability grew. By Senior year she was studying opera voice! In college, Kitana studied costume design in the Theater program, but she also took a song class which she took in order to get more comfortable with holding a microphone to sing. After college, Kitana joined the non-defunct funk rock band The I-Crisis. It was through her experience with I-Crisis that Kitana realized she needed to work on her stage presence. A love of live band karaoke helped with this, and after some very fortunate events involving trolling the internet and convincing friends to get involved, Sister Anne was born!
Sister Anne takes its name straight from those most infamous of Detroit ‘60s bad-boys, the MC5. But this ain’t no retro act. Because just as the ‘Five channeled the spirit of Chuck Berry and Coltrane before them, Sister Anne taps into all things punk, rock, and soul—a Tina Turner scream here, a Black Sabbath bassline there, a little bit of James Brown and a whole lotta Iggy and the Stooges—and stuffs the whole mess into its sparkling 21st-century blender. The result is something at once familiar and brand spankin’ new— a frantic, panting, female soul-punk monster that grabs Garage Rock by the scruff of its skinny white neck and shoves it, face first, back into the sweaty rhythm-and-blues murk from whence it sprang.
RRR: Tell me about your first show with I-Crisis.
K.A.: Our first show was at CBs and it totally sucked. We were all new to the whole band thing and I was pretty scared. There were a few shows after that where I was not very comfortable being in the front and I was not the best performer. It was only when my guitarist, Soul Product, told me that his grandparents, after watching a taped performance thought I was boring and stiff on stage that I had to get my ass in gear. For the rest of our two years in existence, I eventually got my shit together and stopped being scared to do my thing.
RRR: Hahaha! It must have been hard being called “boring and stiff” by the elderly… So? What to do?
K.A.: When I noticed the I-Crisis wasn’t going anywhere, I decided to find another group of people who wanted the same things I did. Not necessarily looking for fame, but a group of people that wanted to write good songs, perform them, and work hard to find out where we could go. I was looking through ads on Craigslist of people wanting singers and came upon an ad that bassist and creator Leon Chase, had put up in which he was looking for a crazy, soulful, Tina‘esque singer, and I immediately responded. Leon came to Arlene’s live band karaoke to hear and see what I could do, and he seemed to dig it, as he brought out guitarist Michelle Primeaux and then 2nd bassist Sherry Dana (Dana later parted because of scheduling conflicts) in an effort to coax them onboard. Then all that was left was convincing drummer Joseph Duarte, who at the time, was a drummer for the Hank’s Saloon karaoke band. I came out there and did some Rage, and some Tina, and some Zeppelin and that was all he seemed to need to get into the band.
RRR: And, voila! A band is formed…
K.A.: This is the group of people I have dreamed of playing with. They are all incredibly talented, and incredibly dedicated and motivated. We write amazing songs together, and on the shows are infectious and energetic. When people come to our shows, they get a lot of fun and a sexy sweat soaked rock experience.
RRR: What influences your onstage persona?
K.A.: I am sexually influenced performance wise, but I don’t use it as a gimmick, the talent of the band is there, and my vocals are strong and they are there too… I am an extremely sexual being; my first job in NYC was managing a sex toy shop for crying out loud! I like to wear minimal clothing (booty shorts, latex, vinyl, catsuits), because singing and performing is a very physical experience. I am all over the place! I’m on the stage, off the stage, humping random people in the audience, dancing with the audience – they’re the best! The audience always knows how to have fun, and they’re not afraid to dance!
RRR: Pet peeves about the industry?
K.A.: It can be as annoying for women in rock to be told ‘That is awesome, a girl that rocks!’ by guys who would’ve never thought we could, as it is to be a black woman in rock. There are many of us out there; we’ve been there! We are some of the pioneers of rock! When people tell me, ‘That’s amazing! A black woman singing rock music!” – I know they mean to compliment, but it can be annoying. The same thing happens to black men, but they are able to find mainstream success at least, i.e. Sevendust, Living Colour. With the rise of more black rock groups, or more groups featuring black front people, I’m hoping that people will stop seeing the women, or the color. After all, rock IS black music, it is derived from the blues. Listen to early Sabbath, and ALL of Zeppelin and most of the Stones and Beatles. Most bands will admit to being influenced. The Stones named themselves after a Muddy Waters tune!
RRR: So, do you try to downplay the female element in your band?
K.A.: Here’s where I’ll sound like a hypocrite. When you read the Sister Anne bio, we are very honest about people noticing the woman guitarist, and the black woman singer. But hey, whatever works to get you noticed! If that’s all that people are gonna see, we might as well make it work for us so that we can get the bodies on the floor and have ‘em coming back for more! Hell yeah! You like that rhyme?
We at the Rock and Roll Report DO like that rhyme, Kitana. LONG LIVE SISTER ANNE!
All our New York people should go check them out at The Studio at Webster Hall on November 11th, 2009!
www.myspace.com/sisteranne: band site.
You can also cop their self-titled cd at their shows and at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/sisterannemusic
All photos by Kristian Rickert