with Mandy Nolan
Very often in this job I have to interview an act that I have never heard of. I’ll have an hour to throw on a CD and read their website blurb and then I pretend I am really familiar with their work or that I really like it. To be honest, sometimes I don’t. so when I went to YouTube to play some Kitty, Daisy and Lewis, a 20 something sibling group out of the UK, I wasn’t expecting much. Within five minutes I’d downloaded both their albums. The music just oozes class and a sensibility of music from a time well before these kids were born. I certainly know why Chris Martin of Coldplay has called these guys ‘Fucking Brilliant’.
Recording on their vintage studio at home (courtesy of Lewis, who admits to having a penchant for production), this modest and unpretentious threesome kick from the first howl of Eddie Tan Tan Thornton’s trumpet (their only non sib player – he’s something like 70, a Jamaican ska player and a legend in his own right) to the heavy foot on the wah wah pedal.
Lewis credits his family’s love of music as the foundation.
‘My dad would sing to us when we were kids. He would sing old songs from his childhood. We had some records and stuff, but it was usually just singing. If we did listen to music, it was my mum and it was the Kinks, but my dad would sing with the guitar because that’s what he did with his family as he grew up in India. When we started going out and buying music of people we ; it was jazz, blues and R&B.’
As schoolkids they had the musical tastes of other people’s grandparents. ‘I found it quite hard when we got to school and we found out that people didn’t play music at home and I had just assumed that people did that. And I found out that people just listened to what was currently in the charts. I was shocked – not that I thought it was good or bad, I just couldn’t believe people would do that. In the end I introduced a lot of my friends to the kind of music that I loved.
‘We grew up playing instruments,’ says Lewis. ‘We never learnt them formally. One of the things I most I enjoy in music is to hear people playing and how you can take an instrument, like a piano, and there’s thousands of people who can make it sound different, like the guitar – you can play two notes and you’ll know who’s playing. Like a signature. No one else can do that, except that person.’
The musical references of Kitty, Daisy and Lewis are rooted in the old tradition and their latest album Smoking in Heaven reflects their love of old timey tunes and licks.
‘It’s very organic for us. Someone will write a song and we’ll all be together and they’ll sing the song for us. And they’ll be like us, like Daisy wrote a song; she says I imagine you play a guitar on that and you play piano. We try different ways because as you know you can do a song a thousand different ways!’
For the threesome (well, four including Tan Tan) it’s about having fun.
‘We go around the world and play music that we enjoy,’ says Lewis, who’s the eldest at just 24. ‘We have been doing it for 11 years and it still feels like a kind of laugh that people want us to play! It doesn’t feel like we are a band and we are doing it for a living. We turn up and go home and wonder if we’ll ever have to get a proper job.
‘That’s how we got the name, because were on at a festival and we didn’t have a band name so they put on the poster as Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. We kept meaning to change it but it stuck.’
Catch Kitty, Daisy and Lewis at the Byron Blues Festival this Easter long weekend.