“Why Do I Miss You When You Hate Me?” is one of many questions asked on Kat Hamilton’s Recovery Songs. Hamilton comes from a punk background in the band Manic Pixi. Hamilton is a singer-songwriter based in LA. She has a long history on the East Coast.
Recovery Songs is an unconventional album. It’s 9 songs are a challenge to artist and listener alike. The lyrics ask questions, personal and universal. The songs are danceable including “Ohio”
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making Recovery Songs?
KH: This is my first full length solo album and it was a tough adjustment to be “the boss”. I spent five years in a band that functioned as a democracy. We had to agree on every choice. But this time, I had the final say in every aspect of the process. That isn’t my comfort zone at all. My team was looking to me to make choices and give them direction. It was baffling to have these artists that I respect, want me to tell them what to do. Sometimes I had to pinch myself, it was so surreal.
FEMMUSIC: What were your goals for Recovery Songs?
KH: To write the truth. For all musical arrangements or explorations in genre, to be an extension of the truth I had written. I wanted this album to feel like the truth and a guitar, even when we added all of the other elements.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about Allee Futterer. She is producer both on Recovery Songs & The Grey Area, How did you meet? What does she bring to a project?
KH: Allee is my bestie! We met as roommates in a work abroad program in London. We played in a cover- band when we were abroad and then reformed that band in Boston when we got back. While I was living in New York and she was in LA, we stayed in touch and grew our friendship. Everything with us has always been about mutual admiration. When I showed her the songs for The Grey Area, she expressed that she had some production ideas and we went for it. When I felt like Recovery Songs was starting to take shape, I sent her some demos and asked her if she would want to produce it. I love how detail oriented she is. She creates little moments in the production that you wouldn’t expect.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about “Empty Room.” How did that song develop?
I wrote it while Manic Pixi was still together as a potential song for that group. It didn’t really fit in the album plans but I always felt a special attachment to the song. Empty Room was a sigh of sad relief during a time in which I felt like there was pressure on me to be positive all of the time. There was this dark, vacuous part of myself that I was hiding away. I just kept getting more depressed and more anxious behind the curtain. “Empty Room” was born out of that experience
FEMMUSIC: Recovery Songs is filled with a number of questions – “Where do you run to?”, “Did your heart stop working”, etc… How did the questions and answers develop and change while writing and producing the album?
KH: I’m glad you noticed that! Ultimately as a writer, I like to constantly question my own opinions and judgements. A song where I’m telling someone who broke my heart that they’re an asswhole, isn’t as interesting to me as a song where I question my own role as a reliable narrator. Were they as horrible as I am depicting them or am I just feeling not enough…etc.. In Recovery Songs and my questions don’t get answered. My goal in making the record was to tell the truth as I saw it, and in life, we don’t always get the answers we seek. As far as how it influenced the music, none of the songs have a lot of resolution. There are abrupt endings or endings where the music doesn’t return to the 1 chord of the key. I want the listener to feel heard and seen, but I don’t know if I want them to feel fulfilled.
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
KH: Recovery Songs was an approach I hadn’t done before. I kept a mic and basic demoing setup next to my bed and every morning I woke up and just started recording ideas. These songs needed to come out of me and all I did was give them the space to do so. Normally in my songwriting approach, I will have a melody, or a lyric, and I will let it bloom and take shape over a series of weeks while I’m off living life. I’ll record a chorus idea into my voice memos and then add a verse and a bridge a month later. But with this album, I was writing every day. Since the making of this album, my process has shifted to an “off the cuff” approach. I’ll make a whole song in five minutes, get a snack and then figure out what worked.
FEMMUSIC: What song (not your own) has had the biggest influence on you and why?
KH: Death Cab for Cutie “Transatlanticism”. Everytime I listen to it, I notice something new. That’s what I want my music to do. Ben Gibberd does such a great job of telling the story using all elements of the song, not just the lyric. I keep finding myself returning to that song for guidance and inspiration.
FEMMUSIC: What challenges, if any, have you faced as a woman in the music industry? And how did you overcome them?
KH: When I was in the DIY punk/rock scene, I just couldn’t be taken seriously. The gatekeepers were men who wanted to sleep with me, but didn’t want to sign me to their label, or invest in my bands music. It felt a lot like shopping for a used car. No matter how learned I was, the man selling me the car only saw one thing. In the years since, my experience as a woman in my field is much more nuanced. I don’t work with many cis men, but I also have that option because I’m no longer in the east-coast DIY scene. I have a more diverse pool of collaborators and industry professionals now. I wouldn’t say I was able to overcome it, as much as I was able to find my own scene in Los Angeles where I get to surround myself with inclusivity and respect.
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to collaborate with, or tour with? Why?
KH: I want to write a song with Carly Rae Jepson. I think we would have a lovely time. I have always looked up to Against Me! and it would be a dream come true to tour with them, someday when tours are a thing again. I would also love to sing with Miguel. His voice transcends logic, TBH
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
KH: I have a long list! Since I touched upon inclusivity already, I would really like the value of an artist’s work to not be determined by their Spotify streams or instagram followers. I don’t just mean monetarily. I mean their cultural relevance. I have friends who write incredible albums but they aren’t given the same opportunities because they aren’t verified. I’d really like to see this aspect of the industry change.