Catching up with Kaia Wilson

AE:  Where did the album titles come from? Obviously, the first is a reference to the film of the same name, but why was it chosen? Also, how was the artwork chosen?
KW:
I think our friend Sarah Dougher (also an esteemed musician) came up with the idea of us calling our first record Personal Best, and I think the artwork was in part just gonna be an homage to the movie too. But I can’t remember (I was 19!) the details of how it came to be exactly. At any rate, I frickin’ love that album art! And the second record we titled after Walt Whitman‘s "O Captain! My Captain!" as a nod to his gayness, and also to honor who we deemed our "Team Captain" Donna Dresch. Since all of us had looked up to her in our youth, she was the eldest member and just kinda the coolest!

So the artwork for “Captain” featured her rocking hard on the cover and our friend Rachel Carnes (from The Need) made art that we loved, so we gave her a bunch of stuff to work with and create a collage, and just gave her artistic license from there. The inside, featuring our friend Anne McNally — who wrote us all these incredible letters that we felt had to be included, because she was just so frickin’ cute and earnest and funny and smart and we loved her writing, her message, and her drawings too.

AE:  How did the band get involved with Phranc?
KW:
Well … oh … I don’t exactly remember! I think we ended up playing a big queer festival with her and it was just all love at first sight/sound. I had been a fan of hers since I was in high school, and we all had so much respect for her and the respect ended up being mutual. She is a real trailblazer and an amazing musician and person.

The Butchies

AE: How did The Butchies form? What made the three of you come together at that time?
KW:
After Melissa and I quit Team Dresch in 1996, we had formed a strong bond and knew we wanted to continue playing music together. I eventually moved to North Carolina, and she was in NYC, and we did a "Kaia and Melissa" tour in 1997 then decided we should form a band and went looking for a bass player. We asked around and found out about Alison Martlew, then in a band called Poor Valentino, and we went to see her band and fell in love with Al, right then and there. We asked her to join the band. We formed in April 1998 and recorded our first record Are We Not Femme? in June of 1998.

AE:  What was the inspiration behind the name? Were there names you considered before settling on that one?
KW:
We wanted our band name to be out so that people would hear it and know we were lez. We thought of calling ourselves LezBot, The Furies, and, my favorite, The Gay Lesbian Homosexuals. Our friend and fellow musician Kathleen Hanna came up with the name for us!

AE: The music you made with them is very different from what you made with TD. That’s not to say it doesn’t have the same passion or isn’t just as meaningful, but there is a definite difference in the overall sound. For instance, you sing differently with them. Was that a conscious decision? Or was it just the result of perhaps being in/at a different place in life?
KW:
There wasn’t really a conscious decision for me to sing differently. I definitely tried to scream more in Team Dresch than in the Butchies although my voice is not in its natural home when attempting the scream. So, I think I was more just trusting to stay singing in my most authentic form. I actually think my voice sounds very similar in most the songs/singing. The biggest difference to me would just be in the overall sound. While there’s a commonality running through all my songwriting, who I’m collaborating with will make a huge impact on how each song ends up sounding.

AE:  Did you want to be the front woman or did it just happen that way?
KW:
It just happened that way. I brought in songs and for the most part wanted to sing the songs I’d written. Alison shared some lead here and there, and Mel did a lot of back-up singing (as well as stand up comedy).

AE: Who did most of the writing? Or was it collaborative? Which songs are your favorites?
KW:
I wrote all the lyrics and basic skeletons for the songs, and Melissa and Alison helped to further arrange each composition. My favorite Butchies songs … hmm … “Everything Electrical Will Stay,” “Movies Movies,” “The Wedding Disaster” and “Make Yr Life.”

AE: How did you come up with the album titles and art? I really love the front and back cover of 3, and I’ve always wondered where that idea came from.
KW:
Most of the art concepts were Melissa’s ideas, and she did the graphics/design work for all of them too. We all offered our own input, but she was definitely the leader of that department. For 3 I think she just really liked the idea of showing who we were, with simple and artistic photographs. Tammy Rae Carland was always instrumental in helping us with our presentation and took all the photos for our first three records.

AE: Did you always intend to stay together as long as you did or did it just happen that way?
KW:
Yeah, it more just happened that way. Melissa always felt that longevity was meaningful for a bands success, but I always felt like I just wanted to keep doing it because it was a positive part of my life. We got along so well as people and musicians, so why stop?

AE: Why did the band end, and is there hope of an album producing reunion?
KW:
We threw in the towel because we felt we had really just run our course. For our fourth and final record Make Yr Life, we financed our own recording, hired a manager, and did everything we could to try to gain a wider audience and have great financial success through our music. We had an amazing last year but just felt like what we were doing and experiencing in the band was starting to feel a little static, like we had extended our potential, at least at that moment.  We have no plans to make a new record but that sounds fun! I would do it!

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