kat robichaud

It’s hard not to like Kat Robichaud, especially when she starts singing Bowie’s “Lady Grinning Soul” over the phone and then proceeds to rhapsodize about the brilliance of Aladdin Sane. “That beautiful piano intro, the way it makes the hair on your arm stand up,” she gushes, “It’s a song that picks you up for four gorgeous minutes then gently drops you back down to earth.” It was my how-much-of-a-Bowie-fan-are-you-really question and she passed easily. I already liked her because of her latest album, the eccentric glam rock/pop epic Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits, but now I was in complete awe of the raspy-voiced, Raleigh native.

Though involved in music for nearly a decade, Kat made a splash on mainstream consciousness with her appearance on The Voice, that insipid, corporately-sponsored, glorified talent show that somehow stays on the air like all those other irrelevant music-themed reality programs that have long since descended from the peak of their popularity – The X Factor, American Idol, the Grammys, etc. In other words, a show Kat was cool enough to get kicked off of. Thankfully for the Bay Area, she decided to bring the momentum gained from the appearance to San Francisco, perfectly fitting in with the city’s indelible weirdness.

The Bay Bridged: As a relatively new addition to San Francisco, what’s your impression of the Bay Area music scene? How receptive has it been to your music?

Kat Robichaud: It’s great, I love this city. I’ve never felt so accepted anywhere before. It’s a place that makes you feel like you can do whatever the hell you want and get away with it. As for the reception, it’s been awesome. I don’t know if it’s the album or the city itself, but its all been good so far. I’ll never talk down about my hometown Raleigh, but rock in general just wasn’t too popular in the south. My musical sensibility didn’t quite fit in with the scene – I took a lot of shit for liking Marilyn Manson and David Bowie. I always wondered why you would make fun of somebody for liking a certain type of music. It’s so subjective and personal. Perhaps life would’ve been easier if I listened to what everybody else was listening to, but then I guess I wouldn’t be who I am today.

TBB: I hear mixed reviews about Kickstarter from musicians all the time, but you were able to successfully fund your new album through a campaign. How were you able to utilize the campaign so successfully?

KR: Well I had three big things going for me: The Voice, the fanbase I gained from my appearance on it, and Amanda Palmer. She invited me to play a show with her in New York and afterwards in the green room I asked her whether I should go with a label or Kickstarter. She told me, unequivocally, to go with Kickstarter. As long as you’re smart about the process, you won’t take a loss. My manager at the time devised this really intricate spreadsheet laying out all the details and made me feel secure about the campaign. Promotion from local news stations and newspapers helped as well, and I always felt in control. It was well-planned from the start, and if I had to do it all alone I probably wouldn’t be nearly as successful.

TBB: Songs like “Definition of Pretty” and “The Apple Pie and The Knife” off the new album obtain a strong focus on how women are exploited by the media specifically and society in general. Is it possible for women to ever wholly control their own image in an inherently exploitative entertainment industry?

KR: Yes it is. It depends on how they handle themselves in the media. If you don’t allow yourself to feel that shame they’re aiming for, you take the power away from them. They want that sense of embarrassment, so if you tell them, “hey, you know what? Fuck you!” you’re in control of your own image. You need to tell people that this is my body and I’m not ashamed of it. Turn the blame around.

When they did background checks on The Voice, they asked me about a music video I posted on YouTube with my old band The Design called “Scream.” I was dressed in this burlesque outfit that revealed some skin and it was enough for them to ask me to take it down. I thought, “Really? That’s where I crossed the line?” Of course I left it up, and after my appearance on the show people started leaving some nasty comments on it. Typical stuff – skank, slut-  all because I dressed the way I wanted to dress.

TBB: Do you ever feel as if this ugly side of popularity would dissuade you from continuing to pursue music?

I don’t think so. Even though I experienced a whole new level of hatred on The Voice and despite the fact that I heard some really awful things, I could never imagine myself doing something else. I’ve thought so many times to myself that, if I wasn’t doing music, what would I do with my life? What other profession is out there for someone like me? The answer is nothing. I don’t feel like I could ever be comfortable in a normal job. I mean, this is not my debut album, I’ve been doing music for ten years now, and this is the first time I’ve had complete and utter control over my artistic vision. That sense of complete control is its own reward and I’m so grateful to everyone who’s helped me over the years to arrive at this point in life.

I always remember something my mom told me years ago to help me when things get tough. She said you’re not going to be able to please everybody, you’re not going to make everybody happy and in the end you won’t even please yourself in the attempt. You have to please yourself first, then deal with the perception of others. At a lot of my shows I feel the women in the audience hating me for the way I dress and act, and I feel it’s my job to get every one of them on my side by the end of the show. No one is gonna love you unless you love yourself, right?

Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits, Down and Outlaws
Boom Boom Room
February 13, 2015
9pm, $10, 21+