Radical Kitten: Purr-suing Grrrl & Queer Power in New Album ‘Uppercat’
Toulouse trio Radical Kitten unleash Uppercat, a purr-fectly crafted rrriot punk album that claws at societal norms and patriarchy, in a hiss-toric collaboration with a clowder of 13 DIY labels.
Cool cats Radical Kitten, purring out of Toulouse, France, are no strangers to the European DIY punk scene, having made a resounding splash with their debut album Silence in Violence in October 2020. This trio has been busy sharpening their claws musically, infusing more melodies and danceable tunes into their already infectious sound. Imagine a blend of riot grrrl, post-punk, new wave, and noise rock that evokes the spirit of iconic groups like Sonic Youth, Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, and Le Tigre.
Their sophomore album, whimsically titled Uppercat, might seem poppier and a tad less ferocious than their previous work, but don’t be fooled—it’s a roaring lyrical attack against the patriarchy and the falsehoods in a world that often leaves us feeling like scaredy-cats; insecure and anxious. The album features seven new tracks and is a collaborative release with a clowder of 13 labels, all committed to keeping the DIY ethos as fierce as ever. The horde includes the band’s own Uppercat Records, Araki Records, Attila Tralala, Cartelle, Contraszt! Records, Domination Queer Records, Dushtu Records, Gurdulu, Hidden Bay Records, La Loutre Par Les Cornes, Seitan’s Hell Bike Punks, Stonehenge Records, and Tomatur.
We’re thrilled to let Uppercat out of the bag here at DIY Conspiracy and sit down for a chat with the Radical Kitten to scratch beneath the surface of their newest record. Meoooow! 🐱
Please tell us how Radical Kitten started, did you have a blueprint of how this band should sound and present itself?
No, we just wanted to make music together. We had very different influences, we didn’t know what it would be like… and we still don’t really know! It’s improvisation that guides us.
Your debut album Silence is Violence was released in 2020. How difficult was it to operate as a band when you couldn’t play many shows? When did you manage to play these songs live for the first time? You also changed a member recently.
In fact, our release was in October 2020, we had planned our release tour right after that and we had to cancel it. We were surprised to see that the album was listened to a lot despite these difficult conditions. It was sad not to be able to play our album live, but we took the opportunity to compose some new tracks. From May 2021 onwards we were able to do concerts again and from then on we’ve made up for it!
Yes, we have Marion, our former drummer, who decided to quit the band because she wanted to dedicate herself to other projects, and Radical Kitten took up a lot of her time. Lambert is our new drummer since January 2023 and we’re very happy that he joined us!
Your new album Uppercat is amazing! Did you change anything in terms of songwriting while working on this album, it sounds a bit more upbeat and radio friendly in a good way.
Thanks, I’m glad you liked it! It’s true that we got a lot of feedback about the more upbeat, “pop” side of this album. It’s not a direction we consciously took, but the fact that we’ve been playing together for a while and progressing together may have allowed us to explore new sounds. On the other hand, we really wanted to work a little more on the vocals. When we recorded the first album, we practically did the vocals in one take for each of the 12 tracks, which frustrated us a bit.
We’re sure your lyrics and politics are very important to the band. Can you talk about what each song is about? You still have those feline references but you also have some straightforward titles like “No Means No”, do you feel that punk lyrics should stay direct and combative?
Yeah, it’s clear that words and politics are important to us. In the band, it’s Marin, the singer, who writes the lyrics, and we also discuss the topics we want to tackle together, but she’s really responsible for 90% of it. The subjects chosen are always things that affect her directly as a queer person, but they can also speak to lots of different people. Some songs are about feminism and empowerment, like “No Means No” and “Uppercat,” while others are more trivial, like “Never on Time” and “Worst Friend,” which deal with hesitation and disappointments in relationships. Other songs deal with anxieties, like “Afraid to Die” or “Mouse Trap,” about confinement. We think that punk allows us to tackle any subject that we feel is important, in any form. So it doesn’t have to be a direct form for us.
The album was released in cooperation with a number of different DIY labels. Was that a necessity or a conscious decision? If you had the chance, would you work with a more established label?
The co-production of the second album is largely the same team of DIY labels as the first. Some are not, and a few new ones have joined us. We were really happy with how things went on the first album and we’re delighted to continue to be supported by all these people. We’ve been in touch with some of the more established labels for this second album, and we’ve had nothing but negative responses! In fact, the term “label” encompasses many different realities. The great thing about DIY labels is that they are primarily concerned with the music! They’re not as skittish as the big guys, and there’s no economic pressure on them. And they’re often friends too, without them we clearly wouldn’t have been able to do anything! There’s a disconcerting ease and a bit of magic in all of this. Someone sends you an email saying they liked your album, and bingo, we’ve got 100 records going to Germany! (Hello Philipp, Contraszt! Records). On the other hand, yes, we’d like to be on a more established label for the next album, because we’d like to spend more time composing and maybe a little less on the side.
Radical Kitten’s sound has been compared to bands like Sonic Youth, Le Tigre, L7, and ESG. Sure, you have noise rock, post-punk and no wave influences. Do you think tags like queercore or riot grrrl still make sense in punk music? Is it more of an attitude than a specific genre?
Yes, we think these tags still make sense because some bands are really into the aesthetics that these genres represent. For example, in Toulouse, our friends in the band Trholz are really into the riot grrrl style. As far as we’re concerned, we’re more into the spirit and attitude of riot grrrl or queercore than those musical styles per se.
How does the DIY punk scene help you as queer individuals to express yourself creatively? What do you think is most needed to create a better and more inclusive scene?
The DIY punk scene allows you to go beyond gender norms, more so than in other styles, especially if you’re a woman or a queer person. In most of the DIY places we played, people were really musically curious and mostly open-minded. That said, there’s still a lot of room for improvement in our scenes: there are still a lot of places where the scene is dominated by cis men. So it will take a lot of effort on the part of crews and the people in the scene to change that.
There is also too often a macho and sexist attitude from male sound engineers towards female band members. We’d like to see more women and queers in the technical side of things, and more generally, we’d like to see the relationship between technical knowledge and the male competitive spirit broken down, as it still far too often is today. The behaviour of some people in the audience can also be problematic: for example, we’ve often found ourselves asking cis men in the audience to stop taking up all the space with their violent pogo dancing.
Maybe a few years ago there was a public outing about abuse and sexual harassment within the hardcore punk scene in France. Although it didn’t really translate to the English speaking world. Do you think it’s worth talking about?
Of course it’s worth talking about! By the way, the article you’re talking about hasn’t been circulated enough in our opinion, even in France. When it came out, we printed it out and put it on our merch table, where we often put fanzines about harassment, consent or women’s empowerment in music.
We had some quite interesting discussions with the audience at shows about this article, with people defending the perpetrators of violence because, after all, they were their buddies, and above all, they always seem so important in the scene. Here we can see that even in our DIY scenes power relations are very much present. The bands denounced in this article are still playing live… Again, promoters really need to make an effort to stop inviting these bands. It’s part of their responsibility, and it’s the only way things can move forward.
Tell us a bit about your local scene in Toulouse. Our readers should already be familiar with great bands like Nightwatchers, Filature, Trholz, Krav Boca and projects like Karton Zine and Seitan Hell’s Bike Punk label and collective. So what is good and bad about the scene in your city?
Yes, there is a really great scene in Toulouse, in many different styles! Lots of bands, organizations and people coming to gigs. The problem we have is that there are less and less places to play, and they’re often too small. The city council is putting a lot of pressure on the bars in the city center and has also closed down several DIY venues. Fortunately, a few new ones have sprung up, but it’s still not enough for a city like Toulouse.
What’s also missing, perhaps, is more coordination between the crews of the organizations, which would allow us to stand up to certain bar owners and impose a “safer” environment. We’re also taking the opportunity to introduce some Toulouse bands we really like, from the punk scene but not only!
Petit Bureau, Docks, Générique Mardi, Corps Vidés, Jokari, Space Bucket, Ire, Chien Pourri, No Drama, Grâce et Volupté Van Van, and we’ll probably forget many more ^^