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Jumpin’ and playin’ around: Kitty Little. Photo byJoe Putrock.

Power Pop to the People

Albany’s Kitty Little keep it simple and fun

By Shawn Stone

Kitty Little are all jazzed up about their big Halloween show at Valentine’s. Really jazzed. The Albany-based trio—Matto, guitar, Jesse Pellerin, bass, and Robb Cole, drums—have organized what is promised to be a spooktacular lineup of bands and games.

“The Halloween show will kick ass as far as fun goes,” exclaims Matto. “Lots of bands, a very extravagant layout, lots of free food, cider donuts, a piñata, bobbing for apples, prizes . . .”

Pellerin interrupts: “A graveyard, movies . . .”

Cole cuts in: “Maybe some grab bags . . .”

They talk like they play: fast and full of energy. Formed two years ago following the demise of Matto and the Phlegmchuckers, Kitty Little carry the standard for three-minute, three-chord, punk-inflected power pop that carries no more—and no less—noble intent than fun. As Matto says, “We’re pop rock for the people.”

All three musicians play prominent roles in other bands. Pellerin is in Jump Cannon, who play a kind of dark, haunting pop, while Matto and Cole are in the punk-meets-hardcore combo To Hell and Back. On the great pop-to-hardcore continuum, Kitty Little exist at some point near the middle.

And the sweet-but-strange name? It was coined by Matto, who says he wanted “a band name that nobody else had—‘Kitty Little’ sounded cute but weird, like a Japanese thrash band.” Sure enough, a quick internet search on “Kitty Little” leads to numerous sites and items associated with the beloved Japanese cartoon character Hello Kitty. (Matto says that a similar search also turned up a page of information on Catholic priests, but he was unable to discern the connection.)

Back to the show. There are six, count ’em, six bands on the bill. This can easily turn into a deadly marathon, but Kitty Little insist that this won’t happen: “I know that’s a lot of bands, but we’re gonna try to keep the sets short,” says Matto, with no more than half an hour allotted to each band.

What was the impetuous for the extravaganza? Again, fun. The members of Kitty Little wants adults to be able get in touch with the true Halloween spirit. After all, once you’re an adult, how can you recapture the innocent, crazed joy of a child’s experience of the holiday? As Matto reasons, “You can’t go trick-or-treating anymore—you won’t get any candy. No one’s gonna give a full-grown adult candy—I’ve tried, I know.”

Of course there will be a costume contest. When asked what they will wear, they demur.

Matto says: “I wanted to be the creature from the black lagoon, but it is too difficult . . .”

Pellerin interjects: “It would be hard to play with webbed hands.”

Doubtless they will be dressed up, because Kitty Little are committed to the spirit of the holiday. As Matto says with sincerity, “If you’re not going to have fun, you can’t come; if you’ve got a bad attitude about Halloween, stay the fuck home.”

This really big show also doubles as a Kitty Little CD-release party. The disc is “four snappy little pop tunes and one power ballad. We recorded it two months ago with Pete Donnelly of the Figgs,” Matto says, adding that it was kept to EP-length because “we just wanted to get it out.”

Cole explains that it’s all fresh material, “written in the months after I joined the band [earlier this year].” Pellerin notes that it was done quickly, “in two days,” and Matto delivers the skinny on the content: “Our songs seem to be about love, kissing, candy, snacks, smiles, a little fighting and strange people who won’t shut up.”

Matto elucidates the Kitty Little philosophy of music, exemplified in their new recording: “Keep it simple—that’s what we’re all about.” However, he does admit that “our power ballad is pretty long.”

A power ballad? Yes, Matto acknowledges—it’s a love song, and at four minutes long, it’s epic length by Kitty Little standards. “Usually we can play four songs in the time it takes another band to play one.”

Tonight’s show will be the band’s first local appearance in a few months, and this is partially by design. “We don’t want to get into the trap of playing Albany all the time,” Matto says, explaining that “Robb and Jesse and I are in other bands; we get to play at home enough as it is, so to play two Kitty Little shows in one month in the Capital District is totally excessive.” Not wanting to play the same show over and over, Matto argues, “makes it more relevant here if we don’t play out as often.”

“We play out of town a lot,” Pellerin offers. “We played in Brooklyn at the Port House, downstate at Rhino Records.”

“We try to play out of town as much as possible,” Matto concurs. “Anywhere we can get a show, actually,” adding that “we did a tour last summer—Plattsburgh, Vermont, New Jersey, Long Island, Pennsylvania . . . ”

Cole jumps into the conversation: “We played the Pirate’s Cove, a house where a bunch of kids live, a punk house with performances in the basement.” This self-described DIY venue in Allentown, Pa., has become, he explains, “a pretty common stop for a lot of bands on tour.” Matto admires the approach: “It’s a big scene down there; it’s not always great to drive four hours and beg for gas money, but it’s fun.”

Sure, Kitty Little will never get rich this way, but that’s not the point. As Cole says, “it’s the aspect of meeting people, that’s more important—new friends and good times.” And candy.

Kitty Little, Rockets and Blue Lights, Amazing Plaid, Madeline Ferguson, the Flying Bobzz, and Struction will play Valentine’s tonight (Thursday, Oct. 31). Tickets are $7 at the door, and the show starts at 7:30 PM. Call 432-6572 for information.

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