An Interview with Kitty Craft
by Corinne Kerwin
Corinne Kerwin: I guess I’ll just get started. I wanted to ask, starting at the very beginning, was music something that you were always drawn to as a child or had experience with exposure with, like, as a young adult/ Or is that something you kind of found when you started Kitty Craft?
Pamela Valfer: You know, I think I started out the usual ways, you know, as a kid just you know, what my parents were listening to, what was on the radio when we were going places. I don’t know if… I started like taking music more seriously when I was at age 15. I asked my dad to buy me a bass guitar for my birthday, and that’s when it all started really. But I remember before that, like in grade school, I was supposed to be playing the clarinet, and I hated it. And so I think I ended up quitting quite early. So I don’t know if the pension for attention took some time to create. But yeah so fifteen I would say was probably when it started.
Kerwin: Okay yeah that’s cool, I played clarinet all throughout, you know, public school.
Valfer: So you feel me?
Corinne Kerwin: Yeah, you know, there’s something to the clarinet that is not always ideal. So yeah, did having that bass guitar, like, did you start trying to make your own stuff? Or was it when you kind of went to DJing that you were making music.
Pamela Valfer: Oh no, from the get-go. I was like, all right, I know how to play two notes. Let’s get in a band. I have to fully admit I’m not like classically trained. I know the bare minimum. So it’s really been invention for me, other than like, you know, as a 15 year old, you take all your favorite songs and you learn how to play bass guitar to them. And I have to say, I am looking back, very glad that I chose the bass guitar. Because for me it was a real, like, it was an easier thing for me to grasp. Like one note over like a chord. But it was almost, it was like a fundamental that allowed me it in a really… It was a small step and a fundamental towards more complicated ideas, or complicated instruments. So like even some of my looping and stuff, I started out looping on like an eight bit Gemini sampler and for those who don’t know eight bit is like nothing. It’s just like, a wee, wee brain that it has. And then it to loop it, you had to push a button. So I would like play the loop manually and then all the way up into like working in pro tools, right? Like it’s those really small steps that make you understand some fundamentals.
Corinne Kerwin: That’s really cool. So kind of once you were already, you know, in the industry making music, I was reading up on some articles, you know, just trying to prepare and I found one that referred to your music as having a “distinctly girly take on techno”. And I know that, you know, you were in the industry when it was mostly dominated by men. So I was just wondering like how that kind of affected your experience or how people treated you and your music, and also if you feel like for you music is an expression of femininity, or if that’s just not related?
Pamela Valfer: My answer to all of the above is yes. I think that, have I run into moments that were, you know, I bumped my head on the glass ceiling? Sure. I would say, the one thing about me is I always went about my business like… I was never putting a foot forward of like, I’m less than, or I have to, like I fought when I had to fight, but it wasn’t like… I just assumed I was equal and then I was surprised when I wasn’t. I mean, I think the big thing, the one that really stood out to me is I did a side project with Chris Heidman, who was a member of Sukpatch and an artist, Yoshinori Aoki, who went by, at the time, the name HARCO in Japan. I had met him when I was touring Japan with Kitty Craft and he came over to the states, and this would’ve been in 2001, 2002, something like that. And we made a record, with the name was Octicube, for those who are into deep digging, have fun with that. And we did some shows over in Japan and for many of those songs, I did a lot of the foundation work, the, you know, laying in the beats, doing a lot of the, you know, more technical stuff. But when we would go interviews, they would look at the two guys and ask about those things. And so I’d be like, well, actually I did that. So that was probably the most overt, where I was like, well, no. I think also when I toured with Kitty Craft, some interviewers be like, you know, do you have other
creative pursuits like, you know, knitting? And I remember saying, well, I’m actually in graduate school to get my master’s degree right now, so when I’m not doing this, I’m actually getting a MFA. So, yeah, part of it is baked into the cake.
Corinne Kerwin: Yes, definitely. Do you feel like the music that you’ve created, because, you know, it’s very personal stuff, like, you know, crafting your own music and putting that out, do you feel like in a way that was like an expression of self and femininity? Or do you feel like your music was kind of like separate from that?
Pamela Valfer: That’s an interesting question. I would say that, as a considered thought, no, but I would say yes, as in that is a piece of my total whole. So I didn’t specifically like make, think about that as a topic, but as I was moving through my life, things that affected me as a person, as a woman, as a you know, all these things were sort of a collection of identities. Definitely I would say that’s in there. One thing that is always interesting to me is the lyrics, and fair play I know some people say that they can’t hear my lyrics because I mixed my vocals low, but, if you can hear that, I mean, they think a lot of my music’s pretty happy and I’m super touched and I’ve been super blessed with the outpouring of appreciation for what I’ve done. But if you listen to the lyrics, they’re really actually quite sad. I was like working, I remember when I made Beats and Breaks I was working a full-time job and I was like nine to five, and then come home, and then I’d record for a few hours. And so the whole record was made in a real down state, if you will. I was like working a front desk of someplace in Minneapolis. Yeah, that was rough. And so you hear some of that desperation in the lyrics or the content of the song. Is it specifically about me as a woman? I don’t think so, but I would say that it addresses all the things, you know, there’s love songs, there’s things in there that touch on it, but not specifically. That’s a long answer to a short question.
Corinne Kerwin: No yeah, great stuff. Kind of going along with that, so on Spotify, the part of the artist’s description for you says “Think embroidered samplers at your grandma’s house frosted cake, decorations, a kitten playing with a ball of yarn the very definition of quaint”, when describing your music. So, is there certain imagery that comes to mind, or imagery that you imagine
other people think of when listening to your music?
Pamela Valfer: You know, it’s interesting, like I said, I’m always pleasantly surprised what people draw from it. And yeah, I mean, I sort of did set the stage with, you know, this cute cat and like, you know, high pitch girl singing, you know, it does air towards that pretty quickly. But in my mind, I was just making like, you know, music, so like all the descriptions are made by other people, not made by myself. Like I said, that album to me was one where I was really bummed out, you know, just like, oh, is this record gonna be released? You know, is anyone gonna like this? I have to go to my job, hold on. Yeah. So it was really made in an alone capacity. No, I feel like all of this crafting has been through other people’s take of my music more than my own.
Corinne Kerwin: Another question I have, I know that beyond making music, you do make art that is in different forms, so what kind of art do you also make, and then how, as an art form, does music compare to the other art you kind of are involved with?
Pamela Valfer: Great questions. So I’ve always said in my whole life, like when I was really focusing on music, I have to say the, the visual art languished, and I always said they were like my two children and I could never love them at the same time. So I would sort of switch focus, and then I’d switch focus from music back to visual art for a good many years. I think this is the first time in my life really where I’m doing both at the same time. And the question you asked me is questions I ask myself, like, where do they touch, how do they interrelate with each other? And I don’t know if I have an answer for that right now. Because I do some sound work in some of my art too. But it’s more abstracted and concept based than like a traditional like pop song. My work that I do at the moment is very concept driven. So, in terms of material, you know, I use drawing, I use sculpture, I use installation, I use video, I use audio, I use anything that feels right to communicate some of the things that I’m thinking about. So, I wouldn’t say that I’m media specific. I don’t know if that answers the question.
Corinne Kerwin: No yeah that does. Also, out of the work that you’ve made, you know, with your music, I know that some of these songs include vocals and some of them are just kind of like what you’ve mixed. Was there one that you preferred to make, or one that you like most enjoy listening to or having recognized like as your work?
Pamela Valfer: Yeah. I mean, I have my favorites too, right. And sometimes, other people are more drawn to another song and you’re just surprised. You’re like, really, really? Because when Beats and Breaks first came out, I think “Alright” was probably the radio cut or the one that got the most attention. And I was like, okay. But my favorite songs were “Par 5” and “When Fortune Smiles”, now I just love those ones, those are the ones that just, you know, sit well with me. Not that I don’t like the others, but those, you know, with each release I have my favorite. Yeah, I don’t know, does that answer your question?
Corinne Kerwin: Yeah, like part of that is, do you prefer the works of yours that are more personal because of the vocals? Or, you know, are they equal to the works that, you know, you don’t have vocals on? Like, kind of what’s your opinion on that balance?
Pamela Valfer: I think I’m drawn to the music as a listener. Especially at this point, because I have some distance from it. But you know, shockingly enough, my, my original likes still stand. I just, I think I hear something and I’m like, wow, that’s a really good song. Like, you know, it’s like you’re in the pocket, like, it just hits in a certain way. And other ones I like too, but, you know, I have my own music tastes as well, right? And so when I hear it and like it, I see it less as, cause I feel like all the songs lyrically I feel pretty good about what they’re expressing. But there’s that one thing where things really line up and it just, it really, the vocals and the meaning and the music all just, just work, you know? And I’m always as surprised as you are! It’s just like, wow, this is a good one, man, I really like this song.
Corinne Kerwin: That’s awesome. Kind of going off of, you know, as having your own music taste, do you have any artists right now that you’ve kind of been drawn to or been listening to a lot?
Pamela Valfer: You know, I must say, like in terms of the current stream of bands, I’m sort of sitting outside of that. Like, I listen to music in a different way. I think, like, I’m really into jazz. I’ve gotten back into folk music, actually, for a long time I’ve always said, you know, if Kitty Craft sort of comes around again, I wanna do it on acoustic guitar. Like, that just was, I was really drawn to that and I’d played guitar, like electric guitar previously on some of the songs, you might hear that. And then I switched to the more digital. But what I’m doing now is I’m figuring out the songs and transferring them to an acoustic guitar. So I’m figuring out, so it’s kind of like I envisioned it years before, and now it’s just a really good time. So like, I’m just like right now really into like, yacht rock and just, you know, really good acoustic mellow jams. I love, what’s his name? Oh, I’m blanking. Oh, who did Music For Airports? I’m totally blanking on his
name. I’m so embarrassed. Oh, Brian Eno. That kind of music that’s just really supportive in the background. I’m a big fan of kind of trip, something that pulls you in and just, you can kind of like ride with it.
Corinne Kerwin: Great stuff. Personally, I first found your music a few years ago and I found it through social media. I think someone filmed a video on TikTok and they used that as the audio, and I was like, this is really good. And I follow you on Instagram and I know that you, you know, repost when people use your songs or, you know, they’re posting about, your music. So kind of what’s your opinion on how, I don’t know if you would classify it as a resurgence, but if it has, like how social media has kind of provided you with a bigger audience or more listeners?
Pamela Valfer: I’m gobsmacked. I’m just like, I’m humbled, I’m deeply appreciative, deeply appreciative, and I’m excited, you know, that people even, you know, this far away from the original release, are really responding to something that I did in such a real way. At least the contact that I’ve had with people, they’ve just been so sincere and it’s really moved me. So, could this have happened when it originally came out? No, because there was no internet, or it was just the beginning. I’m gonna rewind and say it was just the beginning. So, you know, I’ve always been rather independent. You know, I didn’t sign the big record deal with like, you know, Capital Records or something. I’ve always kind of worked with smaller labels or licensed the work. And so, now that there is a presence of social media, you can completely take control of your own work. And that’s really what I’ve done. It’s been super fun. I’m, like I said, humbled at at the response, massively humbled. But I think this outlet, this is, you know, if the internet was gonna have a good side, this would be one of, part of the good side. There’s a lot of bad, but yeah, this would be the things where independent anybody’s, music, artists, anybody who wants to start something, you have access beyond your bubble. And I just love that. I love that. And yeah, just a big thank you.
Corinne Kerwin: Yeah! Definitely like as a listener, it’s fascinating to me to like know that everything is at my fingertips, especially with streaming services like social media has just allowed me to find so many artists that I know I would’ve never. So, you know, from an artist’s perspective, I think that’s really cool, like being able to watch how social media has also done that. So, you know, I’m doing this through WPTS Pittsburgh, the college radio station at University of Pittsburgh. So I just wanted to ask, do you have any personal connections to college radio? And as someone who was making music before streaming services were, you know, like super popular, how do you feel about like, you know, the radio still being up and alive and you know, like young
people still trying to keep it going.
Pamela Valfer: I am… my heart is a flutter. I am just so, so happy that college radio is still hanging in there, flourishing, doing a new thing, and it’s so wonderful. College radio is so awesome and I would be heartbroken if it didn’t still exist. And I’m glad that something that seems a little bit old school still has a place and a love in the heart of people and it, and so, yeah I am a big fan of college radio. What’s my connection to Pittsburgh? A good friend of mine is actually a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. She’s the printmaking teacher. Her name’s Lenore. I haven’t spoken to her in a while, but she’s out there. I haven’t spent too much time in Pittsburgh, but I know that you’ve got some great things out there. Like you’ve got, I think the Mattress Factory is out there, if I’m not mistaken. And you’ve got like, I wanna say the Warhol [Museum]. So you’ve got some like, pretty great stuff. And growing up in Minnesota, I can say confidently, we were equally as geographically kind of isolated, and I felt really blessed to have like the Walker Art Center in Minnesota that was so in touch not only with national but international artists and that really had a deep effect on me being current with the exposures that I was getting. And so, I think when a town has something that progressive and forward looking and global looking, I think that it’s a special gift to the people of that town.
Corinne Kerwin: Definitely. Yeah, as a student here, we have a lot of free access to the local museums and stuff like that. So like, just being a student and being at this stage of my life and having so much access to different forms of media is like huge. It’s great stuff. Beyond that, do you have anything you’d like to say about your music or, you know, future plans, anything like that?
Pamela Valfer: I would like to start playing live at some point. I don’t think I’m quite there yet. And like I said, it’s been really fun to sort of translate these songs onto an acoustic guitar. It’s been, tickling a different part of my brain that is very excited about it at the moment. It also is a great sort of harmonizing instrument where I can take really early work that I did on the guitar, and then later work that is more digital heavy and they kind of come together and there’s a harmony there that I wasn’t sure was possible. So that’s what’s exciting for me. And just continuing the great interactions I’m having with social media. I mean, the fans are great, and I just wanna say to everybody in Pittsburgh and who might be listening online, is just a big thank you. You guys are wonderful.
Corinne Kerwin: That means a lot. Thank you so much for, you know, being able to do this. This has been really great. So yeah, thank you for everything.
Pamela Valfer: Likewise. Thank you for reaching out.
Corinne Kerwin: Of course, okay, have a nice day.
Pamela Valfer: Bye.
Like what you read? Check out Kitty Craft’s beloved album “Beats and Breaks from the Flower Patch” on any streaming service, including Bandcamp.