In a locker area at Vancouver’s Harbour Dance Centre that seems to function as more of a makeshift passageway from creaky corrider to studio space than a private, self-contained room, The Katherines are changing.
Literally, sisters Kate and Lauren Kurdyak and long-time friend Kaitlyn Hansen-Boucher—the three women behind the local alt-pop trio—are shedding their bohemian, floor-length maxis for a ‘70s-inspired getup of denim bell-bottoms and crisp, white Ts with the self-assured efficiency of Kendall Jenner backstage at her fifth consecutive New York Fashion Week show.
Figuratively, however, the brisk wardrobe change reflects a return to the artists’ roots, one that allows them to shine as both individuals and an intrepid, unified group.
“I feel like the more time we spend in the music business, the more we’re kind of going toward just being more natural and true to what we wanna be,” says frontwoman Kate, speaking to the Straight ahead of the band’s album shoot on the dance centre’s rooftop.
“Because we spent so much time at the beginning trying to figure out what our image was and what our look was, and then we just realized that it’s more about what we just naturally pick or what we wear day-to-day.”
Since forming in 2012, The Katherines, named after a metaphorical alter-ego of a strong, authentic woman, have carefully carved a place for themselves in the Canadian alt-pop scene. Singer-songwriter Kate’s breathy vocals have carried effortlessly from her intimate coffee shop performances of days past to the trio’s sultry debut single, “Cherry Lips,” forming a hearty foundation for Lauren and Kaitlyn’s equally ethereal croons.
The indie darlings are now preparing to release their first album, To Bring You My Heart, which is slated to drop this spring. The expansive work draws from the girls’ own experiences as adolescents and the incessant makeups and breakups that come packaged with such formative years.
“It kind of reflects a whole bunch of different, like, moods a little bit,” Kaitlyn says.
“Of a teenage girl or a girl growing up,” chimes Lauren.
It’s a tad more difficult to pin down the album’s style. Though “Cherry Lips” and special release “You”, a peppy, ‘60s-esque ballad about a high-school crush, may conveniently fall under the label of sparkling, teenage pop, The Katherines’ latest track, “Primitive” reveals a darker, more mature side of the girls.
Lamenting over the shortcomings of “modern men” over a mix of electronic beats and funky keyboard notes, The Katherines sound more like a moody Marina and the Diamonds than pop-sister-parallel Haim as they chomp ferociously into a platter of meats and stand guard, eyes leering, in a spookily fogged woodland throughout the song’s accompanying video.
“It’s a little bit Halsey, a little bit Lana Del Rey; sometimes Katy Perry, sometimes more like Florence and the Machine,” Kate says of the album. “It’s a mess, but that’s what being a teenager is like. Your heart is a mess all the time and you’re feeling all these different things, so I think the album is kind of representative of what it feels like to go through the ups and downs of love and life as a youth.”
Asked to name their favourite tracks from To Bring You My Heart, the ladies reveal choices that are similarly all over the map.
“There’s a duet called ‘Better Off Now’ and that’s [by] Kate and [one of studio our collaborators] Colin [Janz],” says Lauren. “But it’s awesome. It’s kind of a different sound than most of the songs from our album. I don’t even know if I’d describe it as indie or pop.”
“It’s like ‘80s techno,” adds Kate, before revealing her own favourite: a song called “Heart on the Table”, the first one she penned after the group signed with 604 Records.
“That probably is the most special just because it was the first song that was written for the label,” she explains. “And it’s sad. I always feel it when I sing it.”
For Kaitlyn, it’s a toss-up between the album’s title track, “To Bring You My Heart”, and the aforementioned “Primitive”. “It’s kind of different,” she says of the band’s sophomore single. “It’s nice to jam to; it’s vibe-y.”
As for the message behind To Bring You My Heart? It’s a notion that The Katherines are still growing accustomed to themselves. But considering the group’s success thus far and an upcoming year that includes a debut album release and a performance at Calgary's Juno Fest in April, it's one that certainly has its share of pay-offs.
“It’s okay to not be okay,” says Lauren.
“And to be yourself,” adds Kate. “Whatever you want to say or whatever you’re thinking, it’s okay to express that.”