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Guest Post: Katzenjammer

By Bill Havercroft.

Listening to one of Norwegian all-female band Katzenjammer's two studio albums with no prior knowledge, you would be forgiven for getting the wrong impression. Here's a bunch of sweet-voiced girls, performing well-written songs covering a wide selection of genres but essentially falling under the single adjective "folksy", assisted, by the sound of it, by a solid session band and all the usual studio production magic. Big deal.

So you shouldn't do this. Instead, you should go immediately to YouTube and find some good-quality clips of them performing live. This should clarify a few things. Firstly, yes the Katzenjammer ladies all can really sing. Their repertoire calls on several different female vocal specialities: the fragile chanteuse, the sultry jazz siren, the operatic soprano, the roaring rock goddess, and my personal favourite, tight four-part harmony (I'm a sucker for good four-part harmonies). Lead singer duty rotates between the four members, just like the girl bands of yore, and they always sound great.

Secondly, it's clear that the girls are in fact extremely talented instrumentalists. They use a huge variety of instruments, and the rotation of the lead singer from song to song extends to mixing around who plays what. It sounds like a gimmick, but there's no trade-off; every member plays every instrument she picks up like a pro. It's a wonderful thing to witness.
Thirdly, "stage presence" is an ill-defined term, but goddamn, Katzenjammer have it, whatever it is. It goes beyond their technical ability, the quality of their songs and their glamorous, fanciful stage outfits. They obviously simply love to perform, and so they pour absolutely everything into it. The result is that they're the most stompingly entertaining live band I've seen in ages.

At time of writing, Katzenjammer are in the middle of a short UK tour, before embarking on what looks like an absolutely rammed schedule of summer festival appearances across Europe.  

Photos: The Katzenjammer website.

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