Rock music

Making Music While Making Change: The Seattle Band Works To Make Rock Music More Inclusive

Kitty Junk works to empower female listeners, helped start an audio engineering program for all walks of life, and raises money for domestic violence prevention.

SEATTLE — As skaters laced up for a show at Southgate Roller Rink in White Center, Seattle-based glam-grunge duo Kitty Junk geared up for a show with hard-hitting tracks mixing a variety of genres.

“There’s punk, glam, grunge and metal, and it all comes together through our different influences to create anything,” explained Dr. Angela Dane with a laugh.

Ryan Lee described it as “rock without borders”.

The duo first met on Facebook and bonded over Sleater-Kinney, songwriting, feminism and life stories.

“It was really in his garage, during the pandemic – the music was starting to match, the feminism was starting to match, the stories were matching, certain life stories,” Ryan Lee said.

They formed their own “quarantine bubble” and started meeting, jamming, talking, live-streaming and making videos. It all came together in Kitty Junk, a band that combines activism with a simple love of performance, music, and a platform for the passion they feel and want to share.

“Just confidence for women, themes that aren’t usually associated with women, you can always tell when we go out it’s like a novelty,” Ryan Lee said. “I love the stories we’ve heard from women telling us about confidence, that the stories inspire us, I wish I could play guitar like that, I’m like, you can do it.”

Based on their own experiences, they are also working to make the rock industry a more inclusive and POC-friendly space.

“It looks like we’ve progressed in a lot of ways, but like Ryan said, you walk into the studios and there’s so few people of color and women and non-binary performers in there and engineers in particular. So that’s something I would love for younger generations,” Dane said. “Anything you want to do, you can do it and there are affordable and accessible ways to learn from mentors and that’s the most important thing.”

They helped start an audio engineering program at North Seattle College aimed at making these skills accessible to people from all walks of life. Dane said the program offers individual lessons or as an actual program, and is taught entirely by women and people of color, with guest speakers who are successful in the field.

“Really wanting to feel empowered on the production side, even though our main love is performance,” Dane said.

They are also passionate about ending domestic violence. At their shows, they sell wristbands that read “Rage” – named after one of their songs. Proceeds from wristband sales are donated to the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“Rage is my favorite, it’s super important,” Dane said, explaining its connection to domestic violence and women’s lived experiences.

Although they aren’t afraid to dodge tough issues, Lee said they are artists first and foremost, ready to use their platform.

“We have this extreme mission, but we can also do anything else – if I want to smash a guitar on stage, I’ll do it,” Lee said. Dane laughed, sharing that she did.

Kitty Junk’s debut album ‘Converse Theory’ is out and they are recording ‘Junk Punk’. They have also created several music videos, launched a podcast and programmed several shows. They are scheduled to perform at The Crocodile in April, as well as a performance at the Artists for Color Expo that people can stream on Zoom on April 2.

You can read more about Kitty Junk and listen to their music here.