Kelsey and the Chaos Interview

I had the pleasure of speaking with Kelsey Merritt, lead singer of the New York band, Kelsey and the Chaos. The twenty-year old was surprisingly mature and sophisticated: a delightful blend of the innovative punk icon Debbie Harry and contemporary new wave fashionista Gwen Stefani. If you’re unfamiliar with KATC, I suggest you do your research. You’ll find that their mix of rock and post punk is catchy and wildly entertaining. KATC has been featured on MTV2’s Rock Band contest, judged by Dashboard Confessional. They also have the respectable distinction from Alternative Press Magazine that they are one of the top 100 bands “You Need to Know” of 2009.

KATC’s already devoted fan base is eagerly anticipating their new single, “Life Goes On,” which will be released on December 15, 2009 by Tragic Hero records. The single is going to be an exclusive download on iTunes. 

Tell me a little about your band. Introduce us to everyone.

My name is Kelsey Merritt and I’m the lead singer. Nick Rotunno, 20, is the drummer, Tyler Lyons, 18, is a guitarist, and Corey DeVincenzo, 22, is the bassist. 

Where are you from? Tell us a little about your background.

I’ve lived in Florida and Indiana. From Indianapolis, I moved to New York. My dad had to move around a lot for business and so I’ve seen a lot of places. 

 Wow. Indiana is quite different from New York. That must have been a huge culture shock.

Definitely. It’s a really rough place some times. You know, all the different kinds of people stuffed into one area and everyone’s running around. It’s a really hard place to be, but like Jay-Z says in his song, “Empire State of Mind,” once you make it here, you can make it anywhere. I’ve found that to be true. It was hard to adjust at first, but now that I’m here, I’ll never leave. I love it. 

How did you get into music?

I’ve been interested in the arts my whole life. When I was sixteen, I was already involved in voice and theater and then my family decided that we needed to take the next step and relocate to New York, so I could pursue my dreams. I originally wanted to be an actress. Then it all turned around. 

Tell me more about your acting.

I love musical theater. I’ve been in a few small shows, like the Wizard of Oz and Dear Maudie. Those were so much fun. I always wanted to be in the off-Broadway show, 42nd Street. 

Does your acting experience translate into your music?

Of course. I’ve always loved being on stage, it’s such a rush. When I was acting, I learned how to tune into everyone else and kind of tap into their energy. Everyone in the band is really into connecting with our audience. Our fans make the whole experience special. They are so excited to see us and that is the best feeling ever. 

How did you meet the guys in the band? How did it all come together?

I was going to Berklee College of Music in Boston and met Nick right away. He was a student, too and we became instant friends. Within two months, we decided we needed to form a band. We were just sitting around talking and figured that since we were going to a music school that we should do something with our talents. From there, we met Tyler and Corey through our other friends. 

How about the guys? Have they always been in music?

Yeah, the guys have been in music a long time, too. They’ve been doing solo projects or performing with other bands. 

Are all of you able to focus solely on the band or do you have outside jobs? 

Yeah, we’re all working. Until we make it big, we all have to hold down day jobs. Right now, I work at a chocolate shop in the West End. It has the best chocolate ever. 

It sounds like you’re all really down-to-earth, like you’ve got a good head on your shoulders. How do you stay so ‘real’ and not caught up in showbiz?

We’re all really into the idea of community. I love our fans and they love us. We try to contribute as much as we can to help people. Right now, we’re working on a benefit concert where we’ll donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. 

What kind of music are you listening to right now?

In general, I listen to a lot of classic rock. I grew up with Heart, Pat Benatar, Blondie, and Joan Jett. As a band, we were fortunate enough to be on the Warped Tour and we got to know a lot of really cool bands. Forever the Sickest Kids is on my iPod right now. It’s been an honor to tour with them. 

You mentioned being a part of the Warped Tour. Tell me about that experience.

We’ve done it twice now and hopefully, we’ll be there again this year. It’s like summer camp for bands. We’re all there to rock out and have a great time but there’s a lot of networking and learning too. Everyone is in close quarters and we all hang out. We’ve met so many awesome people. It’s a great time. 

If you could play with anyone, who would it be?

I absolutely love Andrew McMahon from Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. 

Since you are a young female rocker and a strong personality in nouveau pop music, there’s potential for you to be a role model. How do you feel about that?

I feel good about that. I’ve done my share of stupid teenage stuff, just like everyone else. But overall, I’m a good person. I’d make a great example to young women that they can make their dreams come true.

How does your new stuff differ from your debut album?

We’re trying to get away from the punk or hardcore vibe. We’ve been compared to Blink 182 and lumped in with Paramore and Evanescence. We love them and it’s cool but we are looking to be a top 40 pop band, so our new stuff is more upbeat. I’d say I want our music to be categorized as pop with an edge. 

 What is your strategy to blow up the scene and become a major force in pop music?

We’re releasing our music with iTunes to make it accessible to everyone. We’re hoping that people will visit our MySpace site and listen to those tracks and spread the word. Hopefully our release of “Life Goes On” will spark a lot of interest and we’ll just keep on promoting our shows around the city. 

All you hipsters and scenesters need to be among the first to get on the KATC bandwagon. For starters, listen to their debut EP, Against the Wall and then check out their MySpace music page to listen to their new Christmas song, “Santa Baby Sampler”. You’ll become a believer as you devour each and every delicious slice of their modern audio pop-Americana. The next step is to see them on stage. If you’re in New York, go to a show—ASAP. They promise to put on a kick-ass performance that will leave you begging for more. The rest of us will have to wait until they’re put in wide rotation on radio stations all over the country and deservedly headline a national tour.