Tropical Fuck Storm’s Fiona Kitschin: “When everyone comes up to rehearse or record, dogs outnumber the humans. It’s chaotic, but lovely.”

Original Photo by: Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade collage by B.

One of Gimmie’s all-time favourite bands, Tropical Fuck Storm, have just announced a new 7” single for the song ‘Moonburn’, releasing a video for the B-side, a wild reinterpretation of The Stooges’ classic ‘Ann’. We caught up with bassist-vocalist Fiona Kitschin to find out about the release, their recent European tour, her history discovering and performing music, a new hobby she’s taken up, and the band’s love of dogs.

FIONA: My day has been good. I’ve been working. I organise all the TFS stuff; right now overseas tours, Australian tours, new releases. I’m our manager.

Gareth’s mentioned that previously, and said that you don’t get enough props for all of the behind the scenes things that you do.

FI: [Laughs] Awww. It’s bloody exhausting! It gets pretty hectic when you’re working across three different time zones – here, Europe and the US. You never get to sleep. I like sleep [laughs]. 

Thanks so much for talking with us today, it’s appreciated. We’ve wanted to speak with you for ages. We’ve spoken to Gareth and Erica before. Let’s start at the beginning; where did you grow up?

F: In the hills of Perth.

How did you first discover music?

F: I grew up in a pretty bogan area. When everyone I knew was getting into Sonic Youth, I was into Gunners and Black Sabbath [laughs]. I’ve always loved music! I’ve always loved performing; I’m a weird introvert performer. I’ve got tapes of when I was 4-years-old singing, it’s quite funny. It’s pretty cute. I have this really broad Australian accent [laughs]. 

Can you remember the kinds of things you would sing back then?

F: When I was a kid I would sing [breaks out into song]: one little speckled frog / sat on a speckled log / eating the most delicious grub / yum yum! [laughs].

Amazing!

F: I was obsessed with The Muppets too. My parent’s liked Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. I grew up with boys, so I used to high kick around the house singing that stuff.

Nice! What was the first concert you went to?

F: New Year’s Eve when I was fifteen, it was at Fremantle Oval. It was Baby Animals, Hunters & Collectors [laughs]. That was my first concert. Nothing very cool I’m afraid. Gaz always brags about his first concert being Bob Dylan, but it was nothing like that for me.

My first concert was the hip-hop group Arrested Development in 1993. I went with my older sister, everyone in the crowd near us were handing around joints. 

F: That’s a cool one. What a dream.

When did you start playing music?

F: I played trumpet when I was a kid in primary school. That was short-lived. You had to do a test. If you passed the test you’d have to chose out of three instruments: clarinet, flute or trumpet. Each of the instrument teachers would come around and try to sell to the kids, why they should play that instrument. The trumpet player said, “If you play trumpet, all the muscles that you build in your lips will make you a really good kisser.” [laughs]. As a 10-year-old that really appealed to me, and so did the fact that all the other girls played the flute and clarinet, and the boys did the trumpet. I didn’t want to play those “girly” instruments, I wanted to play the trumpet!

Sadly, when we had concert, the girls would stand with their clarinets and flutes and watch me blow on my trumpet and my face would turn bright red and I got teased so much because of that. I mean there’s lots of reasons why my trumpet career didn’t take off [laughs], it was also because it was annoying to my family. There were five kids in my family. I had a practice book that my mum had to sign – I’m lazy with practising musical instruments – but she was so happy not to have the noise, that she would just sign it whether I did it or not. Many factors went against me becoming a great trumpeter! [laughs]. 

[Laughter]. When did you start playing bass?

F: Not until I was much older. The share house that I lived in was a bit of a party house, all the dudes would come around and play music, that was our form of entertainment. I thought, ‘Stuff that, I don’t want to be left out of it. I’m going to play too!’ I took it up. It was like (going back to my trumpet practice) the easiest instrument to play.

Photo by Jhonny Russell.

Were you in any other band before The Drones?

F: I played around in a few little things with other friends and then I met Gaz in Perth, we had this group of musician friends, and I played in two other bands with him before The Drones. We had a friend, mad cunt called Robin Maverick, and we had a band together. We had another band with a friend, Brendan Humphries and His Elephant Men. So, we had a few bands before moving over to Melbourne.

How do you feel you and Gaz complement each other creatively?

F: We have different roles. I do all the organisation and planning. He organises all the music-side of things. It’s actually a really good partnership, there’s not really a crossover where we step on each others toes. He’s 24/7 thinking about music and I have an organisational mind, so I’m plotting and planning things. I could’t imagine two of the same in a partnership, it wouldn’t work as good, you’d be trying to out organise the other one and out create. 

What’s one of your first TFS-related memories?

F: We hadn’t met [Lauren] Hammer when we started the band, so it was a really cool night when me and Gaz had a blind date with her, more or less. We stalked her through a metal friend, Gaz had seen her play in High Tension. Through the mutual friend we set up a blind date for the three of us. We didn’t know what to expect. We got really drunk and by the end of the night we were making plans. The real turning point was when she said she was vegan, I was like, ‘Oh my god! I love you.’ [laughs]. 

You’re vegan?

F: Yes! It was a such a happy accident to have everyone get along.

Lovely. Previously you’ve mentioned that going from The Drones into Tropical Fuck Storm, you told to Gaz that you wanted to be in band with more women.

F: Did I? I can’t remember that, probably. That sounds about right! [laughs].

And, you wanted things to be more fun and less depressing?

F: Yeah. Musically. I didn’t mean the band itself. Definitely TFS has more of a sense of fun. There was nothing much fun musically about The Drones.

What kinds of things have helped make TFS more fun?

F: Musically, it’s upbeat and less serious. It’s more danceable and silly, whilst being dark.

We especially love tracks you sing on like ‘Suburbiopia’.

F: I love singing. We have a new single coming out, I sing on that. It’s really fun. 

What’s the single called?

F: It’s called ‘Ann’ a Stooges cover.

I saw a photo of Gaz in at Zenith Records picking up a test pressing of the new single and wondered what was coming out. A new TFS release is always very exciting!

F: It’s a new 7-inch called Moonburn and the B-Side is Stooges cover ‘Ann’. 

What made you choose ‘Ann’ to cover?

F: It was at the beginning of lockdown when Melbourne had its “ring of steel” and Ham and Erica couldn’t legally come see us, there were checkpoints on the freeway. We’d set all this time aside for recording a new album and we were getting depressed about being unable to record it. I said, ‘Well, we could just do something, let’s just do it.’ So Gaz got on the drum machines and he came up with the idea of doing ‘Ann’.

What kind of song is Moonburn?

F: It’s one of my favourite emo TFS songs. It’s has a heavy vibe, it’s on that side of the TFS spectrum. 

Do you know where the title came from?

F: I could make something up, but I was probably just doing something else when Gaz told me about it. I wasn’t listening [laughs].

Single cover art by Gregory Jacobsen.

TFS were recently in Europe; do you enjoy touring?

F: Yes, I do. It’s fun. There’s touring and then there’s touring! The more comfortably you can do it the better. The days of sleeping on people’s couches are thankfully over, now I just have fun planning a secret night off in accommodation like a Scottish castle or something like that to surprise everyone. It’s fun that we can afford to stay in hotels now, nicely. People show up to shows too [laughs]. That’s always good when you don’t have to worry about no one showing in Europe sometimes, back in the day with The Drones that was a definite scenario. 

The last tour that we just got back from in the UK were sold out shows, it was such a surprise. There were younger people, like 19-year-olds, moshing and singing the words. We were deeply shocked and thrilled. It was weird and amazing.

We’re always stoked to see you play too. Previously Gareth mentioned in an interview that when you’re on tour he loves to drag people to see things like war memorials and other historical sites; is there anything you love to drag him to see?

F: [Laughs] Yeah. I don’t drag him to see anything, it’s easier to do it by myself.

What’s some of the coolest things you saw while away this time?

F: We had two days off in Rome, which was fun. We did the Coliseum and all of that stuff. This time was a really stress-free tour. Though half way through we did get sick, really sick. It was quite awful, it was more on the holiday end of things. There was one show in Oslo that me, Erica and Gareth felt like shit, we all had insane flus. Erica’s doctor’s certificate says, laryngitis. I had a doctor come see me in Greece cos I was so sick. We also played a show in Athens when the three of us were really sick; it was the last show of the tour, when it’s the last show there’s no fear of totally fucking your voice for the rest of the tour. We just push ourselves so hard for that one hour and then if we collapse or lose our voice it doesn’t matter.

We still managed to relax in a villa on a Greek island for five days, eating yummy food, swimming. The other guys, not me, were cliff jumping into the ocean. If we can, we love to have some nice time on tour.

The Greek islands sound wonderful, it’d be so pretty at this time of year.

F: Yeah. We’ve got more Europe shows in September and it’s just show after show after show and no days off. 

Is there anywhere high on your travel bucket list?

F: I just love the Mediterranean countries. Greece and Italy. I hate the cold. I’d love to play South America. Me and Gaz have been there on holiday, Argentina, Brazil and Chile, to see some family. We’ve never played there though, that would definitely be fun!

I read that you went to Mexico and had some scary experiences.

F: We finished doing a tour and we ended up in San Diego and from there it’s a quick drive through Tijuana to Baja. It was wonderful we had a nice holiday. But, we’ve had some dicey experiences in Mexico. 

Two years later, we were at the end of a tour and thought we should go back to Baja, Mexico. We did it with our friend [Amanda] Roffy, she was driving on The Drones tour of the US. During that period the drug cartels had moved in and it had become a really dangerous area. No tourist were going there. Tourists were being kidnapped on the highway, women were being raped and money stolen. We got to our hotel and we were the only guests there. Two days later we read in the Gringo Gazette what was happening there, it was quite horrifying. We had to go through army check points. We also read that you should look at their shoes and machine guns to make sure they’re the real army, cos they could be the drug cartel. We had an outdoor jacuzzi at the resort, but had to turn the lights off at night so no-one would see us. Luckily, the over the counter chill pills are good in Mexico [laughs], it helped somewhat.

[Laughter]. I also wanted to ask you about your pups, Foxie and Ralph.

F: Awww my favourite topic!

They’d be around 10-years-old, right?

F: Yes.

How did you meet them?

F: They’re real characters, they’re quite naughty [laughs]. Our neighbours up the road had just had puppies. There’s a Fox Terrier breeder in a country town near us. Our friends up the road are Fox Terrier Fanciers. They’d always have fox terriers. They had a boy fox terrier called Kevin that was really cute. Our neighbour went to the breeders and the Grand Champion Bitch, Ruby, the owner said she couldn’t breed puppies anymore and they were going to fucking put her down.

Noooo!

F: So our neighbour Andrew took her. Gaz and I were recording an album up at Andrew’s with Spencer P. Jones with a band called The Nothing Butts. While we were recording the album, we saw conception out the window, Kevin was having sex with Ruby! It turns out that she could have another litter!

Miracle babies! 

F: Miracle babies! We would go visit them everyday since they were born and it just became inevitable that we would take them in. Everyone in the band loves dogs. Between the four members of the band we have five dogs.

I know Erica has Poncho!

F: Yeah. Ham has Jack and Toohey. When everyone comes up to rehearse or record, dogs outnumber the humans. It’s chaotic, but lovely.

Nice! That sounds perfect. We love dogs so much! We have a little pup named Gia, she’s half-Jack Russell Terrier and half-Maltese.

F: Awww.

Another thing I was curious about was the sparkly black dress you’ve been wearing when you play live. It’s amazing. The way it catches the lights on stage is pretty special. Where did you get it?

F: Thank you! It’s my favourite. I got it from my oldest friend, who I met when I was three. We grew up in Perth together as Mormons. You can only wear a stage outfit for so long I feel, I might have to put it away for a while. I would wear it every night if I could!

Last question; what’s something that you like to geek out about?

F: Well, I feel very middle age, middle class saying this, and it’s a bit of a trend at the moment but, I started pottery during the pandemic [laughs]. I was watching this series The Great Pottery Throw Down and I’d get on my pottery wheel and make bowls and things. That’s my latest thing.

The other thing is, I love food and cooking! I’m always thinking about new recipes and cooking. I make a lot of Mediterranean thins, and savoury pies.

Tropical Fuck Storm have a new 7” single Moonburn/Ann available for pre-order HERE. Check out TFS Records. Find them at @tropical_fuck_storm and TFS Facebook.

Catch them on their Australian tour kicking off tomorrow (August 4):

Guerilla Toss’ Kassie Carlson: “I don’t need to be super rich or super popular with my music, I just want to see the world and see amazing shit!”

Handmade collage by B.

New York art-punk band Guerilla Toss make fun, interesting, super cool, cosmic, synth-pop post-punk! They recently released two new songs – “Human Girl” and “Own Zone” – as part of the Sub Pop Singles Club. Gimmie chatted to vocalist Kassie Carlson from her home on a farm in Upstate New York as they work on new music.

How have you been Kassie?

KASSIE CARLSON: I’ve been good, I’ve just been quarantining here. I don’t live in New York City, I live in Upstate New York, which is two hours away from the city. I’m on a bunch of land, I’m able to not be around people. New York City is pretty crazy right now!

The area you live in has a lot of woodland, a lot of countryside, right?

KC: Yeah, wilderness and farmland. I live on a 260-acre farm, but it’s not a farm anymore it’s kind of… mow the grass and make hay. There’s a lot of open space, we go hiking a lot up here.

You go hiking with your Chow Chow dog, Watley?

KC: Yes, definitely [laughs]. He’s actually outside with me right now as I chat to you.

Do you have a favourite spot you like to go?

KC: There’s lots of different places to go. The other day we hiked to a place called the Balsam Fir Fire Tower, which is an old fire tower that they used to go up to the very top and look over the whole forest to see if there was any fires. That was really cool. It was a really warm day and we hiked all the way to the top of the mountains and at the top there was snow and all of these Balsam Fir trees, it looked like a fairy tale!

That sounds beautiful. I love natural places and just being outside in nature.

KC: Yeah, me too.

Do you ever get inspired creatively from nature?

KC: Yeah, definitely, how could I not!

Have you been doing anything creative lately?

KC: Always, every day I’m doing something… working on music, some days it doesn’t always pan out… just working, writing, reading, stuff like that.

Why is music important to you?

KC: Oh, I don’t know? I guess I’ve always been a fan and then I started making music. I started off young singing in choirs and playing violin, but I was always really into rock music. My brother was a musician in punk rock and metal bands, I thought that was kind of cool. Haphazardly it happened for me, it didn’t happen right away, it happened when I was older. As a teenage girl I was kind of just observing music but then as I got older I became a part of it.

It’s great when you can finally get the confidence to give something a go yourself.

KC: Yes!

Is there anything that’s helped shaped some of your ideas about art and creativity?

KC: When I say I entered the music world being in a band, it was kind of because the entryway was easy, it was paved out… I don’t know if they have these in Australia but, here we have a lot of underground shows, basement shows; I lived in a house that had basement shows every night. It was easy to just try something out, the atmosphere was very supportive. I hung out with a lot of people that went to art school and music school. There was a lot of room to experiment in a way that I think a lot of people don’t necessarily have, I was lucky in that sense. I had a really supportive audience.

I read that when you were younger you liked to listen to Mariah Carey, TLC and Destiny’s Child…

KC: Yeah, of course! [laughs]. Did you?

Yes, sure did! I grew up liking those artists and then punk and hip hop and all kinds of things, I had four older siblings that all liked different music and my mum and dad too, I kind of just absorbed everything. I love stuff from doo-wop all the way through to noise stuff.

KC: Yeah, same.

I saw a photo of Watley online and there was a big record collection in the background; is that yours?

KC: They weren’t my records, they’re the drummer from Guerilla Toss’ records. We have a lot of records in the house that’s for sure.

Is there an album that you’ve listened to more than any other?

KC: I’m all over the place. I’m always listening to a million things. I’ve been trying to find new things lately, I’ve been going through things and just picking random shit to get my creative ideas flowing. I have a lot of cassette tapes too.

I used to find a lot of new music through trading tapes with my friends.

KC: Yeah, I feel like that’s how I discovered a lot of new music too. I grew up in Cape Cod, which is kind of like a beach town in Massachusetts. They have these swap shops there at the dump so it’s basically like a free store and you take whatever you want, sometimes there’s really good stuff there; I got my first guitar amp there and a bunch of cool clothes. I got my very first cassettes there too, they were mixtapes that somebody had made.

That’s awesome! I love going to thrift stores and the dump shop near where I live here too. It’s good for the environment too reusing items rather than putting them in landfill; people can be so wasteful.

KC: Oh yeah! People don’t want to take it to the second-hand shop and they just leave them at these places and it won’t just go to the trash. So much clothing gets thrown away.

Totally! Basically my whole wardrobe is made up of clothes from thrift stores. You find so much cool stuff, and its stuff that not everyone else is wearing. I find it so hard to go the regular shops/mall to buy stuff. Before you started playing in a band; did you express yourself creatively in any other way?

KC: I’ve done some painting but nothing major really. [Laughs] Sewing, I guess.

You mentioned that you started singing in choirs; did you jump into bands from there or were you making music yourself?

KC: It was kind of like hot and cold, off and on. I didn’t really play in bands until I was in my twenties. I’d mess around on the keyboard and make little guitar songs… I was kind of in a metal band! Then I made my own music.

Your solo stuff was the Jane La Onda stuff, right?

KC: Yeah [laughs].

I understand that you have a real love for words and enjoy reading; what are you reading at the moment?

KC: I’m reading a lot of magazines. I’m reading Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino. They’re really cute, interesting, whimsical Italian folktales with a cerebral twist. I really like the way he uses words and meaning. I started reading The Water Dancer [by Ta-Nehisi Coates].

One of your favourite books is Siddhartha by Herman Hesse?

KC: Yeah, yeah. I like him a lot. I like the way he uses words and perception. He takes you on a journey with words.

I wanted to ask you about your writing; do you ever have a vision for a song before you sit down to write it?

KC: Not usually. Usually I’ll be listening to sounds that could become a song and those sounds have a meaning in them that I like after listening to it over and over. Sometimes I write little things before but it’s more that I hear the music and the words are already in there, the pattern is in there somewhere and I have to find it by listening to it over and over again.

What kinds of things have you been finding yourself writing about lately?

KC: Honestly, I’ve been writing a lot of political stuff in a way. Coronavirus isn’t as crazy in Australia, right?

That’s right, we’ve been pretty lucky compared to a lot of countries.

KC: New York is crazy. I haven’t worked for a whole month because I have a heart condition. I’m usually working a lot and keeping busy being out and about talking to people, but I haven’t really gone out much. It’s interesting writing in this time.

Do you feel lonely living away from your band members Upstate?

KC: Oh definitely! The drummer is up here and the guitar player is up here right now too, we’ve been working a new music. It’s kind of like a reprieve though, we played over 100 shows last year and toured all over the country as well as going to Europe. To be in a city too is really taxing too.

I feel that when I go into the city too, I live in a costal beachside town that’s really laidback. I’ll drive to the nearest capital city that’s an hour away from me and after being there a half hour I’ll get too overwhelmed!

KC: Yeah, it’s like chaos!

Previously you’ve mentioned that when you play live it’s like a deep meditation for you; do you do meditation in any other areas of your life?

KC: Yeah, walking meditation when I’m walking through the woods with Watley. Anytime really, doing anything. Even washing dishes, like feeling the warmth of the hot water on your hands or pausing in any way; looking at a plant; or even driving is a meditation in a way, I think.

So for you it’s having an awareness of what you’re doing and being in the moment?

KC: Yeah, awareness and a pause, remembering that you’re in a body. It can be resting for a second.

In isolation do you have a typical day or a routine you do?

KC: Yeah. I wake up around 9 or 10am and then I make some oatmeal and coffee. I take a shower. Then I’ll work on music from 11 to 7. Maybe have a snack somewhere in there at around maybe 2pm. At 7 I’ll make dinner. After that I’ll work on music again until 10pm. At 10 I’ll watch a movie. That’s what I do every day. Maybe in the middle of the day I’ll take a hike or two.

 Do you learn things about yourself when making music?

KC: Definitely. Writing lyrics is like going; what’s happening in my brain? How am I feeling? What is my current experience? What do my past experiences mean? Even the lyrical process beyond writing the lyrics initially, when I’m performing, the meaning of lyrics singing them over and over again for many years, eight years now in some cases, the meaning of the lyrics change. I feel like I’m constantly learning about myself, it’s like a constant self-awareness and the awareness of people around you and what’s happening on the Earth and how you interpret that. I’m a pretty high anxiety person, so the profession of being a frontwoman in a band is a weird choice; it’s also not a weird choice because it’s a process, the process of me coming out of my shell and me interpreting my anxieties and dealing with them and dealing with trauma. I would definitely say that I am always learning about myself and other people [laughs] and those interactions.

So by your showing those parts of you and you trying to work yourself out, because it’s honest and really looking at things, that resonates with others and might help them in their life?

KC: Yeah. I hope someday you can see us perform because I think our performance brings the music to a different level. I can act things out and you can see different accents on things. The music recordings are great but I hope you can see us perform.

Same!

KC: When I first started touring we would be the only band with a girl on it on the bill. It was crazy and so weird. Now there’s a lot more women and all different types of people. It felt like; do they just like us because I’m a girl? I want people to like us because it’s good music.

Another thing I love about Guerilla Toss is the art work for your albums, I’s always so colourful!

KC: Yeah! [laughs].

Is there any thought behind making it so colourful?

KC: I guess to make it fun and interesting. We’re doing a release for the Sub Pop Singles Club and that one is actually not colourful.

What songs will be on that release?

KC: It’s actually two new songs that no one has heard.

I love that Guerilla Toss’ music is all so different.

KC: I always think it’s weird when someone’s like, ‘I like your older stuff’; if we were to make stuff that sounds the same all the time that wouldn’t be very genuine.

Is sharing your music with others important to you?

KC: Yeah. I hope people listen to it and have fun or have some kind of experience, even if it’s, ‘oh god, this is intense!’ and they think it’s awful… at least they had some sort of reaction and experience with it [laughs]. Or if they see us and go, ‘oh, that was really harsh’ or ‘wow! That was softer than I thought it would be’.

Ok, last question; have you ever had a really life changing moment?

KC: Yeah. So many. When I had heart surgery, is an easy thing to say. I had open heart surgery two years ago. I had an infection in one of my heart valves. It was crazy, really intense. For the first time… I usually feel my whole life that I’ve been kind of like a tank: I’m super strong, I don’t really get sick, I feel strong-willed and do what I want. I was really floored by this sickness. I didn’t really feel right until kind of recently. It took a long time to recover. The recovery was so abstract that I didn’t really feel like I could relate to anyone. It was a multi-faceted recovery. I felt alone in it but I really am glad that I am where I am right now—in a beautiful place in nature and still writing music and still alive! It’s cool to have Watley too, he’s a great dog!

Is there anything that you’d really love to do creatively or in life in general right now?

KC: I really just want to travel more. That’s probably my favourite thing about touring. It wasn’t until more recent years of touring that we started to be more tourist-y, like going to national parks. We went to Yellowstone National Park! That was always my dream to go there. I remember having a National Geographic magazine when I was a kid and seeing all the geysers in it and the buffalo—I love animals and nature! Another time we were in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and we went to this amazing place and went on a river raft ride. In San Diego we went on this kayak ride, we were ocean kayaking through these sea caves. It was super epic! That’s what I really want to do with the rest of my life, I don’t need to be super rich or super popular with my music, I just want to see the world and see amazing shit!

Please check out GUERILLA TOSS; on bandcamp; on Facebook; on Instagram.