Ferociously unapologetic. That’s the best way to describe Kitty Junk, the raging glam rock duo of guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lee and drummer Angie Megan. They exploded onto the scene with their first LP Converse Theory last October after spending months writing emphatic feminist rock songs in Megan’s garage. As a result of being selected as winners of the Artist Support Program at Jack Straw Cultural Center, Kitty Junk’s second full-length album will be funded by and recorded at the organization’s lauded recording studios.
In the next few months, they plan to release several new singles from their forthcoming sophomore project, Junk Punk, due out in summer 2022. Until then, fans can preview the new material at the band’s shows. On February 4th, Kitty Junk brings their glam rock activism Southgate Roller Rink with Yeti Set Go, Tin Foil Top Hat, and Shadow Pattern; on February 11th, Kitty Junk plays for a live burlesque performance from Seattle Burlesque & Cabaret Association at The Good Inn in Ballard.
The duo has accomplished so much in just a few years – and surprisingly, it all began with a casual Facebook add and a random invite to a show. “I was already debating quitting my old band and then out of nowhere, because I started adding all these musicians in the scene [on Facebook], I get a text… to go to a Sleater-Kinney concert,” remembers Lee. While catching one of their favorite bands together, Lee discovered that Megan only lived a few blocks from her in North Seattle, and that she played drums. The two started jamming regularly in Megan’s garage, and once COVID hit, they formed a bubble and kept rehearsing on Megan’s porch.
“I was like, should we just like write some stuff and hang out? The songwriting just happened and next thing I knew we already had like five ideas and we’re just laughing together and we were like, what is this? And she was like, I don’t know, it’s junk,” Lee recalls – and so, Kitty Junk was born.
As their friendship grew, Megan, a Women’s Studies professor at North Seattle College, shared her dissertation on Sabina Spielrein, the first female psychoanalyst, with Lee, sparking an impassioned and ongoing conversation between the two about feminism and the barriers women face in the music industry.
“I became obsessed with her because I found her diaries and her letters and she wrote to people like Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud from her perspective and there’s a #MeToo moment going on in there where she actually stands up for herself and it’s super fascinating,” explains Megan. “I feel like Ryan and I just super related on everything around that.” These considerations have inevitably made their way into the band’s songs and enhanced the mission of Kitty Junk.
Both Megan (who is queer and BIPOC), and Lee (who is bi and a trans woman), have experienced their fair share of scrutiny, sliminess, and underestimation in the music world because of who they are, particularly in the world of rock, which is dominated by white cis-gender men.
“It’s every show — a guy is telling me or asking me if I know how to set up my own drums and telling me that I’m not doing it correctly or something and it’s just so frustrating,” says Megan.
“I love it when I get on stage and they’re just like, oh, how many people in the band?” adds Lee. “And we’re like, it’s just us, and they say, oh, when are the guys showing up?”
It’s been so bad, that after their recent win of the Rock for Mental Health: Battle of the Bands contest on the Olympic Peninsula, they were told by some competing artists they only won “because we were girls.” But being themselves is Kitty Junk’s super power, and it blows (and changes) minds. When they get on stage, they are so completely and fiercely themselves there’s no denying them and they use that authenticity to intentionally lift others up too.
For instance, Kitty Junk DIY produced and recorded all of their debut LP Converse Theory due the unsavory experiences they’ve had with male producers and engineers. Afterward, they decided to start a popular Womxn & Audio Facebook group for womxn and non-binary folks to share and empower themselves with DIY audio engineering skills.
Additionally, for the release of their single “Rage,” which came out in 2021, they sold rage wristbands, with all proceeds going to benefit the Coalition Against Domestic Violence for WA. “We’ve seen such a spike in domestic abuse during quarantine because people are stuck together… frustrations are pent up and there’s nowhere to go and we’ve seen this 50% rise in physical abuse and emotional traumas specifically perpetrated on women,” says Megan.
“Reload,” another song off Converse Theory, was written to bring awareness to the uptick in suicide attempts during the pandemic, especially among BIPOC and queer folks.
“It’s one of those things where the personal is political. We can’t really step out of the house without it being like ‘a thing,’ and so I think that’s part of why Kitty Junk and the music comes out the way that it does,” says Megan.
“We’re writing this amazing music that we like but we also do all this activism and it’s integral to who we are,” Lee adds.