Their 2013 Basement show was a sell-out and they’ve been billed as one of Australia’s hippest live swinging jazz acts … a high energy outfit with sizzling vocals, fat horns and a rhythm section that will make you swing.
We caught up with two of the Big Kitty crew. Matt and Anna Eves prior to their show at The Arts Centre Gold Coast’s Basement this Saturday 1 November.
Tell us about yourselves and how you came to be performers?
Matt: I got chucked into the school band when I was 12, and then started playing professional gigs with a trad jazz band at age 13, at which time I single-handedly reduced the average band member age by about three decades. I finished school and went to the Con in WA to study jazz properly (WAAPA), but instead of pursuing a fully fledged academic jazz musician pathway, my time at uni was best spent making life long friends in Perth amongst the motley crew of jazzheads that also congregated around the Con, the Hyde Park Hotel, Universal Bar, and the Moon Cafe. I never said no to a gig, which meant I happily bounced between many genres in the vibrant Perth live music scene for a decade or so. Realising a muso life would never really pay the bills, my mum kicked me out of bed at the ripe old age of 19 to go and get a job. So I did – but only one that would still allow me to gig six nights a week for the next decade. I’m still with the same company, just further up the ranks and relocated over east. And I still get my kicks playing with genuine trad jazz gurus, the older the better. They tell the best jokes, and know all the ‘real’ lyrics.
Anna (Big Kitty): I was a ‘performer’ from the time I was a little kid, but it was all about studious, anxious, rehearsed and perfected performance (triple threat, but not terribly threatening on any front). Choirs, lots of drama and musical theatre (through which I also made some hilarious life long friends who helped me find joy and beauty through tough times), and vocal jazz trio performances with some best mates from high school, all contributed. But: Matty’s how I came to actually be a musician capable of being unafraid of wrong notes, and mostly interested in being with people rather than putting on a flawless show. I still definitely consider myself a big fat rookie when I think of who I’ve been able to learn from, through the band and the amazing crew of supporters, volunteer roadies, venue owners, one-off punters, festival goers and generous sitter-inners who have tagged along for the ride. When I think of the people I’ve shared laughs and beers and very dodgy improvisation with, I am awed. When I try and mentally list the roster of jazz, blues, rockabilly and rock legends that THOSE guys and gals have played with in their own lives, I am gobsmacked and speechless. But my favourite thing is that when I hear the word ‘family’, of course my own comes to mind, but so do dozens of dear mates and their own partners, kids, parents, siblings and friends, all of whom either play instruments, sing, or come to life when they appreciate live music.
You guys have been playing together for ten years – how do you manage having full time jobs and having this recording / performing career on the side?
You forgot full time Masters degree study (Anna) and having two kids! Actually, the answer to ‘how do you manage’ is almost universally: ‘drop your standards and just have fun’.
Any funny stories to share from your time performing together?
Millions. Some fit for publication, some not. Every gig is hilarious.
- That time when Slash was on TV for the NRL grand final, so Mal lent him a hat, Anna lent him some hair, and Rupert Slashed the jiminy out of that guitar solo.
- That time when we launched our debut CD and every band member wore the Elvis sunnies.
- That time sitting on Boundary Street, West End outside Satchmo’s at 3.00am with a trumpet.
- And every time the Train song played for Ida’s last dance at Satchmo’s.
- That time Uncle Grant (our best mate and vollie roadie) had to help Matt switch double basses mid tune with gear from a ute parked way out the back at the Brisbane Blues Festival at the Waterloo.
- That time Big Kitty sang 9-and-a-half-months pregnant in stilettos. And the other time, and that other time, and that other time.
- That time we got flooded into Gympie Muster (Mudster) and got band cabin fever. For a week. In tents. #whathappensingympie
- Every time Rupert and Matty replace their angelic harmonic backing vocals with naughty words (PG, not G rated).
- That time we got banned from a bowls club for singing a capella gospel in five-part harmony in the ladies toilets. It was after gig closing time, so they were quite sensible.
- Every time there’s an impromptu dancefloor on the footpath outside the gig.
- Ru and Matty’s West Side Story dance battle outside our caravans in Toukley, NSW. #boyboycrazyboy #gotarocketinhispocket
- That time young Griffin (trombone) was so jet lagged at Noosa Jazz Club that he had to ride a scooter around the green room to decompress.
What can we expect at the GC show?
All of the above. Fun, fun, fun. Hearts and souls. Scorching harmonies. Mal’s MC banter. Audience participation (not mandatory, but thoroughly recommended). Jazzmonstership from the boys. And all the feels.
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Catch Big Kitty at The Arts Centre Gold Coast’s Basement on Saturday 1 November. Get details at theartscentregc.com.au