The versatile Madison pop trio discuss their latest record, “The Sorry EP.”
Kat And The Hurricane’s latest release, The Sorry EP, relies on the power of acceptance and unabashed expression. The Madison trio, consisting of singer/songwriter/guitarist Kat Farnsworth (he/she/they), vocalist/pianist Benjamin Rose (they/them), and percussionist/vocalist Alex Nelson (they/them), have found themselves comfortably positioned in the upper Midwest’s queer music community, finding joy in an increased confidence. Kat And The Hurricane’s appearance at the first installment of 2021’s Hot Summer Gays series on Friday, June 25 at Robinia Courtyard will also serve as the release party for The Sorry EP.
A few years ago the band members started describing their work as “sad lesbian music,” initially as a joke. “But it accidentally became our brand,” says Farnsworth, who enjoys explaining it to people to see if they totally get it, or are completely stumped. Their sound isn’t totally specific, and that’s what they want. It does have strong components of emo, folk, and ’80s synth sounds, plus a whole lot of what Rose likes to call “Sapphic energy” drizzled on top for extra zest.
Another way of describing their music, according to the band, is queer-emo, or “queermo” for short. “We are a queer, trans, nonbinary band in the literal world of straight, cis-music industry. There aren’t as many bands out there doing what we are doing, and we want to do it for other people like us,” Farnsworth says.
“But honestly it’s just good, queer music,” Rose clarifies. “It’s a refreshing step away from your typical four white dudes in a band singing about straight love. I think that’s why some people get it and others don’t,” notes Farnsworth. “Intentionally and unintentionally we are a bit of a hybrid. We take inspiration wherever we can find it. We try really hard to refrain from defining our sound, which in term makes it hard for people to figure out what kind of playlists to put us on. To be honest, we don’t always have an answer for them,” Rose says.
Farnsworth and Rose’s connection began in Janesville, where, Farnsworth says, “truly, nothing was going on.” In order to survive the mundanity of Rock County, Farnsworth found themselves participating in a local song share group that eventually coalesced into the folk-punk band Pancake Riot. Each Wednesday, they’d meet at a local coffee shop, Mocha Moment, to participate in their weekly open mic. “It was the first place I ever performed, the first open mic I ever attended. It really, truly, was the segue into what I’m doing right now,” Farnsworth says.
Around 2015, Pancake Riot began to dissipate into individual solo projects, leaving Farnsworth with the name Kat And The Hurricane, a slight tweak on a band name generator result of “Kat And The Weather.” “It wasn’t until 2018 when I saw Ben playing at Mocha Moment. I was like ‘Oh… look at that… another queer kid.’ I knew I had to be friends with Ben immediately,” Farnsworth says.
Rose’s early life revolved around music and religion. Surviving that environment was due in part to their interest in taking what they could from the experience, which largely came down to music. “For all of the ills that came from that environment, at least I learned how to play along with a band,” Rose joked. Eventually, Rose and Farnsworth found themselves in Madison, where working for a religious nonprofit and delivering pizzas supported their musical endeavors. While traversing local venues and cafes, the pair made the acquaintance of drummer Alex Nelson.
As a young child, Nelson’s introduction to live music came by way of their father’s bar and weekend-heavy touring schedule. “My father is a professional drummer, with all the gear sponsorships and all of that,” Nelson says. “His cover band—which was his longest running project—was called Cheese Pizza. They’d perform in drag, and, in hindsight, it may have been a little offensive. But it made them the talk of the town. They’re really talented musicians, but sometimes I think back and I’m like ‘Oh, wow, I grew up that way, huh?’”
“I got to know Kat through a mutual friend and began attending a few of their shows here in Madison and others in and around Milwaukee,” Nelson says. “I think during one of those meetups I went up to Kat and told them that I noticed how [Farnsworth and Rose] didn’t have a drummer and, well, I play drums… only thing is I don’t have a kit.’”
Some time after that conversation, Farnsworth gifted Nelson a $100 Premier kit. Nelson’s Monona Bay residence became the trio’s practice space and they set to work on fleshing out the tracks that Rose and Farnsworth had been developing. Like that, Kat And The Hurricane was complete.
By taking influence from their past, Kat And The Hurricane can communicate honestly and directly about the experiences that shaped them, while finding room for a larger resonance among those who have shared some of the same experiences. If 2017’s Miles Away EP and 2020’s Libra EP were the expressions of earlier conflicts, The Sorry EP is an attempt at therapeutic resolution.
The Sorry EP’s pointedly uncompromising pop finds the trio operating in a bolder register than before. As Kat And The Hurricane’s grasp on songwriting continues to strengthen, the band’s sound packs more of a noticeable punch. Farnsworth and Rose’s tendency towards strong-willed guitar licks and impassioned lyrics remains sharply intact.
“A Greeting,” a prologue consisting of passages from the ensuing songs on the EP, kicks the proceedings off on a slyly appropriate note. It’s like the fog before an introductory therapy session—an entangled wave of emotion that’s not yet ready to fully explain itself. Once the EP has its bearings, it blasts into a flurry of swaggering momentum on “Sorry That I’m Like This,” a joyous, synth-heavy, windows-down banger.
“There comes a certain point in time where you just get tired of being sorry all the time,” Farnsworth says, “and it’s like what am I supposed to do? This is me, this is how I am, this is my truth. A lot of what walking with joy entails is understanding how to navigate this world with the emotional tools you pick up and learn to use along the way.”
The music video for “Sorry That I’m Like This” adds a strong piece to the band’s “do-it-our-way” imprint. “Sorry That I’m Like This” effectively takes on the recent escalation of gender reveal parties, greeting the phenomenon with a sardonic wink. Not bad, especially for a production that was largely the result of some creative spontaneity and a $60 Dollar Tree trip. “I think it all worked so well because it was so simple,” Rose says.
Songs like “Out Of My Mind” nicely personify the emotional lulls and breakthroughs that litter everyday life. The song’s slow, ascending pattern invites a nostalgic reckoning at every step. And then, like a ray of multi-colored lightning, the song opens up to reveal a spectacular view from a new, hard-won peak.
“Resonate” comes out swinging, staking its foundation in upbeat, unfettered pop. Every member of the band contributes vocals on the track, creating a cloud of euphoria that comfortably shades the song’s happiness. “Resonate” is the band’s version of pop-punk, a genre its members have enjoyed for years. Traces of the genre can also be found on “Dream Come True,” which expertly navigates a tension and release dynamic.
“I think overall, it feels like a very complete piece,” Alex says. “I can set it over here, and say it’s done. It’s The Sorry EP, with all its focus on self-worth, lack of self-worth— self-acceptance, lack of self-acceptance—all things that are all very real for us.”
Kat And The Hurricane’s mission statement is, simply, to be there for their fans. The trio knows the value of what it means to offer up their time and talents for those who may need a constructive, reflective beacon to look towards.
“There’s this Instagramable version of self-love that I think is all about acceptance of how one should present themselves physically and emotionally, but that can be misleading,” Rose says. “Real self-love is full of ups and downs. Listening to your body, accepting the peaks and valleys, balancing yourself enough every day until you know exactly who you are, that’s truly what self-love is about.”