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Making music while making change: Seattle band works to make rock music more inclusive

Kitty Junk works to empower female listeners, helped launch an audio engineering program for all backgrounds, and raises money for domestic violence prevention.

SEATTLE — As skaters laced up for a show at Southgate Roller Rink in White Center, Seattle-based glam-grunge duo Kitty Junk geared up for a show with hard-hitting tracks mixing a variety of genres. 

"There's punk, and glam, and grunge, and metal and it just all kind of comes together through our different influences to create whatever this is," Dr. Angela Dane explained with a laugh. 

Ryan Lee described it as "rock with no boundaries."

The duo first met on Facebook and bonded over Sleater-Kinney, songwriting, feminism, and life stories. 

"It was really in her garage, during the pandemic - music was starting to match up, feminism was starting to match up, stories were matching up, certain life stories," Ryan Lee said. 

They formed their own "quarantine bubble" and started to meet, jam, talk, live stream, and make videos. All of that came together into Kitty Junk, a band combining activism with a simple love of performance, making music, and a platform for the passion they feel and want to share. 

"Just confidence for women, themes that are not typically associated with women, you can still very much tell that when we go out it's like a novelty," Ryan Lee said. "I love the stories we've heard that women have been telling us about confidence, that the stories inspire us, I wish I can play guitar like that, I'm like, you can do that."

Based on their own experiences, they're also working to make the rock industry a more gender-inclusive, POC-friendly space. 

"It seems like we've progressed in a lot of ways but, like Ryan said, you get into the studios and there are so few people of color and women and nonbinary performers in there and engineers especially. So that's something I'd love for younger generations," Dane said. "Anything you want to do you can and there are affordable and accessible ways to learn from mentors and that's the biggest thing."

They helped to launch an Audio Engineering program at North Seattle College aimed at making those skills accessible to people of all backgrounds. Dane said the program offers individual classes or as an actual program, and that it's taught entirely by women and people of color, with successful guest lecturers in the field.

"Really wanting to feel empowered on the production side, even though our main love is performing," Dane said. 

They're also passionate about ending domestic violence. At their shows, they sell bracelets reading "Rage" - named after one of their songs. Money from bracelet sales goes to the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence

"Rage is my favorite, it's super important," Dane said, explaining how it connects to domestic violence and the experiences women have been through.

Though they aren't afraid to shy away from tough issues, Lee said they're performers at their core, willing to use their platform.

"We have this extreme mission, but we also can do what any other- if I want to break a guitar on stage, I'm going to do it," Lee said. Dane laughed, sharing that she has done it. 

Kitty Junk's first album, "Converse Theory," is out now and they are in the process of recording "Junk Punk." They've also created several music videos, launched a podcast, and have several shows scheduled. They're set to play at The Crocodile in April, along with a performance at the Artists for Color Expo people can stream on Zoom on April 2.

You can learn more about Kitty Junk and hear their music here

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