The band's lineup (dude singer/guitarist, lady drummer/vocalist), the chunky red guitar that frontman Shane Blem wields, and the sturdy minimalist sound of Kool Stuff Katie brings to mind the White Stripes. But the deeper you delve into KSK's work, the analogy makes less and less sense. The Portland-based duo's self-titled debut is much looser and has more swing in its step than anything Jack White has dared record. And drummer Saren Oliver is hardly a Meg White type. She's a better percussionist, for one, but also, her voice and ebullient spirit are evident throughout, keeping even the most muscular tunes feeling light and engaging.
Kool Stuff Katie Offers Straightforward Power Pop for Non-Purists.
Portland, Ore. power-pop duo Shane Blem and Saren Oliver, aka Kool Stuff Katie, believe in simple things: hanging out and watching TV, making out instead of going out or walking rather than driving. And aptly, "Simple" is the title of a tune from the band's self-titled, self-released debut.
The basic guitar, drums and twinned harmony vocals are no-nonsense but not primitive; don't lump Kool Stuff Katie in with the White Stripes or the Black Keys.
The 10 brief, catchy tracks evoke artists such as the Buzzcocks (the energetic punk-pop piece "I Can't See"), the Rentals and Weezer (the back-to-nature number "Cars") or electronic proto-punk outfit Suicide (the minimalist, keyboard-drenched "What Do You Say").
When needed, Blem and Oliver slow their momentum on melancholic, rain-washed "Rewind" or "Three Shades of Red," about a romantic tiff.
While Kool Stuff Katie doesn't create anything intrinsically new or original, that's not the point. This music has snap, crackle and lots of pop along with tints of intended nostalgia, meant to be taken as it is.
Power Pop Overdose
Kool Stuff Katie is a Portland-based indie rock band, infused with pop, punk, and New Wave sounds. Their signature stylistic elements include electric synth hooks, heavy drums and guitar, intricate vocal harmonies, and brief but powerful songwriting. Formed in 2012, they consist of Shane Blem (lead vocals and guitar) and Saren Oliver (drums, vocals, synth.) Think The Dollyrots, The Plimsouls, Ramones, Peter Case and The Strokes!
The Vinyl Anachronist
Is there anything more ridiculous than the current feud between Dan Auerbach and Jack White? On the surface there are a lot of similarities between the Black Keys and the White Stripes--their names, the fact that each band consists of just a guitarist/singer and a drummer, and that they're both evocative of the hard rock and blues of the early '70s. But beyond that, the Stripes and the Keys have such a different vibe; the former band is minimalist and the latter relies on heavy production in the studio. I can come up with many more examples, but suffice it to say that the first time I heard the Stripes ("Fell in Love With a Girl" on KROQ in LA in 2001) I said to myself, "Who are these guys?" The first time I heard the Keys ("Tighten Up" on KGSR in Austin in 2010) I said to myself, "Who are these guys?" I took me a long time to make the connection between the two bands, and it had nothing to do with music.
I'm bringing this up because yes, Kool Stuff Kate consists of just a guy guitarist and a girl drummer. Knowing that, you might roll your eyes a little. But once again, there's little to suggest imitation once you listen to the music. KSK, made up of the slightly nerdy Shane Blem and the quirky but very lovely Saren Oliver, have also gone back to the '70s for inspiration--but they're more content with Cheap Trick and the Ramones than the blues. Listening to their eponymous debut album's opener, "Hard Girl to Know," a simple and catchy mini-anthem, I'm reminded of the main reason I look those two earlier bands so much. It has something to do with momentum, about finding a catchy pop hook, roughing it up around the edges and stomping on the gas pedal until something start clanging under the hood.
Another important distinction is that unlike the other two bands, much of the vocal magic in Kool Stuff Kate is that Shane and Saren both sing, often blending innocent and exuberant harmonies into the majority of songs. This balances out the fact that both are rather workmanlike with their instruments--they're creating a fun, noisy whole rather than showing off their musical talent. Saren does occasionally jump over to the keyboards and adds a few extra layers of texture to mix it all up, but they're rockin' out--not making specific and lofty statements about our shared musical past.
That's why you shouldn't judge a band by the number of its members, I suppose. I think one of the reasons why these guitar/drum rock duos are so varied from each other is because each member has to throw more of himself or herself into the whole sonic picture to cover all the bases, so to speak. That means Meg White's drumming sounds nothing like Saren Oliver's, just like Dan Auerbach's singing voice, not to mention his guitar playing, sounds nothing like Jack White's. So kiss and make up, everybody, and maybe work on something together.
Portland's Kool Stuff Katie pull off fuzzed-out garage rock as if it were the only thing playing on the radio when they were growing up. Whether it's the Ramones-tinged album opener, "Hard Girl to Know," or the Beatles-esque "I Can't See," it's as if the band have filtered a half-century of popular music through a Big Muff distortion pedal. Even on the dance-friendly "Show Me," the band manage to drench a simple sing-along melody in layers of distorted synth-bass. In short, Kool Stuff Katie dig distortion.
The album is strongest in the midsection, on the racy "Just a Thing," a sort of garage-rock square dance for the drunk and sexually frustrated masses to get down to. Oddly enough, "Obscene" is probably the most wholesome track in this collection of testosterone-fuelled rockers, waxing poetic about holding hands and "not doin' a thing." The second half of the album packs less of a punch than the A-side, and while tracks like the self-fulfilling prophecy that is "Simple" should probably have been axed from the final album track listing, the slow-burning psychedelic meander of "What Do You Say" more than makes up for the album's other follies. Featuring the album's lone female lead vocal accompanied by some fantastic back-and-forth vocal swapping in the chorus, it's also the first evidence that Kool Stuff Katie are capable of operating in a more delicate range without losing any of their intensity.
The album's closing song, "Rewind", sees the band effectively dialling back their amps from 11 to zero, unplugging their instruments and picking up an acoustic guitar instead. Featuring the album's most effective boy-girl vocal harmonizing in the chorus, the song demonstrates that the band has more versatility up their sleeve than they initially let on, and that their future work can go in any one of a number of musical directions from here. Or, it could all just be proof that their Big Muff pedals are in the shop being tuned up. Either way, Kool Stuff Katie deliver in spades on their debut, roaring into the second half of the 2010's with the collective fury of every fuzzed-out two piece who has come before them.
Kool Stuff Katie - Kool Stuff Katie (Independently released CD, Pop/rock)
Wow, this one is right up our alley (!!). Kool Stuff Katie is the Portland, Oregon-based duo of Shane Blem and Saren Oliver. Blem found Oliver on Craigslist and the two have been making music together ever since. The band has been making a name for themselves in clubs in and around Portland and now, with the release of their first full-length album, they're hoping to transfer that success to other parts of the country and beyond. That shouldn't be too difficult, as this self-titled debut is a totally fun and exciting spin. Produced by Steve Fisk (whose name seems to be popping up all over the place lately), this album has a nice direct sound and the tracks totally rock. The tunes are upbeat and uplifting and the vocal melodies are simply wonderful. This is the kinda stuff that really makes you wanna move. Ten groovy cuts here including "Hard Girl To Know," "Three Shades of Red," "Simple," and "Rewind."
Indie rock, fuzz punk, a mixture of new wave and garage delight… Frontman/guitarist/singer Shane Blem and drummer Saren Oliver put together this delightfully charged self-titled release with a fervent sense of independence and new wave fashion. Kool Stuff Katie is a remarkably hip duet from Portland, Oregon who continues the tradition of garage punk and pop rock, redelivering the powers of past grand acts such as the Ramones, The White Stripes, The Strokes and OK Go. With pizzazz, style and grand kinetic energy, this duet brings out the best that Portland’s indie scene offers, including the compelling and free-spirited single, the opener “Hard Girl to Know” and the fascinating, melodic fuzz guitars and enticing synths of “Show Me”. This ten-song album explores a great deal of sonic and lyrical territory, excellent for passing time reflecting on a road trip, or a grand party with friends. “Simple” buzzes with adventurous guitars and dashing, dynamic harmony vocals. “What Do You Say” is charming, haunting in its creative and dazzling virtuosity.
Kool Stuff Katie = The Dollyrots + OK Go + RamonesThis is a fun band. The minimalist musical duo from Portland, Ore., makes incredibly light and upbeat music that hemorrhages positivity. I wouldn't go as far as to call it bubbly, but the brightly tinged pop punk sound fills a void that I didn't even notice was there. Opening track "Hard Girl to Know" will have you singing along, regardless of your familiarity with the lyrics. Another track, "Cars," longs for a location without cars, people or noise, while being charmingly noisy. At first glance, one would be tempted to compare this band with The White Stripes. Personnel-wise, you would be correct—a dude on guitar and vocals with a girl drummer. But the comparison stops there. The music manages to stay light and true even at its most aggressive. Who could ask for anything more? You need this!
Get It On Vinyl
I spent allot of time in the Northwest. Whether it be the early 90's grunge sound that made up my youth, my obsession with Riot Grrrl bands, or it being the home to some of my favorite labels and record stores, the Seattle/Portland area continues to be an epicenter to everything I love about music. Does that make me love everything that comes out of the area? Absolutely not. While living there I saw my fair share of shit bands who I deemed an insult to the region. However when sorting through releases, bands from the area always find their way to the top of my playlist.
Kool Stuff Katie is a two piece from Portland who are getting ready to release their debut self-titled album. As a two-piece, people are quick to form judgments on their sound based on line-up alone. The last several years has seen a plethora of bands trying to accomplish a full band sound in the studio while not being able to re-create it on stage. This is not the case with KSK. Their album captures their live sound as realistically as possible.
Nowhere is the live sound captured better than on the lead off track, "Hard Girl To Know." With plenty of thick guitar fuzz, harmonies, and minimal vocal effects, you can almost feel the reverberation from the dance floor. It is straight-up rock with a simple song structure that makes grooving along easy and necessary.
One of our favorite tracks, "Cars" is anthem of freedom; seeking refuge from the everyday life and escaping from the rat-race. The chorus has the best refrain of the album as well.
While there is plenty of Cheap Trick inspired sing along styles, tracks like "Just a Thing" and "Rewind" show not only depth of songwriting but a harder edge than the other tracks. There is no monotony to break up, but it comes as a welcome change of pace.
While lead singer Shane holds down the majority of the vocals, two standout tracks have drummer Saren out front. On "Show Me" Saren steps over to and adds keys, adding yet another level of excellence to the track. Lyrically, the song changes pace as well, opting for a love song of sorts, something that she continues on "What Do You Say." Saren's vocals are smooth like bourbon but with a slight whiskey edge that make the tracks amazing.
Kool Stuff Katie are the real deal. The album barely misses a beat, and even when it does, it only serves as a reminder that it is a recreation of the live show. If the album is any indicator, their show must be a blast.
Damn, I miss Portland.
Roots and Branches
Based out of probably a dozen Portland garages, Shane Blem and Saren Oliver play fuzzed up garage rock with both feet on the distortion pedals and the drums kept to the basic beats. The reference points aren't hard to identify, the Ramones on Hard Girl To Know and the juddery Just A Thing, the Beatles (and some Cheap Trick) on the power pop bounce of Cars and I Can't See and the 60s Spector meets CBGBs girl group pop of Show Me and the slow swaying, organ backed What Do You Say. Simple could have come from one of the Nuggets collections of psychedelic fuzz rock while Obscene nods to the early Who before some Jesus and Mary Chain honey drips across the acoustic closer Rewind. As the Raveonettes will tell you, it's a limited, but crowded market, but KSK have the songs and the vibrancy to stand out from the herd.
Kool Stuff Katie is a band from Portland that plays songs that range from poppy garage punk, like the opener, "Hard Girl to Know," through solid power-pop, like " I Can't See," to the shoe-gazish "Show Me," to the buzzy pop of "Obscene," and everything in between. It's invariably catchy stuff. I especially like "Simple," a retro 80s song, with keyboards that give it that new-wave sort of sound, but in a Devo sort of way. While I'm happy that the band isn't playing the same song over and over, like too many bands do, this might be a little too varied. But at least the songs are all good, so it sort of sounds like listening to a compilation album.
With just 10 songs, the duo Kool Stuff Katie has managed to sneak in the best debut of the year. Unfortunate band name aside, Portland-based musicians Shane Blem and Saren Oliver have crammed together garage rock, new wave, punk and a liberal mix of hooky pop music for an instantly-infectious sound that brings to mind everyone from The Cars and The Kinks to The Breeders and The Ramones.
The duo, Oliver on drums, Blem on guitar and both on vocals, manage to make a lot more noise than you'd expect from a two piece. From the rollicking opener, "Hard Girl to Know," all the way through to the final track, the band is a sonic whirlwind of distorted chords, frenetic drumming and maddeningly catchy choruses. A flawless execution from top to bottom.
Portland's Shane Blem and Saren Oliver, make up the garage-pop-fuzzy-wave Kool Stuff Katie. Honestly, one listen to their single "Hard Girl to Know" and these kiddos sound like stars. It's primitive yes, but that's the point — has humanity really done any better since it discovered more than three chords?
We think not. And neither did Katrina and the Waves, the Ramones, Chuck Berry and basically anyone else who ever wrote the kind of songs that made you glad there was a Big Bang.
As long as Portland-based band Kool Stuff Katie consists of a male guitar player and a female drummer, and the two of them play fuzzy rock 'n' roll, they will have to endure comparisons to a certain beloved, candy-striped duo from the not-so-distant past. But whereas that other band drew heavily from the blues and glowered its way to superstardom, Kool Stuff Katie—Shane Blem and Saren Oliver, who came together via Craigslist—play an exuberant brand of classic power-pop that marries Oliver's crash-and-bash beats with Blem's chunky, buzzy guitar riffs. The results are melodic without sacrificing muscle and vice versa, ? la bands like Cheap Trick and Sloan.
It would be easy to look at the composition of Kool Stuff Katie—one dude on guitar, one chick on drums—and think, "Oh, White Stripes rip-off, right?" And although this Portland, Oregon-based duo does turn out raw garage rock not unlike Jack White's former band on "Just a Thing" and "Hard Girl to Know," Kool Stuff Katie proves on its debut that it's a different beast. The vocal interplay between Shane Blem and Saren Oliver is delightful, and the New Wave-ish analog synths that buzz through songs such as "Show Me" and "Rewind" add a charming, retro-pop sparkle.
KATU TV (AM Northwest)
KATU TV appearance on Friday, Oct. 17, 2014.
They're a two-person band with a big sound! Shane Blem and Saren Oliver of Kool Stuff Katie joined us to peform a few songs off their self-titled debut album-- "Hard Girl to Know" and "Cars".
When you are a guitar and drum duo it's hard to separate yourself from the hordes of other two-piece bands out there, so you better be damn good to get some attention.
Luckily for Portland, Oregon's Kool Stuff Katie, they have their shit together.
Where a lot of the duos rely heavily on blues influences or are trying to be the next White Stripes, Kool Stuff Katie revel in garage pop mixed with a foolhardy punk delivery. But dig a little deeper into their latest long player and you will find much more to sink your teeth into. The melodies are infectious, the hint of surf rock is a nice touch, and the distortion-fueled guitars make it hard not to bob your head back and forth to the rhythms.
Saren Oliver is a powerhouse behind the drum kit, crashing cymbals with deft precision and beating up her kick drum and snare like it tried to steal her lunch money. She also shares vocals with guitarist and singer Shane Blem, who leads the way with his power chords and guitar fills.
'It's Fine' (producer Steve Fisk), is more than just a fine record, it's fantastic, and I am sorry I was late to the game finding this gem in the stack. Clearly, Kool Stuff Katie is one of my most overlooked bands of 2015.
Portland, Oregon, duo Kool Stuff Katie—and no, neither member is named Katie—has been bashing out lo-fi garage rock since 2011, but it's on their new album, It's Fine, where all the pieces finally came together. The pair explodes out of the gate like equal parts early White Stripes and early Matt & Kim, unafraid to be punky while still embracing pop. Today, we're premiering the music video for "It's All Your Fault," the first single from It's Fine.
Apparently Craigslist is good for more than fetish-laden late night hookups. The classified ad site helped bring together Shane Blem and Saren Oliver, the Portland garage pop duo that in four short years has already churned out two stellar records and are very quickly winning over fans across the country thanks to infectious numbers that bring to mind everyone from Cheap Trick to The White Stripes.
Shortly after handing in their self-titled debut, Oliver (drummer) and Blem (guitar and vocals) headed into the studio with Steve Fisk, who has worked with folks like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Screaming Trees—you know, just some local Northwest garage bands. The result is 'It's Fine,' another full length that manages to best their last album (no small task), thanks to a more focused, consistent sound.
Portland duo, Kool Stuff Katie are preparing to release their new album It's Fine on March 11th. Surviving the Golden Age is excited to offer an exclusive stream of the album.
Being a male/female guitar and drum duo, Kool Stuff Katie can not escape the White Stripe comparisons. On the album opener "It's All Your Fault," you can hear a bit of "Fell In Love With a Girl" with the track's fuzzed out guitar and manic energy but over the course of It's Fine the band distances themselves from obvious comparisons. The album's titular track is a mid-tempo ballad that is the first time Saren Oliver takes lead vocals. With the Motown influence and female lead vocals, "It's Fine" is reminiscent of the Pipettes.
Whether it's reviving the garage rock revival or exploring more esoteric influences, Kool Stuff Katie's It's Fine is a fun listen.
Portland's very own modern grunge/power pop outfit Kool Stuff Katie, formed in 2012, has just released its second full-length album It's Fine. This duo, comprised of Shane Blem on guitar/vocals and Saren Oliver on drums/vocals bring to mind acts like The Carpenters. KSK have an upbeat sound that you can't listen to without wanting to dance.
This duo is so in tune with each other that they are able to concentrate and allow their individual talents to take over. None of these songs have very difficult drum beats, though it doesn't take away from the heart of the material.
This album is full of excitement that gets the listener pumped up, firing on all cylinders right out of the gate. The first track "It's All Your Fault" is a magnificently fast-paced start to the LP, in which Blem and Oliver put their all into the instrumental presence, starting this album off with an enthusiasm that flows right through it.
These two harmonize outstandingly, with both voices complimenting each other all the way through. Although Shane sings lead vocals on much of the album, Saren sits in the driver's seat for title track "It's Fine," which is a beautiful number; you can really hear and feel the heartbreak in her voice. The chugging "I Miss Your Face" is a rock duet with an intimate storyline highlighting their individual voices while mixing the two together nicely.
Wrapping up this album is the country-tinged freewheeling rock-fest "So Hard," sung by Saren. She sounds quite a bit like Crissie Hynde of The Pretenders on this particular track.
All in all, this is a great album. Both are very talented artists, composers and instrumentalists. This CD is definitely worth adding to your playlist!