Punk-Pop prodigy JustKait
At just seventeen years old, Kaitlyn DiBenedetto has already mastered each of rock-n-roll’s staple instruments: power-driven electric guitar, driving bass and hard-hitting drums. Recording under the alias “Just Kait,” this extraordinary multi-instrumentalist is also an accomplished songwriter who crafts edgy pop songs that capture all the ups and downs of being a teenager. The youthful, perpetually rebellious energy of both teenage life and rock-n-roll culture electrifies each of Kait’s performances. She simultaneously delivers memorable vocal melodies and powerful rock riffs – a combination that makes comparisons to the original queen of rock, Joan Jett, inevitable – whilst still streaking enthusiastically through the same intersections that made Avril Lavigne’s modern pop-rock so vibrant.
JustKait’s new video “Sick” is featured as the “Discover & Download” track on MTV, MTV2, and mtvU. Discover & Download showcases today’s hottest new artists and emerging bands just breaking onto the scene. Just Kait will join the likes of The Ting Tings, Duffy, Flo Rida, and Leona Lewis as the newest Discover & Download feature.
We talked to Kait on Friday about the release of the video, her new EP and tour plans.
SoCalMusicToday.com : Monday is a big day for you, are you planning anything special to kickoff the download day?
Kaitlyn DiBenedetto: I don’t know. I’m just going to see what happens and take it from there, probably all my family is going to go crazy though. They’ll throw a party.
SCMT: It’s a bigger day for the family then it is for you?
KD: Well no. It’s definitely big for me too, but my family is one of those supportive families that are crazy and will throw a party for anything, so I am expecting something.
SCMT: You began playing instruments at 5 on your dad’s drum kit, was he in a band or did he just enjoyed playing drums?
KD: He was always in bands. Ever since I can remember, like even being younger than five, so between that and him just playing at home and practicing for the band, I just picked up on it pretty easily after he gave me the drumsticks.
SCMT: So it just kind of came natural?
KD: Yeah definitely.
SCMT: When did you pick up other instruments, was it much later on?
KD: When I was probably 11 or 12 I picked up a guitar and I just taught myself. I just sat in my room for weeks and just put my fingers anywhere, and if sound came out. So ever since then I have been playing guitar and then I eventually picked up bass shortly after that, and then I started recording songs and stuff.
SCMT: Have you had any formal training since then, or are you completely self-taught?
KD: No. I am pretty stubborn when it comes to that. When I am trying to teach myself something, I don’t want any lessons. I basically just sat in my room and taught myself everything.
SMT:Vocally as well, you’re all self-taught? You haven’t had any vocal training ?
KD: Yeah, not yet. I do want to get some vocal lessons though because you strain your voice when you sing. It’s definitely really important to do that, so that is probably the one thing I will definitely get lesson on, eventually.
SCMT: You are being compared to very early Avril Lavigne and her career, how do you feel about that? Is it an accurate comparison?
KD: I think it is pretty cool. I respect Avril a lot for everything she has done, she definitely changed rock or punk-rock at least for girls and people that really love her. I think it is pretty accurate. I think I have a little more hard stuff than her. She is a little more poppier than me, but there is definitely something there.
SCMT: So who else would you compare yourself to other than Avril? Who would you compare your sound to ?
KD: Definitely Joan Jett, I get that a lot from everybody. I guess just because of my voice, it is a lot more rock and roll than the pretty, melodic stuff. So I have been compare to her and not to mention, the music is a little more along the lines of the harder rock and roll kind of sound that she had, more so than the poppy stuff.
SCMT: Growing up what are some of your earliest memories when it comes to music? Obviously playing on the drums, but who do you remember listening to when you were growing up?
KD: Growing up it was always Good Charlotte, that was the first punk band that I started listening to, and they definitely got me into playing the more punk-pop-punky sounding guitars, and picking up little riffs like that. So they were pretty important, as well Blink 182 and stuff, because they were always around. So they are definitely two big ones.
SCMT: You first caught the national attention of MTV when you entered the Parental Control contest, what made you decide to go and do that?
KD: I don’t know, I just saw the ad for it one day saying Parental Control Theme Song Contest So I called up my producers and said ‘Dude we got to do this , it’s such a good opportunity.’ So I did it not really expecting to win it, I just did it to see what would happen, and they just called me back shortly after and said that they loved it. Ever since then it was On, and it looked and sounded awesome.
SCMT: Now did you ever watch Parental Control before, or was it just a whim, a contest to try?
KD: No I totally watched the show all the time. It was just weird for me even more so when I found out I won, because of the fact that I did always watch it. Now when I turn it on sometimes I’m like ‘Oh Snap, That’s Me’
SCMT: So whose Idea was it for you to be the only one in the video instead of having a backing band behind you? I know you do a lot of the instruments yourself, but whose Idea was it to showcase just you in it?
KD: It was mostly my idea, and the people backed me up, like the producers and management and stuff, because it is like the biggest way to prove something and get the music out there. It is definitely cool, and people would definitely draw attention to it because of how unique it is and how you don’t see it every day. It was definitely a good move considering I am a new artist and everything.
SCMT: You did your TV debut this past spring with TRL, tell me a little about that experience. What was your day like, how did you handle it?
KD: I was really nervous considering I saw all of my favorite bands on TRL and I really didn’t know what to expect. The whole day we were just backstage and practicing that whole rock band game. We met a lot of cool people and there was a lot of fans there too, some that knew the music and some who were just getting introduced to it. Afterwards when we went outside there were tons of people out there wanting to hear the song so I sat there with the acoustic and played for them. It was just a cool experience considering it was my first thing on TV.
SCMT: How has the response been locally for you, do people come up and recognize you from that?
KD: Yeah it has been awesome. Every time I play a local show they are like “Oh my God, it’s crazy that this all happened” and I am like ‘yeah, you’re telling me.’ I’m used to playing all local shows and now it looks like I am going to get the opportunity to tour the world and play shows with bands that I always looked up to. It’s definitely really crazy for me, I still don’t believe it sometimes.
SCMT: You have an EP coming out about this time next month. (August 15th) Do you have a name for the EP yet?
KD: Yeah it’s called “Being on TV”
SCMT: Nice. So which four tracks are going to be featured on there?
KD: “Break,” “Love Trying,” “Sick,” and “Being on TV” the actual song, so it’s definitely going to be a lot of fun to see how people react to it. There are definitely some really great songs on it.
SCMT: So you’re not going to put “Shut up” on it?
KD: No, hopefully we’ll do that sometime soon though, it’s an oldie but a goodie
SCMT: Where can people pick up a copy?
KD: Hopefully everywhere, I am not even sure. You can definitely probably download it on iTunes and the songs will most likely be on the myspace, too.
SCMT: So what are the touring plans? Do you have a national tour scheduled or are you still trying to work something out?
KD: We are still trying to work something as out right now. We have some random shows, one in Chicago and one in DC so we are going to see how those go, and then we are going to release the album and hopefully we will be touring before then and playing with some cool bands and getting some people to really like the music
SCMT: So your 17 now
KD: Mmm Hmm
SCMT: Have you finished school?
KD: No, I am actually am going to be a Senior this year, so it is a going to be a little crazy.
SCMT: So after Parental Control and TRL, how have the other students began to treat you? Are they treating you any differently?
KD: Usually at school I keep it on the DL. I don’t really go up to anybody and be like “Yo, I”m on Parental Control” I mean if people ask me I’ll definitely say “Yeah that’s me.” Sometimes I”ll be in the bathroom and some girl will be like “Dude, you’re on Parental Control” and I’ll be like “Yeah.” In school the Teachers will have articles or something and have them hung in the classrooms, but everyone is really supportive. It’s always cool, because I am really big on staying true to where you are from and I like that fact that people from where I am locally really dig the stuff too, so it’s cool.
SCMT: So you are going to be heading into your Senior year, how is that going to affect touring? Are you going to be touring while you’re in school, or are you going to try and stay in traditional school?
KD: I’ll probably get a tutor or something to go on the road with. I definitely would rather tour than go to school. I think any kid my age would take touring over school, especially since I have always wanted this. My parents are really cool with everything and they know that this is what I want, so I will probably get a tutor to go on the road.
SCMT: If you could do anything you want in the world other than music, what would you be doing?
KD: That’s really hard. I would want to help people out, probably start up some kid of organization to help people who are sick or have troubles with drug or alcohol addiction and things like that. I am really into that kind of stuff.
SCMT: What can people find you doing when you are not performing somewhere? What is your down time, what do you enjoy doing outside of the stage?
KD: Usually, I just hang with my friends like everybody else. Sometimes I’ll just take some days to share with my family because things get crazy sometimes and I am never really home. And if I am home I am writing stuff. Usually I am in my room just writing songs, besides that I like to go out and have fun. I am by the shore in New Jersey so the boardwalk is always fun to go to and hang out with friends. We will have little acoustic shows on the beach or something like that, so it’s always fun.
SCMT: So now the EP is coming out in August, the full album is coming out after that, what is the plan for that?
KD: Yeah probably September or October hopefully if everything goes well.
SCMT: So right on its heels?
KD: Yeah, right after.
SCMT: So you have the myspace, are you doing the twitter thing, or a regular website?
KD: Yeah we have the twitter to, I am usually doing that all the time. We are working on an official website, so that should be up soon, and as soon as it is I will put it all over the myspace and definitely twitter it too, so people will figure it out.
SCMT: Cool, what is the twitter, so everyone can follow you?
SCMT: Thank you for your time, any final remarks or anything you want to get off your chest?
KD: No, I just hope everyone gives the album a chance. Even the EP that is coming out is going to be really cool so I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say. Checkout the myspace!
SCMT: Right on Kait, have a good time and hopefully you get out here to California soon.
KD: I definitely will, thank you so much.