Kat Robichaud is one of the most unique musical artists on the scene. Her talent, strength and creativity were obvious during The Voice season 5, and in the almost five years since she appeared on the NBC show, she’s gone on to do even more interesting and awe-inspiring things. Kat has a lot planned for 2020 – she has an active Kickstarter for what might be the coolest holiday EP ever, while Kat Robichaud’s Misfit Cabaret is returning to Los Angeles in March, and she just released the single “Scare the Night Away” in January.
Yet even with all of this on her calendar, she took time out to connect with me and discuss the EP, what Misfit Cabaret has in store with Grimm, and why Kickstarters are so important to artists. Check out our interview below and then head on over to support her Kickstarter campaign through March 12!
Brittany Frederick: You’ve launched a Kickstarter to fund your holiday EP. Can you explain why you went the Kickstarter route, and what that means for independent artists like yourself?
Kat Robichaud: When I first got off The Voice, I did a show with Amanda Palmer literally the night after I got eliminated. Amanda was in New York City doing a show with Neil Gaiman, and she invited me to perform with her, which was just wonderful. While we were backstage, I asked Amanda if I should sign with a label or should I do a Kickstarter. And she was like, “Oh my God, do a Kickstarter.” So that was a big push from somebody that I admire very much.
A lot of people that are not in the music industry don’t know what it’s like to have a record contract…It’s not part of their life. It’s not something that you study in school. A lot of people don’t understand that a recording contract is not free money. It’s a loan, and it takes forever to recoup all of the costs. And even then, a lot of times, depending on what kind of contract you signed, they own the masters to your recordings so you don’t have control over your music.
When people were still buying albums, record labels would be satisfied with making money from your record sales, and then the artists make money from touring. But nowadays, depending on what contract you sign…maybe 10, 15 years ago, record labels introduced the 360 deal. [And] I have friends that have been signed by major labels that have said it’s just a nightmare, because the labels realized they’re not making money from your music sales anymore because of streaming services. So they’re like okay, we’re not just going to take money from your music sales. We’re going to start taking money from everything – from your touring, from your merchandise, from all of that.
Record labels have said it was a good thing because that meant that they were more invested in you. Sometimes it works out that way, sometimes it doesn’t. I have friends who are nationally touring acts that have struggled because of the 360 deal.
Kickstarter and all of the other crowdfunding sources, including Patreon, [are] a really wonderful way for artists to make money directly from their fans, and to be in constant contact with their fans. A really easy way of looking at it is: I want to put out an album. So I turn to my fans and I say, “Hi, would you like me to put out this album? If so, would you mind going ahead and paying for it?” Kickstarter basically took the place of the label.
My first Kickstarter was a huge success. I raised over 40 grand because I had my fans from The Voice. Since then, I have become more and more niche in my audience and my music. I’m not signed with a label, so I don’t have millions of dollars being pumped into my music and getting me on radio stations and putting me on this huge tour, but I’m doing something that I really love and I really believe in.
BF: This particular Kickstarter is for a holiday EP, which is fantastic. You have some incredibly fun songs and some great rewards, such as cool ornaments and pins. So how did you come up with all this holiday spirit?
KR: It comes from Misfit Cabaret. Christmastime is a really great time to put on the show, because people are wanting to go out. Halloween’s another season for us that’s really big. We’ve done four years of big Christmas shows and for each year, I’ve written new music for it. And so this past year I was like, “I have enough for an EP now. Wouldn’t it be nice next year to have vinyl and CDs to sell to market the show more?” So I just figured it was a really good time to do a Christmas album.
Christmas is just a wonderful time of the year, because it’s so cold outside and everything is so dreary, and all of a sudden everybody’s putting twinkly lights up. It’s so colorful, and you’re celebrating even though the world is so dreary outside. Humans found a way to make everything bright and happy.
Even if you don’t really love Christmas or celebrate Christmas, there’s something for everybody on the album. If you’re a Star Wars fan, I’ve got a song about the Star Wars Holiday Special. If you’re a Gremlins fanatic, we’ve got a song about Gremlins. And then the rest of the songs are about Christmas, but none of them are religious. It’s a lot more based off of the pagan aspects of it: the Christmas tree and the hanging out with your friends and family, eating, drinking, being merry and all that.
BF: Let’s talk about Misfit Cabaret, because that’s become such a big part of your career. Can you talk about how it’s developed into what it is today?
KR: My partner Jordan Nathan and I have been doing it in San Francisco for five years now and we’ve moved into the 500 seat Alcazar Theatre, which is going really well. We’ve also been in Seattle for over two years and we completely sold out our last show at Hales Palladium, which was amazing. And now we’re in Los Angeles at The Hayworth (Dynasty Typewriter), which is exciting and the energy from the audience is great. This will be our second run in LA on March 6th and 7th. And in the next year or two we’re hoping to expand to another city and just keep it going.
BF: Which show are you bringing to Los Angeles this year? What can we expect from it?
KR: It’s really cute. It always sells out. It’s called Grimm and it’s a fairy tale-themed show. It’s really beautiful. We have references to Maleficent, The Neverending Story, Game of Thrones, Labyrinth, Legend, there are some [David] Bowie references. We have some phenomenal people from San Francisco that were in our original show that are coming down to LA with us to reprise their roles: Johnny Rockitt (drag), Bo Vixxen (burlesque), and Shadow Circus Creature Theater (puppet troupe). And then we hired a few fabulous local LA performers: lovely songbird Eliza Rickman, Dragula’s Loris Volkle, and ballet dancer Linnea Snyderman. And of course, we have our musical director and pianist Brendan Getzell, and our darling drummer RJ Pal.
BF: Misfit Cabaret comes out of a great creative partnership for you as well.
KR: I want to give a shout out to my business partner, Jordan Nathan, because I honestly couldn’t do Misfit Cabaret without her. The show was her idea in the first place. We met at a speakeasy we were both working at, then she hired me to do one of her shows, and then after that she took me out to lunch and she said, “I really want to produce a show with you.”
I hadn’t been in San Francisco very long and I was playing a lot of small venues and trying to figure out what the next big thing was going to be for me. I had only ever played in rock bands, but I’d never produced a theatrical show before. But I have a background in theater [and] I loved her ambition. Jordan laid out a business plan for us and I was like, “All right, let’s do it.”
And we have grown from a hundred-seat speakeasy to a 500-seat theater in the heart of the theater district in San Francisco and to Seattle and to LA. We’re doing really well and it’s been a lot of hard work, but we’re basically sisters now, and I think it’s really wonderful in the current climate to be two female producers that are taking charge and creating something really special that didn’t exist before.
BF: Outside of the show, you recently released a single “Scare the Night Away.” What’s the story behind the song?
KR: “Scare the Night Away” came out to Patreon in October and then I just released it to all the music platforms a few weeks ago. It’s a beautiful song about being afraid of the metaphorical dark and also missing loved ones that are gone in whatever way. Something that they said to you at one point or gave you at one point that makes you stronger as a person and gave you skills, coping mechanisms to get over things.
The song is essentially about my dad. He passed away very suddenly and I do think a lot of times about him and how I wish that I could talk to him. He died before I got on The Voice. He died before Misfit Cabaret. He didn’t really get to see any of my successes that I’ve had so far. He just saw me struggling in my first band, and I wish that he could see this. I think he would get a really big kick out of Misfit Cabaret and what I’m currently doing.
BF: Do you have other singles planned for 2020? What makes the single-release approach work for you as opposed to doing a full album?
KR: I do have a new single coming out in the next month or so. It’s called “Signs” and it’s from our sci-fi show Lost in Z Space. It’s heavy rock with a blues influence. My Patreon members will get it months before it’s released to the world.
But it makes so much sense digitally…Now it’s just ridiculously easy for people to go online and download music or stream music, and you have to stay on top of things. You have to constantly put new material out. And if it wasn’t for my show, I would be putting a lot more original material out. I did a Misfit Cabaret album. I did a Darling Misfits album. It’s nice to do full albums because then you can sell them as merch at your shows, but putting out singles digitally is really nice too, because it’s just something that you’re constantly sharing, promoting, getting people excited, reminding people that you’re an artist and that you exist.
And that’s the mentality: constantly having new songs and singles. Because once you put that song out, people will listen to it a lot. But there’s also a plethora of other music they can instantly download or instantly listen to. It’s just non-stop accessibility. And so you just have to constantly stay present in people’s minds by putting out new music all the time, which is exhausting. I’m fortunate that I have enough Patreon supporters that it makes it affordable for me to put out one song at a time. But if I want to record a full album, I have to do a Kickstarter to cover all the costs.
Article content is (c)2020 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr.