Published Mar 27, 2018Four years in the making — starting with a crowd-funding campaign in 2014 — the long-awaited, career-spanning documentary about metal icons Kittie, Origins/Evolutions, finally sees its release. In honour of the band's 20th anniversary, the film comes with a bonus live album, featuring never-released recordings dating back to their early years.
The hour-and-a-half documentary, directed by Rob McCallum, features interviews from past and present members, as well as close family and friends, and contains footage (much of which previously unseen) that provides an insider's perspective on the world of Kittie. The film is broken up into two parts: Origins, which takes a look at Kittie's first ten years, and Evolutions, which tackles the latter half.
Origins spends a good chunk of time on Kittie's beginnings, starting with the band as teens and the making of their first album, 2000's Spit. It highlights how members came together, created the songs that would end up on Spit and played shows in and around their hometown of London, ON, which culminated in the band getting signed after showcasing at Canadian Music Week in 1999.
From the highs of the unexpected success that came from that first album, going gold and playing mega tours like Ozzfest (while they were still in high school) to the lows of members leaving the band, as well as record label troubles, the film covers it all. But a big part of their story is the band's various lineups.
With siblings Morgan and Mercedes Lander always at the helm of Kittie, the change-over of other members seemed like seamless transitions at the time. However, interviews with original bassist Tanya Candler and guitarist Fallon Bowman provide more insight into the reasons why they left and the pressures they faced as young women.
As Mercedes says at one point, Kittie's story "has never been a fairy tale." At many times in their career, it seems like as soon as the sisters got one step ahead, they were knocked back two. It's also refreshing to see Kittie's disappointments with certain albums, such as 2004's Until the End and 2007's Funeral for Yesterday.
The doc sheds some light on the particularly hellish experience recording Funeral for Yesterday, as well as the circumstances behind bassist Trish Doan's departure from the band shortly after, due to anorexia. The especially dark time for Kittie continues as Morgan and Mercedes discuss the heartbreaking day that Dave Lander, their dad and manager of the band, died of a heart attack in 2008. Throughout, the resilience of Kittie and the strength that the Lander sisters always muster really shines through.
Following some especially rough years, things move in a more positive direction with the recording of 2009's In The Black. Having been disappointed with the results of the previous few albums, In The Black brought back the heaviness Kittie were known for. The band also experiment with more guitar-based flourishes courtesy of the extremely talented Tara McLeod, possibly the first member, other than the sisters, who has had a creative voice in the band since their first lineup.
There are some bittersweet moments in the film, particularly in relation to Trish Doan: Origins/Evolutions was made before her death in 2017, after she had re-joined the band after their last album and her interview clips are the most heart-wrenching. "I don't have a final statement because this isn't over," she says near the end of the film.
Although Kittie's future remains uncertain, there's no denying the impact they've had on each other, as well as on their fans. Twenty years and six albums later, Kittie's story is a colourful and fascinating one that needed telling, and this documentary does an excellent job.