Finding More Than Your Voice: A Moment With Kat Robichaud

Finding More Than Your Voice: A Moment With Kat Robichaud

Kat Robichaud2Is it the pants? Maybe the signature vocals? I know…it must be the stage dive. Whatever it is, Kat Robichaud is one of the few The Voice contestants that has been able to carry the momentum after leaving the NBC show. The Raleigh native has been a part of this site since the very beginning, even lending some graphic artist work to the cause. I had the chance to ask her about the “Sail” heard and seen around the world and so much more as she prepares for the release of her debut album. The first part of a two part series (album review to follow) let’s us all get to know Ms. Robichaud better. So step into the world of Ziggy Stardust, Dr. Who and the woman who brings them together…Kat Robichaud.

Go back to December, 2011. Your band The Design just released Young America, had an amazing video and were blazing a path of glory. What happened to the band?

The Design started out as a cover band with all the musicians getting paid salaries. The transition from cover to originals wasn’t going very well because everyone’s motivations were different, and I decided after 8 years of this, it was time finally let go of The Design and move on. I thought for the longest time that if I quit the band, it would be an enormous failure on my part. I then listened to “The Upside of Quitting” from a Freakanomics podcast and it completely changed the way I felt.

 Do you still have a relationship with your old band mates?

I do with most of them. Some have disappeared off the face of the earth (or perhaps have simply moved back to Africa). Some of them have become my closest friends. Risa Patterson, my former keyboardist, was one of my bridesmaids and we now both live in San Francisco and hang out all the time. Kurtis Keber, my former bassist, was one of my family/friends on TV during The Blinds of The Voice. I grabbed Keith Lewis and Joseph Combs, one former member and one honorary member of The Design to play on the new album.

We spoke a lot after, and you worked to develop your songwriting and learn the piano. How much of that time helped you move forward, and what was the best thing for you in getting over the breakup of the band?

The months between the band breaking up and me going on The Voice is kind of a blur. I got back into freelance graphic design, waited tables, and started practicing piano. I’d say The Voice played an enormous role in helping me get over The Design and it also validated what I had been working towards for 8 years of my life (or my 20s, if you want to look at it that way). It’s been a year since my season ended and it’s gone by in a flash. I led a kickstarter, recorded an album, and moved across the country to a very strange/wonderful city. 

Before auditioning for The Voice, had you ever thought about going on one of these shows?

Truthfully, no. But I was approached every night after a Design show, without fail, by someone telling me I should go on X Factor, American Idol, America’s Got Talent, and The Voice. And I always said “no thank you”. I understood that I was being paid a compliment, but to me, it was the equivalent of someone saying, “What you’re doing right now is not enough and you need to go on one of these shows to be successful.” You wouldn’t go up to Lady Gaga and tell her she should go on The Voice. So it always stung a little, although I know that wasn’t the intention. It wasn’t until The Design opened for JJAMZ that I started considering it. JJAMZ’s lead guitarist is James Valentine, who also happens to be Maroon 5’s lead guitarist. I teased him about his frontman being a coach on The Voice, and James told me it was actually a really cool show and he thought I’d be great on it. It made me see things differently.

How much interaction did you have with the celebrity coaches, and what was the one piece of advice given that you have kept with you?

Not a whole lot. I remember rushing to tell Cee Lo something while the cameras weren’t rolling. The show wants to make sure all the contestants have equal time with the coaches to make it fair. Most of the rehearsals happen behind the scenes, with vocal coaches and choreographers. Whenever Cee Lo speaks, it’s from the heart. He told me to be myself. I think sometimes I wasn’t myself on the show, and that’s nobody’s fault but my own. The Voice was an incredible learning lesson. I had people helping me in The Design and on The Voice, but ultimately I’m responsible for the decisions I made.

You made quite an impression on the show. Between the striped pants, the leg kicks and the crowd surfing, you will not be forgotten. How much of that was pre-meditated and how much pure impulse?

I’m a huge Tim Burton fan, so when I saw that Beetlejuice pants were FINALLY fashionable, I jumped on it. The leg kicks were something I did all the time in The Design, and now ironically don’t do at all. Crowd-surfing was another thing I did a lot (and got in trouble for a lot) in The Design. I approached the show and asked if they would ever let me crowd-surf, and they were so excited. It was choreographed because it was live television, and they wanted to make sure I wouldn’t crack my head open in front of America AND that I would also be able to keep singing without it affecting my performance. I DID manage to knock my teeth on the mic, and if you listen carefully, you can hear it.

Do you still have contact with any of the other contestants or coaches from the show?

I’m in contact with most people from my season and a few people from other seasons. I performed at one of the shows on The Voice Tour, and I introduced myself to Christina Grimmie. She said, “I know who you are”, and I felt really silly. Most people either don’t recognize me or have no idea who I am. 

How did you meet and end up working with Amanda Palmer? 

Journalists kept asking me who my influences were while I was on the show, and I kept saying Amanda Palmer. Our fans connected us through Twitter and then we interviewed each other for her blog. She and her husband, Neil Gaiman, got involved in the voting and then I happened to be in New York during their tour together. Amanda asked me to come and sing “Delilah” with her and I nearly died. I made the mistake (as I just about always do) of wearing my platform heels to the show rather than just changing into them once I get there. I got off on the wrong subway stop and had to run/clunk through Time Square in frankenstein boots to make it to soundcheck on time and I had been told to absolutely, positively not be late. I burst open the doors to a huge, empty theater of red velvet seats to see Amanda and Neil rehearsing on stage. It was a little surreal, to say the least.

What was the reason behind the move from Raleigh to San Francisco?

Honestly…no good reason. I had lived in North Carolina my whole life and I thought a change of scenery would help me grow. Guillaume was excited about being a part of the tech boom. Regardless of the reason, I’m happy we made the move. Getting pulled out of one’s comfort zone makes for great creativity and I’m starting to find my niche here. I’ll be performing drag for the first time in February. I asked if I could perform drag to one of my original songs, or would that be narcissistic. They said “HELL NO”. The level of acceptance here is fantastic.

Kat Robichaud3You have found a vibrant community in that town that was a perfect match for your style. Was that part of the decision making process in moving?

I honestly didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We moved to the city already knowing a few people and we got invited to a bunch of shows. A David Bowie-themed drag show led to the discovery of a David Bowie tribute band that led to the discovery of a rock band that led to the discovery of my band that led to the discovery of etc, etc, etc. It’s so much fun to network here. There’s such a strong art community here. There’s so much to do and so much to get involved in.

You used the new exposure from the show to launch and complete a successful Kickstarter project. What was your goal and how much did you raise?

The goal was $20k. We raised over $40k.

What were you able to do with the extra money raised over your goal?

I was able to make a better album. It afforded more time in the studio and I was able to hire a lot of extra musicians.

What have you learned about using crowd-sourcing that you would pass on to other musicians?

Promote the kickstarter and then promote it some more. I’ve had a ton of people tell me they never heard about it and were really disappointed not to be involved. Although I did work really hard to promote it, I could have done more. Also, offer something people would really like to have at a low cost. It’s a bummer when you go to support a band and you want to buy their album but they’re charging $40 for a record and that’s their lowest tier. Offer something for $5 that isn’t a sticker.

Where did your infatuation with Dr. Who come from, and was there any specific reason why you released the Dr-inspired single and video first?

My former bandmate Keith turned me on to Doctor Who. I got completely obsessed. I would watch it on my phone during the long nights of driving back from whatever gig we had just played and I would geek out with him. The chorus came to me during one of those long rides and I ran with it. I made the video because I thought it would be really fun to have fellow Whovians run around San Francisco dressed at their favorite Doctor, and it was.

Your other major obsession is David Bowie. Do you cringe when you watch his “Dancing In The Street” video with Mick Jagger too?

No. That was cool in the 80s and everyone needs to stop acting like it wasn’t. And I would pay good money to see David Bowie and Mick Jagger dress up in those exact outfits and reenact the video on stage. We all would pay to see that. Don’t lie. {Editor’s Note: Sorry Kat. Not everybody would pay for that. But you do you!!!}

Your self-titled debut is about to drop. For the fans that knew you back in Raleigh, and those who fell in love with the girl who growled on TV, what should they know about the music on this release?

It is 100% unfiltered, unapologetically me. It’s rock and roll. It’s theater. It’s campy and weird and fun.

What are the plans for the rest of 2015 for Kat Robichaud?

I’m under the weather right now, so the immediate goal is to get better, put on pants, and go outside.

Do you have any advice for other struggling artists trying to make it in this business?

Going on a major television show will not be your big break. It’s a fantastic building block and a great foundation to build off of. Pay attention to your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t kick it under the carpet, because it will eventually start to smell bad. Never stop working. Never half-ass anything. And most importantly, your peers are not your competition. They are your allies in a dying industry and if you don’t help each other out, you will drown.

Artist Name: Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits
Genre: Theatrical Rock, Glam
Location: San Francisco, CA
Members: Kat Robichaud