Kissing Cousins
Kissing Cousins
Courtesy of Velvet Blue Music

Kissing Cousins: Loud, Abrasive, Adorable

Heather Heywood lost her Southern accent when she moved to Los Angeles in 2000, but she hasn't lost her Southern hospitality. The Alabama native is a warm, inviting lady who doesn't quite match the abrasive-in-a-good-way sound of her band, Kissing Cousins. She moved to LA to discover the artistic side of the city, as many often do, and she found a plethora of musicians to play in bands with, one of whom became her husband. In 2005 Kissing Cousins began as a project with her best friend, Beth Ziegler, sparked by Ziegler's interest in playing drums. 

Kissing Cousins are celebrating their sixth release, Unfortunate End, with a west coast tour. The ladies are bringing their rowdy act to La Cave in Costa Mesa Tuesday along with OC's California Condors and Two Guns. We chatted via telephone with Heywood in anticipation of the show while she enjoyed a barbecue, beer and the beautiful view from Echo Park's hills.

Check out the interview after the jump.
OC Weekly: You play in Echo Park quite a bit and it's a Fertile Crescent of sorts for good music in Los Angeles. What's it like being a part of that?
Heather Haywood: You know how you're a part of something and you don't even know it? It's not till it's over that you're like, oh my God. It's funny, I don't feel like I'm a part of it, but I guess I am. We're really lucky because there are so many great bands and most of them are really cool to each other and help each other out. Not only are they talented musicians- they're good people. They go to your shows, they help you get shows. We're in LA so every once in a while one of those bands is going to get famous. And when that happens it's just so exciting a weird. You're like,"Dreams do come true!" [Laughs] 
     I hope we get to be a part of [the scene] a little longer before we move on. As the younger kids grow up, the style changes and the music changes. But I'm excited to see what these runts come up with. 

You're playing La Cave Tuesday. Have you played there before?
Not with Kissing Cousins, but other bands. You know when I would come to California to visit my friends we would go to La Cave when they had free Wednesday nights with this jazz band. I don't know why we did it but it was the thing to do. We would go there and to the Fling and see Phil Shane. The thing I remember most about La Cave was people would smoke in that back room. I mean your eyes would be on fire because there would be such a layer of smoke.

Yeah, they don't let you do that anymore.
Thank God. It was bad. Every time I go there I get this nostalgic feeling. We're playing with our friends, California Condors. I love their band and I love them as people. 

What made you venture out to Los Angeles?
I came out to experience the music scene and what not. I wanted something different and decided if I liked it I'd stay and if I didn't move one. I ended up loving it. I met my husband, all my friends, playing in different fun bands so, the rest is history [laughs]. That was 10 years or over. It goes really fast. I did get to loose my Alabama accent- finally. 

What made you start playing music?
You see your idols and a little piece of you wants that. As you get older you try to make your dreams more rational. It helps when you meet musicians and they inspire you to do it. 
     When I had an official band where we wrote songs and played, I was 19. It was called Marvel. Ever since then I went from musical project to musical project. I've always been working with some project ever since then. I probably won't ever stop. I'll be one of those old ladies with a breathing machine trying to [keep playing]. It's fun to work with different people because it brings out creativity that you didn't even know was in there. Luckily I've surrounded myself with other musicians who like to help me and they're my friends so I actually like to spend time with them. 

How did Kissing Cousins start?
I play in a band with my husband, Summer Darling, and it's been almost 10 years. A lot of my friends would come out to see us, so they were already exposed to seeing me play shows. One of my friends [Beth] said, "I wanna play drums!" She didn't own drums; she just thought it would be awesome. Then we started talking about starting a girl band. I play bass in Summer Darling so I was excited to play guitar and sing. Then she moved back to South Carolina for grad school. 
     She called me up and said "Guess what! I bought a drum set and I'm taking lessons." I was so excited for her because people say things all the time and never go through with it. I was like, "Are you fucking kidding me? That's amazing." I started writing songs in my bed room and I would send them to her. That lasted for three months.  
      I was like we gotta play a show. In 2005, Beth flew out here for the show. We had two practices. In the mean time I had recruited two of my girlfriends to play. And we pulled it off! We had so much fun and once we started playing shows, Beth decided she loved it too much and moved back here. I knew there was no way she was going to go back, she was working as a receptionist at a hair salon or something, and say, "This is better than what I just did."

Tell me about your new EP, Unfortunate End. 
It's a four song EP and we also put it out on a double seven-inch. So it's one song on each side. That's the way I suggest listening to it because that's how we recorded it. There's just something special about listening to vinyl. I love these four songs. They're dirty and huge and when we play live they're so loud.
     We just put it out and did a West Coast tour for it. Then we're going to start working on our full-length which I'm really excited to do. It might not be this year, just because we want to play more and travel. Maybe next year.

Do these four songs have a running theme to them?
I wanted all four to be about the same sort of thing. It started about a woman's death. They're stories that are related in my mind. It's hard for me to explain because it's my craziness. It's four short stories about women who die in an unnatural way. 

What kind of reception does Kissing Cousins get for being an all female band?
A good one. You know we're cute girls, we don't look tough and we're really girly. [People] never expect our music to be ugly like it is. People say that they don't expect it to be loud and stark like it is. That just comes from the way I write. I always write that way and I probably always will. That's just me. 
     It's hard to be a girl band; it really is. There's a lot of competition out there and the boys are hard to beat. They're really good and they're really nerdy about it. Like they're always playing  guitar, and we're doing other things. There's this certain sex appeal. A guy can be fat and bald and if he's awesome on stage, people love him. Being a girl is hard- you always have to have something that somebody likes about you and it can't be just the music. Every time I see another girl band I get really excited. I'm like, "We should be best friends! We know what it's like. But the strange thing is I'm not friends with any other girl band except Wet & Reckless. I feel so sad. Why aren't we all helping each other out? 
     It's hard to know what's real and what's your own perception, but I feel like there are people out there that like [us] and that's really exciting! As long as there are, I'll keep making it. 

Kissing Cousins performs with California Condors and Two Guns at La Cave, 1695 Irvine Ave., Costa Mesa; (949) 646-7944. 10 p.m. Free. 21+


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