CALLmeKAT is the moniker of dulcet Danish singer-songwriter Katrine Ottosen. In Europe and Scandinavia, she’s toured as a solo headliner and opened for artists like Sebastien Tellier, Au Revoir Simone, Okkervil River, The Dø and Nouvelle Vague, among others. This Tuesday night, she’ll bring her vintage keyboards and sweet, melancholy sound to Mercury Lounge with New York’s own Alexa Wilding. While CALLmeKAT tinkers with random electronic gadgets (think CocoRosie), Wilding keeps company with an acoustic guitar, creating a dreamy folk sound with a sultry twist. We caught up with the two new friends for a quick chit-chat on where they shop in NYC and how their music informs their distinct styles…
I’ve been writing papermag’s Shop of the Week column for a few years, and the Scandinavian designers and retailers are always ahead of the curve. Kat – what differences have you noticed in the way women and men dress in NYC compared to back home in Denmark?
CALLmeKAT: One of the things I really like about people-watching in NYC is the way individuals express themselves through their clothing. The margins are wider here. It’s like a real-life crazy costume ball sometimes! Another thing that I’ve noticed is how well New York women maintain appearances — always the perfect hair, the nails, the make-up. I’m more like a messy European! I guess the overall style in Scandinavia has a tendency to be a little more laid-back.
And Alexa, you were born and raised here in NYC. How has that influenced your look and sound?
Alexa Wilding: Kat’s right, I feel like in New York, your look is almost your calling card. Even the sweaty guy in the tee shirt and Ray Bans thought a lot about his outfit. Don’t be fooled! Growing up my sister and I would refer to neighborhood characters as “the purple suit guy” or “side-ponytail lady.” We’d casually pass people like Patti Smith or the late Greta Garbo on the street, and they’d always be in the same get-up. That made a big impression on me. In a city where next year’s trends are already over, I’ve always tried to stick to what feels like a second skin. With my music, too.
What are some of your favorite shops here in NYC?
AW: Well, Kat and I got very gloomy on a recent trip to Bird because we wanted everything! For me, visiting a shop is like a special pilgrimage because, as a musician, retail splurges must be kept to a minimum. One of my favorite spots is Albertine on Christopher Street — I could move in! I bought a Mary Meyer scarf there this winter which I wore everyday. Just knowing it came from Albertine made it even more special. I’ve been a big fan of Legacy on Thompson Street for years and always pop in to say hi, peruse the vintage jewelry and shoes, and treat myself to Finnish label IVANAhelsinki. I’m a wannabe Scandinavian, I guess. And when I’ve indulged in too many treats, I hang out at the St. Luke’s Thrift Shop on Hudson Street. Great old school Village wares and mystery novels!
CmK: Yes, I love vintage browsing in NYC, where the selection is so vast. Vintage dresses are great for stage, too, because they don’t draw lines to a specific brand or price range. Here in NYC I’ve found precious stuff in Amarcord and Narnia. For well-crafted basics, I turn to A.P.C. and Acne. Besides that, I love my grandmother’s hand-knitting. I request the color and style and she knits it so beautifully. It’s the nicest thing — every time I wear these things I think of her! In the pictures, I’m wearing a vintage dress and A.P.C. sandals (both purchased here in NYC), while Alexa is wearing a Finnish dress and Swedish clogs!
How important is fashion for your performance? Is it an afterthought or do you develop a concept to support your music and message, Gaga-style?
CMK: The single most important thing for me on stage is the music. But at the same time I definitely think a lot about the visual aspect of being onstage. That’s actually why I prefer to use still visuals for my shows — to feed the senses! I select my onstage wardrobe with a thought on beauty, but also comfort. I have to maneuver between all the keyboards and reach them without problems!
AW: I agree with Kat, you have to find balance between functionality and beauty, since we’re pretty busy up there. The few times I tried to concoct a concept, I felt foolish — it took away from the music. I learned from my mistakes, like trying to play guitar in 4 inch heels, or the time I wore a silky dress that kept slipping off my shoulder. The music comes first. Since I’m sharing the music, though, I better be a beguiling medium. So I try to be the best version of myself up there.
I never go on stage without…
CmK: My Casio and my kazoo.
AW: Black opaque Wolford tights! And my guitar, of course.
What’s up next for you two?
CmK: I just finished a long European tour and NXNE in Toronto, so I’m heading to the studio to record. Last week I finished the run opening for our friends, Au Revoir Simone at Warsaw, as part of the Northside Festival.
AW: And then I’m going on tour with Au Revoir Simone in July! We have those über-stylish ladies to thank for introducing us, actually. This Mercury Lounge show marks the first Alexa/Kat double bill, as we’ll be touring together in the fall, too. Here’s to girlfriends!
CmK: Yes..to girlfriends!
Have a listen below and check out the twosome Tuesday night at Mercury Lounge.