Having released ‘OWT’, the Katana twins introduce themselves to tmrw, discuss the story behind their EP, and share their plans for this year.
Millie and Hope Katana have been honing their musical talents over the years and have recently begun releasing tracks under their current banner ‘The KTNA’. Both of the two singles the twins have shared have been well received and reflect years of maturing their sound.
The KTNA’s ‘One Way Ticket’, stylised ‘OWT’, indeed attests to this. It’s varied and signposts a host of genres. Live strings and a hip hop beat leave you considering a trip-hop influence, but the twins’ vocals stray more towards a noughties R&B sound, especially where the vocals harmonise. The lyrics are candid, honest, and brash in the vulnerability of the topics they cover. Shortly before the chorus, the lines “the world is so much bigger than I know […] and I know it” are growled with a wave of anger and frustration that borders on howling.
The twins’ lyrical concerns were a subject they were open to discuss at interview. Growing up with the rise of social media, the twins are only too conscious of the detrimental effects the medium can potentially have on your perception of self and others around you. Considering how social media users often portray a ‘perfect’ version of themselves, Millie discusses how this, in turn, leaves many feeling lonely and possessed with a desire to run away.
“Yeah, I think it’s that we completely, as a generation, only put our best [image] forward,” Millie explains. “[We] always portray online that we’re always happy, that we’re great, that we’re rich, that we’ve got the best clothes, darling.
“[Feelings of] sadness and loneliness make you feel even more lonely because you can’t put that on social media. We don’t know how to interact with one another anymore socially. My feeling is that I can’t say I’m sad, I can’t say I’m lonely because it makes me look a certain way. Of course, that leads to wanting to run away because where is there to go?”
Lyrically, the sisters hope – in part – to identify with those feelings of loneliness in the listener; discussing topics such as those sung in ‘OWT’. “We hope our music is different,” Millie says, “and gives people an escape, and that it can be truly how people feel without them having to apologise for it. I want people to feel good about it and not have to apologise for the way they feel because that’s how we feel, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
On a similar note, Millie goes onto discuss the sisters’ attitude to mental health and how music, generally, has a part to play in giving suffers a voice. “I think that me and Hope are two people that truly try to talk to other people, and not just on the surface [but] on the inside. Everybody’s sad! Everybody that I know is sad. Whether it takes me ten times sitting down with them or one, everybody’s sad.
“I think music has to speak for the people. We don’t make the cheeriest music, but I think it speaks for a lot of people and the way we feel inside. It’s not very nice, and it’s not the prettiest thing in the world.”
Hope attests. “I hope our music raises awareness to young people’s mental health,” she says, “because it’s important [and] it’s not something that we can just ignore.”
Using music as a tool for expressing anguish and feelings of loneliness has informed to some degree the twins’ uptake of the art. However, they both cite Manchester as essential in their development as musicians. The Katanas grew up in Bolton and frequently visited Manchester to attend various musical and creative workshops and schemes during their youth.
“As a kid growing up, Manchester gave us access to being able to sing with live bands and with musicians who were older than us” Hope explains. “Honestly, we do say that that time in our life is what formed us into being the people that we are now and Manchester is solely to blame for that. It was a great place to make music with little to no money and to be able to have amazing experiences still and grow as musicians as kids.”
Hope further details the initiatives set up by the Labour government during their childhood that gave underprivileged kids creative outlets. Though it has undergone name changes, Brighter Sounds, or GMMAZ as it was once known, is a creative space for young people of varying backgrounds. This enabled the sisters to perform at several large venues in Manchester including The Lowry and Bridgewater Hall.
“When we were younger, Labour had had all of their projects for underprivileged kids, and we used to make music twice a week at this free platform. All children, from wherever you came from, could go and make music if you were serious about making music. We used to do that all the time and meet people from different backgrounds and different cultures.”
The twins describe how their mother informed, to a great extent, their musical education as they grew up. With a broad taste in music, the sisters got a good exposure to a variety of genres and artists from their mother.
“We used to listen to all kinds of music” Millie explains before Hope describes her mother’s music collection. “My mum has one of the greatest musical tastes. Whenever people would come over to our house me mum [would] play the most fantastic music. She’d play soul and all the greats. We would sit in awe. We’d say that Stevie Wonder is our musical father [and] we are very influenced by him. At the same time, when my mum was younger, [she had] brothers and sisters who were into rock music, so we used to listen to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Gorillaz and Bad Charlotte.”
The sisters had the opportunity to play alongside both Maverick Sabre and Jorja Smith. Hope describes their experience and how they came to meet Smith. “We met at a show in London, which […] I wasn’t supposed to go to [and] they weren’t supposed to go to. We accidentally met at the show and spent all night together listening to music after. She came to the studio the night we met each other. So, from the night we met each other, we’ve had this mad, crazy bond. They’ve been so helpful for our musical journey, Maverick and Jorja. Not in a fake way either. I’ve got a genuine love, and I genuinely respect what they do.”
With their debut EP out today, the twins share details on the recording of the EP. Alongside producing the EP itself, they describe the experience of recording the cut as an essential stage in their musical development. Millie explained that the experience allowed them to begin producing and engineering for themselves.
“Long story short, we’d come back from America, and we didn’t have anyone to work with, we didn’t have any money, and we had these songs,” Hope explains. “My very good friend said, ‘you can come and sleep on my studio floor if you want and make some music.’ For about a year we did sleep on his studio floor in the West. It was a tiny room [and] it was bare smoky all the time. Honestly, it was some of the hardest days of my life, sharing a room with your sister and with no windows for a year is very difficult. We got into the way we felt in that space of time.”
“It’s just been a real process for us,” Millie continues. “I think because we spent so long in that room, we stopped giving a shit. There’s nothing better than a person who doesn’t care about what everybody else thinks about them. That’s a very strong quality to have.”
Hope interjects. “It’s important to say that we weren’t like that before. Our musical journey up until that room wasn’t like that.”