WORDS BY KATIE DOHMAN
Trash Catties is a married couple, Manny and Jennifer Catties, who play electric violin and bass, respectively. And this month, they’re celebrating a new release and their anniversary at the Turf Club. We sat down with them to talk about love, creativity, and what’s up with those cats.
How long have you been together?
Jennifer: We met 22 years ago, in the summer of 2000, at the Mall of America. I like to say, you get everything at the mall, even a husband! I was working at Alamo Grill [where Bubba Gump is now], and Manny came in to meet his friend, my coworker. He was sitting at the bar and we made googly eyes at each other.
Manny: We connected, the first moment we met we talked about local music.
For some couples, doing creative work together could be the kiss of death, but you’re celebrating your 20th anniversary. What is it like doing creative work together? What does it bring to both the stage chemistry and your marriage?
Manny: We navigate a delicate minefield in writing music together.
Manny: It’s not a perfect process, but we manage to communicate well enough to convey our own ideas and make them work together. We usually start with a bass part, though.
Jennifer: That’s because Manny can write to anything, but I’m relatively new, so then he writes the violin to it and puts vocals on last.
How did you get started doing Trash Catties?
Jennifer: He kicked me out of his other band. [laughs]
Manny: Objection! This other project was an improvisational noise project, and I was asked to perform in Chicago, and I started putting together the music to perform. … She wanted to play [regularly] but I wasn’t really writing a part for her, so I said, “Why don’t we start a band, let’s set a deadline and see how many songs we can crank out. In two months, we had three songs.
That felt promising?
Manny: It was a lot of fun to work on these new parts, with her writing bass parts I would create something with. It was something I’d never done before, and it clicked. We aren’t prolific songwriters but when we do get to it, it’s definitely a part of our marriage that is a big surprise, and simply wonderful. This is my first time fronting, and singing and writing lyrics.
Jennifer: I honestly didn’t know what they were going to be like. And I love them, I didn’t know he was a poet. I had no idea you were such a poet!
Manny: When I was cutting my teeth on the scene back in the day, seeing people play rooms like Triple Rock and Turf, I just wanted to have that opportunity to do that once in awhile with people I loved. If you’re already married to the person, it seems like a no-brainer to me.
Describe garbage pop for the uninitiated.
Jennifer: We call it garbage pop because we don’t know how to describe it. We’re both a smidge gothy, a smidge dance…
Manny: We’re punks, so it’s going to be weird, but melodic and sweet. It’s a little dark, but it’s feel-good music. It’s not too complex, but it definitely has … a multitude in there, something happening in the music that isn’t plain and simple.
Jennifer: We were in the car and Manny said, we should get a garbage can or something, and I said OK! Let’s get uniforms, too.
Manny: We went down to the Dickie’s store on Lake Street, and Jennifer cut hers into a dress… When a band performs and they’re doing something a little extra for performance’s sake, I think everybody can appreciate that. We were all in on the trash-band aesthetic.
Jennifer: There is not a single song is about a cat or garbage. There are no meows anywhere.
How’d the new EP come about?
Jennifer: It felt silly to play music for a little bit [during the lockdown and pandemic]. But then, it was probably one of those days, I said ‘We should go write something. We haven’t written anything in awhile.’
Manny: It wasn’t particularly boredom—we don’t really get bored—it was a spark out of the darkness.
Jennifer: A couple of the songs came about because I got a new pedal and had a lot of sustain and I started writing half and whole notes so that kind of slowed some of it down a little bit and made it a little darker, and pretty distorted too… and then we wrote one more poppy and one kind of a rock song.
Where are you on the trajectory of the Trash Catties now?
Jennifer: I like to say some married couples get a dog or have a kid—this is our baby. And they’re just going into Kindergarten right now, so we’re learning a lot of new skills.
Manny: That’s really well put. This project is just growing. And evolving. We don’t know where this project is going but we really appreciate where we’ve been and what we’re doing.
Jennifer: What’s nice about being the two of us, is that we can just be the two of us. If we feel like taking a break, we can. And pick it right back up if we want, or if we feel like playing 40 shows in a year.
What should showgoers expect with your EP release and anniversary celebration at the Turf?
Jennifer: All of the bands playing with us are friends, which we are really excited about.
Manny: I think for a long time Jennifer and I were involved in archiving music around town. I know the quality of music we’ve seen come out of the city is as good as it gets out there. We invited three bands that are making the best new music in the city, hands down: Wish Wash is this four-piece band and their music is a throwback to that ’90s songs that you love. Butter Boys are playing this incredible driving music with more personality and panache than literally anyone out there is doing. Lunch Duchess has some of the most innovative and beautiful songwriting, performed immaculately.
So you must really love cats, yeah?
Manny: We have four cats. All are rescues from Minnesota Feline Rescue. We both have had cats as long we’ve been alive.
Jennifer: My first memory is getting our first cat. And she lived long enough to meet Manny and he got to hold her—18 years.
WHEN YOU GO