Not many bands could open for Bad Bad Hats and Daughtry in the space of a few weeks.
But not long after an all-ages indie-rock show at the Entry at the end of July, Kiss the Tiger was called in to warm up the crowd at Canterbury Park last weekend for none other than American Idol veteran Chris Daughtry.
Not an intuitive choice of opener, maybe, but not wholly a bad fit either. Though born of the Twin Cities indie club scene, Kiss the Tiger attack with good old rock ‘n’ roll attitude and soar on heartfelt ballads you can easily imagine wafting out across large open-air venues. Plus, the band’s onstage focal point, lead singer Meghan Kreidler, performs charismatically enough to catch the attention of any Daughtry fan en route to the merch table or beer line.
“It was a weird crowd, a big crowd, but I couldn’t gauge at first how people felt about us,” Kreidler says of the Canterbury show, adding that the band got a warm response afterward. On the patio at Dogwood Coffee in Northeast, casually stylish in a sleeveless shirt, neck bandana, and weather-appropriate sunglasses, Kreidler, an actor by trade, speaks in the thoughtful, measured voice of someone trained to speak onstage.
“He was so nice,” she says of Daughtry. “After our soundcheck he was like, 'You guys sound great.'”
This Saturday, Kiss the Tiger will perform as part of the Current’s Music-on-a-Stick show at the State Fair Grandstand with Lake Street Dive. (They'll also have this cool-ass T-shirt on sale, exclusively at that show.) The fair show caps off a year of varied performances, beginning with a return to the (outdoor) stage at the Hook & Ladder in May and including a June residency at Icehouse, during which they’ve promoted their second studio full-length, Vicious Kid, recorded pre-pandemic in late 2019.
The COVID lag gave the band a year to touch up the tracks in the studio—and to worry over whether this was the album they wanted to make. Kreidler describes her 2020 internal monologue as “’Is this good? No, this is good. Is it?’”
“I kept revisiting it, asking are we still going to this out in the world," she says. "And I kept saying yes.”
She’s right: It is good. The 12 tracks come as close to capturing the ferocity and emotional range of the band’s live show as is possible without them standing on a stage in front of you. At times its as thick as the Stones’ Sticky Fingers without the heroin; at others it’s as raw as the Stooges’s Raw Power without the nihilism. The twin guitar attack of band co-founder Michael Anderson on rhythm and Bridger Fruth on lead sometimes lock in with the versatile rhythm section of drummer Paul DeLong bassist Jay DeHut and sometimes cut across it. There’s the flirtatious forward tumble of “Who Does Her Hair?,” the soulfully resigned “I Miss You,” the self-explanatory “Grown Ass Woman,” and the tricky little art-metal bits of the ominously clomping closer “The Dinosaur Song.”
The band’s come a ways since it first set into motion in 2015 as Yours Truly, with a show at what was then the Nomad Pub on the West Bank that Kreidler remembers with some chagrin. (“I didn’t know any of the lyrics.”)
"I had a lot of experience with music—doing choir, playing piano, musical theater—but I’d never been in a band before," Kreidler says, reflecting on when she formed Kiss the Tiger with Anderson. "At first I thought, ‘Oh yeah, this is gonna be really easy, I’ve been onstage a ton. I feel confident as a performer.”
A two-time Ivey Award winner who has performed at the Guthrie and at Mixed Blood, she had good reason to be confident.
“And then our first show I felt… really weird,” she says. “Stepping into a role and rehearsing the role for three weeks and doing it for a couple months is just a different process. In a way theater is about lifting the veil and being honest, but you’re still hiding. Here I realized, oh, I’m just being exposed for who I am.”
And who is Kreidler onstage—or who has she become? Imagine if Karen O and Mick Jagger had a daughter—and then she kicked them both out of the house.
“I did it long enough that I felt like I was able to push through my discomfort," she says. "And then I found there was this whole world of possibility of expression and how to connect.”
She’s still learning from her idols too, coming of the high of seeing Patti Smith for the first time recently at Surly Festival Field.
“I just feel like she doesn’t really give a fuck... and yet still cares so much about what she’s doing,” Kreidler says of the legendary rock poet. "You put the work in so you can release and let go.”
Kreidler and Anderson are also partners, and this is the first album where she significantly collaborated with him on the songwriting. So for her, Vicious Kid represents aspects of their relationship—or their multiple relationships.
“We’re partnered, and we live together, and we spend a lot of our time together,” she says. “This album feels like it very much is a fusion of our artistic ideas and our voices, born out of," she says, pausing with a bit of a laugh in her voice. “Mostly love, but also the conflict and frustration that come from creating with your significant other. It’s cool to be able to have a memento of that.”