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Paid In Crisps: A short and salty history of Kitten Pyramid

Kitten Pyramid
(Image credit: Kitten Pyramid)

If Syd Barrett traded ideas with Super Furry Animals as Frank Zappa chipped in with a gag or two, it would probably sound… quite unnerving given that two of the above-mentioned would have to come back from the dead. But it’s a daunting challenge to sum up Kitten Pyramid’s sound in terms of two or three reference points, because chief songwriter and frontman Scott Milligan suffers what can only be described as musical ADHD – he can’t seem to stick to one style for more than a few minutes. 

“I need a really mixed diet,” the Burton-on-Trent-based songwriter explains, which may be why his songs contain lyrical references to products ranging from Bounty bars to Peshwari naans and his band’s own fantasy marmalade. The same is evidently true stylistically, judging by Kitten Pyramid’s vibrantly eclectic approach to their second album KOOZY!! and its 2014 predecessor Uh-Oh!

“I wanted to set my stall out early on that… I just wanted to be able to write in any style I wanted,” says Milligan. “The main thrust was, it was underpinned by something that had a hook to it, that you could engage with without dropping off to sleep, really.”

Hence the infectious nature of Kitten Pyramid’s songs whether channelling dizzily lysergic wonk-pop, stomping glam rock, acoustic anthemics or freeform avant-garde noise. In collaboration with bassist and producer Nick Brine and the Leisure Society, they’ve created a prog-pop album that is as consistently unpredictable as it is addictively entertaining.

The band’s videos adopt a similarly off-kilter vibe, as typified by the promos for recent singles Doughnuts (filmed with a drone during lockdown), Aunty Mabel (starring the legend that is Christopher Biggins in a dress) and Koozy (featuring everything from kangaroos having a scratch to bursting balloons with hammers) with over 1,000,000 Facebook views to date). 

The band formed in “around 2010” in Burton-on-Trent, home of fellow travellers and erstwhile collaborators The Leisure Society and breeding ground for talent such as actor Paddy Considine and filmmaker Shane Meadows. 

And although the band’s personnel has changed since Uh-Oh!, the line-up can expand and contract from a core of Milligan and Brine to bands and orchestras of 20 or more depending on the occasion and the nature of the composition they’re playing.

Tours are also subject to a decidedly unorthodox ethos: Uh-Oh! was promoted by a tour of psychiatric hospitals, reflecting an abiding theme of mental health in Kitten Pyramid’s songs – inspired by figures in Milligan’s life such as his late uncle Jarek, who suffered from schizophrenia (“he showed me how to think differently”), and his mum who lost her battle against Covid 19 last year. She had also experienced psychotic episodes as a result of her MS/Epilepsy medication. The album KOOZY!! is dedicated to her. 

Plans for shows in the near future are up in the air given the current climate, of course, but for now you can get a better introduction to this truly unique band through our video chat with Scott and Nick. 

We should warn you that it contains strong language, tales of being paid in crisps, bees in hot tubs, celebratory confectionery and dying lollipop men. Enjoy.

For more info on KOOZY!! visit the Kitten Pyramid website (opens in new tab), or follow them on Facebook (opens in new tab), Instagram (opens in new tab) and Twitter (opens in new tab).

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock