20:20 — 20 Questions, 20 Answers

Published February 19, 2021

In part 22 of our series,

Kivi Neimi —lead vocalist and founding member of Kittenhead—

joins us for an inspiring Q&A.

Kittenhead, a four-piece rock and roll band formed in California in May 2012, has just released their newest song, “Bloom,” with a new video by Amanda Taylor out today!

Kivi shares about passion for humankind and hope for society, creating the world in which we want to live, and so much more. Kivi’s words resonate with us. We hope they will with you as well.

Welcome, Kivi!


Kittenhead at The Airliner | Photo by Reese Andrea

Kittenhead at The Airliner | Photos by Reese Andrea | Photos courtesy of Kivi Neimi

20:20 with Kivi Neimi

NWM 1): Please tell us about Kivi Neimi, as a human of Earth and member of Kittenhead.
Kivi: I am the lead vocalist of Kittenhead and a passionate humanitarian. I believe we are all created equal and that everyone deserves to live in freedom according to their own beliefs, if those beliefs are nonviolent toward others.

NWM 2): What’s a favorite Kittenhead song? Please tell us a little about it.
Kivi: Songs are like children—I don’t really have one favorite. They all have meaning, even the ‘silly, fun’ songs. In every song, I try to state a positive message, even if the song is angry. In fact, I think it is very important for our mental health to speak about our anger and recognize injustice. Speaking it makes it possible for change to happen and hold accountable those in power. There cannot be unity without accountability. Humanity needs unity to survive.

I believe we are all created equal and that everyone deserves to live in freedom …

NWM 3): Name three things that make you smile.
Kivi: My animals, music, the beauty of this planet.

NWM 4): We truly admire your ‘mission of championing the underdog’ and your ‘commit[ment] to helping to create a better society,’ to which end you play benefit shows and create statements about inequality and injustice in your music.

Please share something about this and its importance to you.
Kivi: I feel it is important to create the world we want to live in. With our platform, I am committed to promoting and creating a better society. It is evident in our lyrics and music. Humanity is at a crossroads. If our message can gently push people toward love and away from hatred that is [what] will make me happy.

Kivi Neimi | Photo by Reese Andrea

Kivi Neimi

NWM 5): What are your before-you-go-on-stage rituals?
Kivi: Redbull and pacing to get my energy up.

NWM 6): You have played a wide range of festivals and events, including the Oakland Pride Festival and the Folsom Fair. What has been a particularly memorable or rewarding experience of your career so far?
Kivi: The wide range of countries where we are known. We are at least infamous if not famous. And we have been played on a radio station on every continent except Antarctica. I guess we aren’t that popular with penguins.

We have been played on a radio station on every continent except Antarctica. I guess we aren’t that popular with penguins.

NWM 7): Weirdest show?
Kivi: We have played in some odd places. Airplane hangers, newly launched shopping malls, street fairs. We don’t really think of a place as odd, and because we love playing together so much, I think we overlook the oddity of the venue out of the joy of being together and creating.

Now, we have been to some super odd places. The weirdest place—that the entire band agreed upon—was a place we ate on tour. Really, we aren’t quite sure where we were, somewhere in southern Oregon off I5, we found a cafe open late for dinner. We were all starving.

It was a bit of a drive off the interstate up by a hotel. When we got into the place there was only one person working, and he was super creepy. The energy of the place was off, it felt like no one had been in there for years. The dude took our order and made our food. My pancakes made me immediately sick. We paid and left, none of us willing to be alone in the space and practically backing out the door and heading back to the freeway ASAP.

We all agreed that dude who worked there felt like a serial killer. Super creepy. …

NWM 8): What song/album could you play on repeat?
Kivi: Eurythmics Sweet Dreams.

Kittenhead | Photo by Reese Andrea

Kittenhead | Left to right: Kivi (vocals), Owen (drums), Victorya (strings), Dede (strings)

NWM 9): We love the juxtaposition of cuteness (kitten) with hardcore music implied by ‘head,’ as used by those giants such as Radiohead and Motorhead.

Please tell us about the origin of Kittenhead’s name.
Kivi: When Kittenhead formed we had shows set up before we had a name. I, being the super organized person, asked each member for four to five names, which I looked up and created a list of five to seven names for us to vote on. We had a zoom call and were debating the names. I didn’t have a favorite name on the list, so I was half paying attention and playing with my kitten, Roary. One of her nicknames was Roary Boary Kittenhead. I called out to her (saying ‘Roary Boary Kittenhead what a good girl’) and one of the band nominated Kittenhead as a name for the band. I objected, but was outvoted.

Now, I really appreciate the diversity of the name and think it fits us.

Your album ‘Derby Girl is currently the skate-out music for roller derby leagues around the world …’

NWM 10): Kittenhead is known for performances at west coast roller derbies. In fact, your album ‘Derby Girl is currently the skate-out music for roller derby leagues around the world from the UK to Australia and across North and South America.’ We love this!

Please elaborate on this unique experience and how it came about.
Kivi: When we were writing our first music I wanted to write a song for a good friend who is like a sister to me and is a derby girl. So we wrote the song for Larie and I sent it to her. Her team loved it and they started using it for their skate out music. We got many requests from other roller derbys and basically told any roller derby they can use the music for free—it is downloadable on our Reverbnation page.

NWM 11): Who might we be surprised to find on your playlist?
Kivi: My musical tastes are pretty varied. I think most people are most surprised to hear that there is a lot of classical music (Scarlatti and Sibelius) on my playlist as well as jazz. Sarah Vaughan is a favorite, and I adore Nat King Cole’s voice; it is like velvet.

Kivi and Dede of Kittenhead | Photo by Reese Andrea

Kivi and Dede of Kittenhead

NWM 12): We are instant fans of your rock with your song ‘Tinman.’ Please describe your vision of your art.
Kivi: ‘Tinman’ is a call to humanity to find our hearts and save our collective souls. It is based on the Wizard of Oz archetypes. The scarecrow, the lion, and the tinman, loosely.

Basically, love more, judge less.

The first verse is about the death of Matthew Shepard. When the bicyclists found Matthew they initially rode past him thinking he was a scarecrow because he was so badly beaten they didn’t recognize his humanity.

The second verse is about Trayvon Martin’s death. He died for his courage by standing up to a bully who wanted to demean and deny his humanity.

Society is the tinman. We have to find our heart, our humanity, and see every human as a valuable entity based solely on their existence. No judgment.

Basically, love more, judge less.

NWM 13): How do you express your creativity other than through music?
Kivi: I write, both poetry and I am working on two books that I won’t go into here as it is a struggle in many ways for me to write in the COVID void.

I think it is very important for us all to share our voices. Which is one of the blessings of social media and podcasts. There are so many options to be heard, of course, that creates a cacophony of sound so it can be difficult to sort through everything—both to know what you want to listen to and to have your voice heard by those who want to hear what you have to say.

I do think that people with a platform should share with others who they like and what they listen to—it is really one of the few ways to cut through the noise.

Kivi and Dede of Kittenhead | Photo by Reese Andrea

NWM 14): If you could see anyone from throughout history perform who would it be?
Kivi: Jimi Hendrix or Big Mama Thornton. Both are amazing. I saw Prince perform six weeks before his death. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that he is dead. He was so vibrant and full of energy and life when I saw him.

NWM 15): Apart from live music, what are you most looking forward to when things return to ‘normal’?
Kivi: Going out to dinner with friends, and visiting family. I haven’t seen my family in over a year now, and that is really challenging for me. My family is so very supportive of who I am and what I do.

My family is so very supportive of who I am and what I do.

NWM 16): What is a favorite cover you perform?
Kivi: ‘Second Skin’ [by] The Gits. We play it to honor those we have lost and Mia Zapata, the lead singer of The Gits, in particular. When I sing it, I dedicate it to those we have lost and those who have died too young.

NWM 17): How do you keep yourself centered or able to cope with stress during these trying times?
Kivi: My animals help. I have tried to maintain a routine and have little adventures like hiking and trying new foods via take-out. I have set up regular phone and video time with family and friends to stay connected. But it has been so very hard. I really miss performing and rehearsing with my bandmates.

Kivi Neimi | Photo by Reese Andrea

NWM 18): What in particular fuels your inspiration? Tell us about your space or what is most necessary for unleashing your creativity.
Kivi: Movement, I am a very physical person. When I feel stuck writing, I’ll go get on a BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit] train (pre-COVID), go for a run, or take a drive. Dancing also works, and it isn’t unusual for me to dance around my house to random music. I love having Google go down a rabbit hole of various songs after a prompt.

Listening to new and different music is really invigorating as well.

NWM 19): What is one thing you would want our readers to know about you which we might not know to ask?
Kivi: Life is not guaranteed, don’t put off what you can do now. Tell your people you love them, embrace your passions, and live!!!

NWM 20): What’s next for Kittenhead?
Kivi: We are making a music video for our song ‘Bloom,’ that we’re releasing today, the 19th of February. It is a love song to the planet and humanity in general.

Tell your people you love them, embrace your passions, and live!!!

Really the song is about those people in your life that you know you have a connection with that goes beyond this lifetime. Of course, with COVID, we have to be creative so there won’t be a traditional narrative because we can’t film, but we have an amazing video person named Amanda Taylor who will make it beautiful and rockin’. She did an amazing job on the ‘Tinman’ video so I am very excited about this next one!

The music video is a message of hope that everyone just needs to hold on a little longer and things are going to get better.

My hope is that it can bolster people who are struggling emotionally, spiritually, and economically after this last year, to see that things will get better—that we can come together and make them better.

“Bloom” by Kittenhead

Kivi Neimi

Kivi Neimi

Kivi Neimi is the lead vocalist and founding member of Kittenhead, a four-piece rock ‘n’ roll band born in May 2012 in Los Angeles, with members currently based in both southern and northern California. After a summer of kick-off songwriting, Kittenhead played its first live shows that year with a headlining slot at the Comet in Seattle. With its infectious riffs, thought-provoking lyrics, and nearly-legendary live shows, Kittenhead is the epitome of the word “diversity,” with its members spanning the complete gamut of gender, sexuality, age, and size!

In support of the LGBTQ community, Kittenhead has played the Oakland Pride Festival (2015 and 2018) and rocked the Folsom Fair, the world’s largest leather and fetish event and a staple of the San Francisco gay community in 2018.

True to its mission of championing the underdog, the underprivileged, and the needy, the band has played various benefit shows throughout the years—for cancer survivors, college scholarships, and animal rights organizations. Kittenhead remains extremely committed to helping to create a better society and loves to give its time and energy to support such causes.

To learn more visit http://kittenheadla.com/

You may enjoy our previous 20:20 with Jerry Douglas

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