According to its website, “Kitty Critic is an internet series in which musicians from Portland, Maine perform in their fan’s homes for their fan’s cats.” Maine appears in all caps so no one is confused into thinking we have anything with filthy Portland, Oregon. It goes on to explain that “the series is designed to bring awareness to Portland’s incredible wealth of talented musicians.”
You can find the trailer below and the series launches on the 18th of this month. I talked with creator Samuel James about why this is a thing.
WARNING: In the interview, there is talk of breasts, scrotums, and maybe a swear or two, so take ‘er easy if you’re uptight.
Alex Steed: Tell me about the series.
Samuel James: It is a hosted Internet series that is designed to promote Portland music to a broader audience. The ideas is that it is a Portland musician playing acoustically in a fan’s home for their fan’s cat and that cat does not give a shit. Afterwards there is an interview with the fan about the opinion of the cat’s opinion of the performance.
AS: And it is not ever explicitly about the performance itself?
SJ: It eventually gets to it, yeah. There’s a lot of stuff to get to in a cat’s psyche so it is difficult for the host, Jim LeJames, to figure out sometimes.
AS: Why cats?
SJ: I think there is a lot of beautiful music in this town, specifically really beautiful, confessional types of songs—very open-hearted—and I think there is nothing funnier in the world than someone exposing their heart and having it completely ignored.
AS: And it’s way less dirty if a cat does that.
SJ: If a person did it, I would never put that on film. Well, maybe in 20 years when that becomes chic.
AS: That would be like emotional running man.
Or reality TV.
AS: When you have explained this to people, what have the responses been?
SJ: People laugh at the idea. I sent the trailer out to a 50 person focus group and there were a couple of times where people didn’t like it—they didn’t hate it, but they didn’t understand it. One person said they don’t really get cat humor, but that’s not really what it’s supposed to be about. It’s a joke about indifference and juxtaposition. That you don’t like cats is another thing. Somebody else suggested that all I really need is the musician…”
AS: “You don’t need this cat business.”
Right, and she said that if I am going to have cats, why not all pets? Iguanas, dogs and birds… So maybe she doesn’t know about cats and the Internet.
AS: All pets matter.
SJ: Hash tag all pets matter. Oh, I quit. Anyway, there are definitely people who light up at the idea. Musicians performing in a fan’s home for the cat… There are definitely people who get it immediately, what it’s all about, and what’s its going to be before I have to explain it further. That makes me really happy because that’s all I really need in my head.
AS: It’s interesting because the Internet has made it possible for us to not have to speak explicitly about things; we speak about things by sharing symbols. Online, I don’t have to say I am having a bad day at work and that I am stressed or overburdened. I can just post a gif of a woman sitting under her desk guzzling wine and people will know where I am at mentally or emotionally. What you’re doing seems to operate on a similar level, where you are using a cat and local musicians as those symbols.
SJ: I was going to do this exclusively to promote my own music but then felt that it was too big to use just for me. I thought the town could totally use it. How many musicians in this town deserve to be on the national stage? All of them. How many genres are there? All of them. But Geography keeps us here. So I wanted to use this thing that would help to bring some attention to that.
AS: And you had two options regarding what travels far and wide on the Internet. Cats or boobs.
SJ: And if this doesn’t work, you know what is next. Boob critic.
AS: It would be really sad if it were Penis Critic, not because of anything by way of a sexist bias regarding one gender over the other, but because I find male genitalia so sad to look at. A local band singing an acoustic set to an indifferent scrotum… It bums me out to even think about.
SJ: You’re putting all of this in the interview, aren’t you?