By Nicholas Jason Lopez
For Mike Park, friends and music are life’s cornerstones.
Both were present in his Skankin’ Pickle days, which lasted from 1989 to 1996. Life afterwards stood hectic once he founded Asian Man Records, a label he still runs out of his garage. Asian Man Records is best known as the place where bands like Alkaline Trio and Less Than Jake got their start.
Park longed for the days he could again be amongst a group of musicians from the same town that’d hang out and write tunes in good fun. The aspect of a band that had a relationship inside and outside of music was sorely missed. Thus, he formed Kitty Kat Fan Club, an “indie/twee pop punk” collective from San Jose, Calif..
The band features Park on guitar, Brianda Goyos León (Just Friends) on vocals, Mike Huguenor (Hard Girls, Classics Of Love, Jeff Rosenstock’s band) on keys/guitar, Jon McMaster (Stickup Kid) on bass, Catherine Jones on vocals, Sim Castro on guitar and Justin Amans on drums. Influenced by acts like Cub, Belle And Sebastian, The Pastels and Alvvays, the group features dual lead vocals/harmonies by Goyos León and Jones.
The group have enjoyed some fun times. A moment that stood out for Park was a string of shows they played with Jeff Rosenstock and Laura Stevenson almost two years ago that went from San Francisco to Los Angeles and then a surprise stop in Tijuana, Mexico.
“That was just a fun run because everyone’s such good friends, and Jeff, he just wants to play Tijuana for fun,” Park said. “There’s no money. No one got paid. He’s just like, ‘Let’s just go and have fun.’ That’s what we did. We just went, we had fun. After our show, the DJ was just spinning old 2 Tone records and we were just dancing. It was pretty awesome and then it’s like, ‘Alright! Time to go back over the border!’ and then we went back. That was a lot of fun.”
The music video for “Dreamy Little You” was released on YouTube on Apr. 7, 2019. The video features Goyos León and Jones on a couch on separate ends through grainy footage, as they repeatedly “x” out guys (played by the other band members) who come to take the middle spot. At the end, Park himself appears and gets rejected as the girls get up and leave, which gives Park the whole couch to himself. Sadly, no cats appear, but the message was still clear if you listen closely enough to the lyrics.
“I thought the video kind of portrayed the idea of like, ‘Eh, I don’t need you. I’ve got my cat waiting for me,'” said Park.
The song itself serves as a callback to the group’s first 7-inch vinyl, which wholly contained songs about those whiskered, furry feline companions.
“Back when the band started, all the songs were gonna be about cats forever,” Park explained. “I was like, ‘Oh, let’s just write about songs about cats. That would be super funny,’ so then after that first 7-inch, I strayed from that idea and so on ‘Dreamy Little You,’ I’m like, ‘Let’s write another love song about cats.’ It’s just a love song about your cat. Nothing political, no undertones of some secret message. It’s just a nice, sweet little song about your cat.”
After two 7-inch releases, they unveiled the second single “You Got Me Modernized” on Phluff, shortly before their debut full-length ‘Dreamy Little You’ which came out May 31, 2019 via Asian Man Records. It was chosen as a single for its “new wave feel” and different sound than what was typically on the record.
A video for “Happy Now, Loving You” followed that up not long after, which Park called his favorite track since it gets “right to business from the start.”
Five percent of ‘Dreamy Little You’ record sales benefitted cat and dog rescue groups, which included Coppers Dream and 13th Street Cat Rescue. Park has supported various social justice groups when possible, as Asian Man Records also donates five percent of annual profits to No Mas Muertes, Southern Poverty Law Center and Legal Aid Justice Center.
“I’ve been doing activist work for over 30 years myself, so I [wanted] to get more involved in animal activism and [Coppers Dream] is an organization that [my wife and I] worked with and so this is just kind of an extension of what I’ve been doing and so I thought it’d be a cool idea and a way to help raise a little bit of money,” Park said.
The band toured this past July, with some stops that included Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, San Diego and Los Angeles. In September, they played Philadelphia and Baltimore. Whenever they’re home, they’ll play local house shows based on whoever’s around, but it’s not easy to fit everybody’s schedules together. They still make it work, which is what it’s all about. When times get tough, good friends pick you up.
“It was just fun to have a chance to get together, play music with friends and just maybe hang out a little bit before, hang out a little bit afterwards, talk, see how our week has been going, our days. I miss that,” said Park. “That was one idea of this band was to have that weekly gathering. It’s there to practice, but you’re also there as a group of friends to hang out and that’s something that was super cool.”