Kate Dressed Up Explores the Complexities of Sexuality in Latest Single "How Could I Have Known"
Updated: Aug 8, 2021
On April 23rd Kate Dressed Up released their second single of the year titled, "How Could I Have Known." This week The MIC was able to sit down with Katie Miller of Kate Dressed Up to reveal the story behind the song...
Q: First of all, congrats on this new single! This track, “How Could I Have Known,” has everything we’ve come to know and love of Kate Dressed Up, with a new flare.
A: Thank you so much! Glad you dig it.
Q: The song immediately starts off with strumming guitar and horns! The horns are a new addition for Kate Dressed Up, featuring two trumpeters of the West Philadelphia Orchestra, Adam Herschberger and Dawn Webster. What do you think drove Kate Dressed Up to this new arrangement, or what aspect of the song drove this vibe?
A: That instrumental hook was actually written on and into the guitar parts, and as the song came together it became pretty clear that it needed a lead instrument playing that melody. My mind instantly imagined multiple brass voices playing it.
Q: Kate Dressed Up is pretty folksy, but maybe with the addition of the horns, there’s a new ska flavor? Who are your biggest influences of Kate Dressed Up? Any particularly new influences for this track?
A: Haha! Funny enough, I have never been into ska. My influences cover a pretty wide range--the mainstays include Bright Eyes/Conor Oberst, Paul Simon, Fleet Foxes. I’m not sure there were any new influences for this track but there were some pretty specific influences especially when it came to the trumpet parts. Our New Intelligence by River City Extension (an extinct band whose leader now has a different, equally wonderful project called American Trappist) comes to mind, along with Ship In A Bottle by Bright Eyes. Somebody recently made a Neutral Milk Hotel comparison which wasn’t at the front of my mind when I wrote this song, but certainly makes sense and is a band I love.
Q: Is this a new direction for Kate Dressed Up, or is this simply a one-off?
A: We really didn’t put any limitations on this upcoming album. So, without giving too much away, I can say that there are more sounds on the album that haven’t been heard on a Kate Dressed Up track before. The essence of the songwriting is still very much Kate Dressed Up, my Martin is still very central to the sound. But yeah, we had a lot of fun seeing where we could take these ideas.
Q: The music video is by Andrea Morgan, and beautifully done capturing the narrative (I believe) quite perfectly. Have you worked with Morgan for any of your previous videos?
A: I had not worked with Andrea for any previous music videos. She ran sound for Gurlzilla in 2018, which is a feminist benefit event that I throw every so often, as well as a couple other KDU sets in Asbury Park around that time. I’ve been a fan of her work ever since I saw The Bike Song music video by The Foes of Fern. Getting to work with Andrea on this one was definitely a treat.
Q: Was the video directed by Morgan as well, or is it more of an idea by Kate Dressed up that Morgan was able to capture?
A: This was directed by Andrea and she absolutely crushed it. My producer SPHMRE and I knew we wanted something narrative, but everything about the video from the aesthetic of the set to the editing style was very much Andrea’s work. I remember getting the first cut and being blown away by how she decided to piece all the footage together.
Q: This seems to be a very personal story from the archives of Katie Miller’s personal life. Was this a story that you just knew needed to be shared, or how did the song originate?
A: This is one of those songs that kind of fell out all at once. I had a weird crystallizing moment a few years back when I suddenly realized all these times in my late teens and early twenties when women were probably hitting on me and I was so uncomfortable with my own sexuality at the time that I never noticed. I was going through somewhat of an adult growth spurt and I think this was part of me processing and claiming this part of myself.
Q: You describe this track as a “bisexual person’s anthem about being invisible and at the same time remaining totally clueless as to how to make themselves known.” Could you elaborate on that?
A: Well, I regret using the word anthem first of all. But sure, happy to elaborate! And the thing is, putting yourself out there, flirting, asking somebody on a date, whatever it may be--that’s really freaking difficult no matter what your sexuality is. Being bisexual compounded this for me because if I wanted to make my interest known to a woman I would not only have to go through the terrifying ritual of asking her out, but I would also have to come out at the same time. The anxiety caused by those two things happening concurrently usually froze me in place. Even when I wanted to, I felt so clueless and unsure of myself that I just wouldn’t try at all.
Q: I know you typically write the songs, or as you describe they find you. But do any of the other members of your band/current line up of Kate Dressed Up have a hand in the writing process?
A: To date, all the Kate Dressed Up songs have been written solely by me with production input from SPHMRE. That being said, I have been talking with this current lineup about bringing our creative minds together. They’re all so talented, it would be silly not to try and I’m excited to see what we come up with.
Q: I know you’ve worked with producer SPHMRE at Flux Studios for your last release that The MIC also covered, “Ride Home.” What is your favorite part of working at that studio? What makes you keep going back?
A: Flux is a beautiful space with beautiful equipment that captures beautiful sounds. Getting to record the vast majority of the album there was truly a dream. My favorite part of working with SPHMRE, though, the real reason that these songs sound as great as they do, is that there is almost no deviation from my imagination of the songs to the finished product. He took such meticulous care through the whole process from recording to mastering, and in the end everything sounds the way I imagined it from the get-go. This album would not have been the same without him, and working with him on this together has totally affirmed and expanded my perception of what’s possible for Kate Dressed Up. SPHMRE is a person that I am extremely grateful to have in my life not only as a producer but as a friend.
Q: How do you feel being a sound engineer yourself has affected your songwriting process? Does it help or hinder?
A: Well, being a live sound engineer is pretty different from studio engineering because in the studio, there are no limitations to how surgical you want to be with production decisions whereas live sound is very much on-the-fly problem-solving. That being said, I think live sound engineering helped train my ear more for how sounds fit together not only in the sense of the arrangement but also acoustically. I’m not sure it affects my songwriting a whole lot, I think I use a different part of my artistic brain for that.
Q: What is in store next?! Another single, the album release? Can we expect more horns?
A: I’m getting married in 2 weeks! The KDU team and I planned everything up to the wedding, but everything after that gets kind of blurry. I know we will have at least one more single and an album this year. Not sure about more horns, but suffice it to say that there are a few more KDU firsts on these tracks. We also have some really cool merch we’re planning to release late spring/early summer.
Q: Thank you so much for taking the time to discuss “How Could I Have Known,” with The MIC! We’re very much looking forward to hear what’s next!
Thanks for taking the time to cover How Could I Have Known!! Really appreciate it :)