Update: The January performances of “Stone Baby” have been postponed due to Covid. New dates are set for Wednesdays in March at Icehouse.
Meghan Kreidler has serious acting chops, with local credits at the top theater companies in Minnesota and elsewhere, and classical training at the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Bachelor of Fine Arts Actor Training program. She’s kind of put all that aside, however, as her band, Kiss the Tiger, has taken off in recent years.
Now, Kreidler is tapping back into her theater background for a new project called “Stone Baby.” Partnering with Trademark Theater, Kiss the Tiger will be holding a residency next month on Wednesday nights at Icehouse in Minneapolis. Part poetry, part spoken word and part rock and roll, the experience is infused with storytelling and tunes.
I chatted with Kreidler about the show, and the evolving directions for Kiss the Tiger, for which Kreidler sings lead vocals alongside guitarist/vocalist Michael Anderson, lead guitarist and vocalist Bridger Fruth, bassist Paul DeLong and drummer/vocalist Jay DeHut. Different guest musicians will join the band for each night of the residency. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
MinnPost: You call “Stone Baby” a poetic/spoken-word/rock and roll experience. Is it kind of like a rock opera?
Megan Kreidler: No, because in my mind, a rock opera is probably a little more polished than what we’re doing. It’s polished, but it’s a little edgier. I kind of used Patti Smith as a reference as far as the spoken word element of stuff goes in her music. There’s more of a story that you’re actually following. It incorporates a lot of our music we’ve written and some new stuff, and then we’ve been underscoring a lot of the text that we’ve written, which is mostly spoken by me in the piece, with all new underscoring that we’ve been building.
MP: Is there a particular Patti Smith album that you’re thinking about? How does she inspire you for this piece?
MK: When I’ve watched old performances of her and she kind of just goes off and is a little more extemporaneous, and less scripted. I think some of that energy is definitely what I’m trying to pull in here. I think about the “Horses” album, in particular, and songs like Horses that have the spoken word part in the beginning, and then it goes into the song.
I’m drawing on a lot of my own experience working in theater and trying to make the spoken word parts of it very rhythmic and married to the underscoring that we’re creating. It’s very fast paced. It’s very to the heartbeat of the music.
MP: Is it a different experience working on something that has more narrative?
MK: Yeah, for sure, because we found ways to incorporate our music into the narrative — to give the songs a little bit more context within a story. And then the parts that are more spoken, it’s been the challenge making sure that the words are the most important thing. In our band, we’ve always kind of wanted people to understand the words, but sometimes with rock music in particular, you’re not getting everything. With this, in the storytelling elements of it, we’re finding that what I’m saying is more important than what’s happening musically. The things that are happening musically need to be there to support what is being said, so that people can follow the story. The story itself is kind of goofy. It’s sort of abstract.
MP: Do you like to play a particular character?
MK: Yeah, so nobody’s named and there’s a fictional band that is kind of our band in the piece. I am Stone Baby, but we never referred to me as that.
MP: What is the role of Trademark Theater with this? Are they involved artistically?
MK: They’re taking more of a producing role in it. Tyler Michaels King has basically been coming in a couple times and giving us some feedback about different parts. We don’t have a director, it’s really just us. We just need an outside eye to kind of give us some outside perspective basically on how it’s all shaping up. They’re really handling the marketing and helping us with the budget and covering the cost of getting some more heightened theatrical lighting. Icehouse has their own setup, but we’re trying to bring in some more external light lighting fixtures to place around the stage and kind of create some more focused lighting moments that Icehouse wouldn’t normally have.
MP: That’s kind of the trade off. It’s kind of a different feeling in a music venue than a theatrical space. But you don’t always have the same theatrical production equipment that way.
MK: Right. I think the most important thing for us was that we didn’t want it to be in a theater space, we wanted it to be in a music venue. It just felt like the right choice, trying to challenge both our music audience and a theater audience that Trademark normally would have. I think it’s going to be cool because I don’t think the people who are going to come see it will probably have seen anything like it before in a space like Icehouse.
MP: Do you feel like this kind of thing where there’s a lot of storytelling, maybe theatrical elements, is a way for you to hearken back to your background and training in theater?
MK: It feels awesome. I was kind of having some feelings of dread around doing this project, to be honest. We’ve been playing a lot this year as a band and just gotten comfortable doing the thing that we do and now we’re kind of pivoting into this whole different direction. What I’m realizing is this is totally in my wheelhouse and my skill set. Also my partner and I and my co-bandmates wrote this whole thing. So the language feels like I have more ownership of it in a way. I can just edit and rewrite stuff on the spot, which is very liberating. It sort of feels like a part of myself in the theater world that I haven’t been able to express.
MP: Have you ever done much playwriting before?
MK: No, I never have. I always kind of wanted to. I wouldn’t call this a play. I don’t know if the kind of traditional playwriting model for myself is the route that I’d ever really want to go. This is a little more poetic. It’s a little more abstract. I don’t feel really confined by any rules of theater, which is nice. I have the knowledge of how theater stuff can operate, but it doesn’t feel like I’m burdened by those rules.
MP: Anything you would say about the actual story?
MK: Basically, it’s like this girl who’s born with an ailment, and she doesn’t really know what it is. The beginning of the story is the story of her birth, how she was born, and how the minute she was born she was feverish, she was loud. She’s screaming, kicking. Her mom couldn’t get control of her. So the mom takes her to this man on the edge of the town, and he does something. And when she’s there, he’s able to put her under a spell and get her under control. He gives her mother this information about what’s going on with her, but she never knows what happened to her when she was a baby. And then as she’s growing up, she’s talking about how her mom is always kind of trying to keep her inside and not wanting her to get too excited or get too riled up. Then she’s getting really kind of sick of the control that her mom has over her.
So she sneaks out, she finds herself in a record store, she discovers rock and roll, and then her whole life changes. After that, she gets obsessed, she forms a band, they start playing shows. And then stuff starts happening to her body, basically, while she’s doing this. She’s finding this thing that’s giving her a bunch of freedom and making her feel more alive than she ever has. At the same time, she’s starting to feel this weight and this heaviness in her so it’s like these conflicting things that are happening with her when she finds music and what the consequences of those things are. It has some reflection of the journey that our band has gone through. We’re incorporating songs that we played a long time ago that we never play anymore, but we’re re-working them and having them be a part of her band. It is sort of like a love letter to music and rock.
MP: How are you feeling heading into 2022, amidst the pandemic?
MK: Well, for our band, they feel really excited. We had a really awesome year, and it’s kind of crazy to be doing this residency coming up. We’re sort of on this course. We’re starting to work with a booking agent, and we’re getting out of town more, and we just did some touring earlier this month. And now we’re pivoting. We’re gonna be able to offer people something different, and to show that we don’t want to just stick doing the same thing. We’re willing to grow and explore and experiment. … I’m very aware that things could also very quickly get shut down again. So I don’t know. I’m trying not to think too much about it and take it one day at a time.