O.T.R. Premiere

Cosmic Kitten’s Karen Marie on the Making of ‘Laugh of a Lifetime’, Finding Happiness, and ‘Songbird’ Premiere 

Karen Marie opens up about Cosmic Kitten’s upcoming LP, their US and UK tour, and how music is their therapy.

Karen Marie and I met over Zoom, both with cat backgrounds. Cosmic Kitten’s fervent lead vocalist and guitarist whom I’ve seen live screaming into the abyss and giving everything they had on stage was now a beacon of light signaling their cats to approach the desk. Of the three cats, two cloaked Marie against the virtual background during several appearances, and of the two, only one was the artist’s — a tortoise shell cat who needed to show love. 

“I just figured out how to do this today,” says Marie, signaling to their cat background as a cat moved across the desk.  

Marie was soft spoken, patient and thoughtful with their answers as we dove into Cosmic Kitten’s upcoming self-released LP, Laugh of a Lifetime due May 5, 2023, and the excitement of not only a West Coast tour kicking off in May, but a UK tour that starts April 26, 2023, at London’s The Gunners Pub.

Ahead of its release, we discussed several tracks from the album, including the most surprising single from the record, “Songbird,” which GUM is privileged to premiere the accompanying lyric video today. Shot in a documentary style of the band traveling and working with The Gits’ drummer Steve Moriarty in Oakland, CA, and at Nightmare Sound Studio Garden in Grove, CA, the video showcases a vulnerable, yet controlled side of the band members Karen Marie, Zach Huckabee, and Jay Vesper, who exude a sense of happiness in their element. Although the track may resonate with one’s reserved and lonely parts, it beautifully complements the album’s overall progression towards happiness, and serves as a musical extension of Marie’s self-expression. 

“I always- I feel like even though I write pretty like sad or angry songs all the time, I mean I don’t do it on purpose, but I like to add a bit of hopefulness, encouragement, into our music as well because that’s kind of what I go through on a daily basis,” says Marie. “Typically [I’m] a sad person and there’s always like that one thing that keeps me motivated, keeps me encouraged and you know fills my life with happiness; whether it’s cats or writing music, [or] seeing friends. 

“’Songbird I’m really proud of that song ‘cause I pretty much wrote the whole thing before I had like problems writing bridges and lead parts on guitar. Like my drummer Zach, he normally helps me with the songwriting process, but for this song I did the majority of the structure including the lead so I’m pretty proud of that one. And I don’t remember exactly when I wrote that song, I know it was a couple of years ago. I was at work, and I just had my acoustic guitar with me, and I didn’t really have anything necessarily in mind. It was definitely Covid era, and I just constantly have this feeling of not being heard or truly paid attention to, and I don’t know if that’s just a lingering feeling from my childhood or something.  

“So basically, this song is about not being able to express yourself entirely through a conversationally way, just struggling to express yourself in general. Kind of holding yourself back, just being a really introverted, shy person being held back by bad memories. And just recognizing that you have the ability to pull yourself out of any bad situation that you’re in mentally by trying to create a positive environment for yourself.” 

Cosmic Kitten. Left to right, Zach Huckabee, Karen Marie, and Jay Vesper Photo: Mitch Von Rohr

“Songbird” and its captivating line, “If I can sing, you have to listen to me” encapsulates the restraint and need to be heard. A trait that may be hard to understand when witnessing Marie open another portal on stage, but became a theme that emerged during our conversation about the track and other songs. 

And although Marie prefers to write songs that are more straightforward and wants to avoid being too obscure, their artistry still maintains a deep level of emotional depth. The track “FogBrain” is a subtle yet powerful example of this, as it deals with themes of depression and lost motivation. During our conversation, Marie revealed that the track was inspired by the passing of their brother-in-law, who was one of their early supporters. 

“I just enjoyed listening to music and singing and he was like ‘you’re gonna be in a band!’ and he introduced me to all sorts of music. So, when he passed away, I was already in a band, but it just kinda made me reevaluate why I was playing music. And I feel like a big part of why I’m playing music today is because he encouraged me so much when I was really young. But recently I tried to find it in me that I’m also doing it for myself and I’m not doing it because someone else wanted me to do it.  

“But yeah, music is basically my therapy,” says Marie through a line of laughter.

As we both shared the importance of therapy and moments of not connecting with therapists, I couldn’t help but see the stage as the perfect medium for peace for Marie as listeners subjectively swim through their own struggles alongside the band. A collective watering hole where the past is accepted, but powerless, stripping the veneer and placing the reflective album as the band’s strongest collection to date.  

Conceptually and with sound, there’s a bigger story to also absorb from the album. Tracks like “Count Me In,” which take inspiration from The Melvins, are a delectable main course of frustration and screams that stem from exclusion adding another high point on the album before it winds down.   

“I feel like even in our music scene we’re not really a part of a scene or anything,” says Marie. “I just notice a lot of group mentality with a lot of the scenes here in LA and in Long Beach, but yeah that song’s just kind of about trying to put yourself out there a lot and touring, and putting out good music, and giving it your all and still people don’t like you [laughs]. That song is a little simpler but there’s definitely a lot of frustration there.” 

Despite the album’s weightiness, which is wonderfully crafted through post-grunge and punk, with the title track being the darkest on the album, there are still moments of happiness found — even through the challenges during the creation of the album.  

Cosmic Kitten. Photo Mitch Von Rohr

“Zach was like ‘no, why are you writing so much stuff right now? We can’t even do anything with it’ [laughs] and I’m like I don’t know, I don’t care, I just wanna write,” says Marie as she shared their constant fountain of ideas as Zach wasn’t ready to write or record. 

“It took a little bit of convincing but once I kind of showed him the songs, we just started to get more and more excited for them because I was pretty deep into the whole writing process and trying to do it mostly myself this time around. But Zach got pretty excited, and we worked on it together and I think one of the happiest moments [was when] we would go down to the beach with my acoustic guitar and I would play him the songs acoustically and be like ‘do you have ideas?’ [Laughs] ‘You want to collaborate with me now?’

“And yeah, that’s kind of how we would finish writing our songs. We would write them on the beach. I think that’s one of the main happy moments for me and then also just the excitement of having Steve Moriarty of the Gits kind of involved. That kind of just happened naturally. He heard our cover, ‘Cut My Skin,’ and he was like ‘hey I wanna record you guys,’ like ‘come up to Oakland.’” 

Initially, the conversation started as an exploration of admiration for Mark Lanegan, following Cosmic Kitten’s cover of “The Gravedigger’s Song.” Themes of writing honestly, which came from Lanegan, led to a discovery of additional aspects of Marie beyond their reputation as a “shy” person or “explosive” vocalist.

Marie exudes power in confidently owning who they are and openly sharing their creative process. As an artist, they admit to being stubborn when holding onto a musical idea, skillfully curating line-ups by keenly observing local bands’ performances when booking tour dates in the US, and harboring hopes that their bass curse has finally ended.

Did he [Mark Lanegan] inspire the way you write? Because I really enjoy the way you write; wanted to know if there was an influence. 

I think I just kind of pulled the honesty part and the realness of Mark Lanegan’s writing. That kind of just speaks to me in a way. And when I write a song I just try to be as honest as possible, as real as possible, even if it doesn’t rhyme. I very rarely alter my lyrics, so when I write a song and a memory comes up, a story comes up in my head, I don’t really change those words after the first time I write them down. They normally just stay the same. 

That’s really interesting. Just coming from a writing perspective, I [normally] hate the first things that I write down. It’s an interesting way to just filter through everything and refreshing because you can really be vulnerable that way. 

Exactly. And I feel if I were to make myself change the words and I would start to feel self-doubt, insecurity, and then I would start to over think the lyrics and then it wouldn’t be a song anymore [laughs]. Because I would keep overwriting it into oblivion. 

Was this album easier to come together vs albums in the past? 

 No, it was a bit difficult just because I wanted so much input compared to the past. In the past, I would just write the main structure of the song and then I would let Zach rearrange things and would have to learn them and whatever, beside from the lyrics I would write myself. This time around it was a little difficult to just get the project kind of going, just to get started, because I was [a] little stubborn. I didn’t want to change certain things and I was like ‘no that’s how the song is supposed to be.’ [laughs]

What specific parts were you holding on to? 

I think in ‘Songbird’ I wrote the majority of the song even the leads and I was playing this wrong note and it sounded good to me and in a musical sense it didn’t’ make sense, and there was just one note in the lead that I refused to change, and Zach was like ‘no, you have to change it.’ [laughs] That was one of the things. And then a think in ‘Laugh of a Lifetime’ I just had a basic structure for that song but Zach was like ‘why don’t we do something different with this song?’ and like you know how weird the structure is, it’s like verse- chorus- breakdown-verse, and I was open to that idea just because I like trying out different things, as long as it’s not too difficult to me. Sometimes I like to push myself to learn new things because Zach has been doing music a really long time. He’s been playing drums since he was 5. His dad kind of forced him into music, but I trust him when he has an opinion. I haven’t been playing music that long [so] I kind of feel like I should trust him.

You [both] are a good partnership. It’s good to trust somebody like that to lean on especially with your artistic approach. It can be nerve wrecking when sharing your art and having someone edit, like I get so many different [emotions] like anxiety to imposter syndrome if I show anyone my stuff.

I feel like we are really well just because we have a lot of the same influences. We both are really influenced by grunge music and punk music and we kind of finish each other sentences. And I’ll come up with something and right before I finish it, he’ll already have written the part that I wanted and like vice versa. We’re just in the right headspace. I’m really glad that Zach and I have that musical partnership. Sometimes [in a band] it’s just the one person doing everything or trying to do everything themselves, but Zach makes it pretty easy putting everything together. 

It’s apparent. There’s good chemistry between you both. But has the bassist curse been lifted or is it still reigning?

We do have a bass player right now. We’ve known them for a while now, they were in other local bands, but hopefully they want to be the permanent bass player. Hopefully going on tour doesn’t break them [laughs] ’cause I feel like that’s how we’ve lost most of our bass players. We take them on tour and then they’re like ‘I can’t handle this.’

Tour Dates:


4/26/23 – London, UK @ The Gunners Pub

4/27/23 – Shrewsbury, UK @ Albert’s Shed

4/28/23 – Stockport, UK @ The Spinning Top

4/29/23 – Brighton, UK @ The Pipeline

4/30/23 – Harrogate, UK @ The Den


5/03/23 – Los Angeles, CA @ Redwood Bar

5/04/23 – Berkeley, CA @ 924 Gilman

5/05/23 – Portland, OR @ The Fixin’ To

5/06/23 – Olympia, WA @ Cryptatropa

5/07/23 – Seattle, WA @ Belltown Yacht Club

5/08/23 – Boise, ID @ The Shredder

5/09/23 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Aces High Saloon

5/10/23 – Tempe, AZ @ Yucca Tap Room

5/11/23 – Long Beach, CA @ Alex’s Bar (supporting Alice Bag)

5/12/23 – San Diego, CA @ Che Cafe

5/13/23 – Hemet, CA @ House Show

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