Growing up in St. Louis, Kristeen Young didn’t have a guitar, but she knew she wanted to rock.
“There was an old piano in the house,” she says via e-mail. “I wanted it to sound like the songs on the radio, which were all guitar songs, of course. I wanted the piano to have the strength and excitement of those guitar songs. And then I learned about Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard and knew that it could be accomplished.”
From those humble roots sprang something quite strange, the glam keyboard-drums duo KRISTEENYOUNG, which will be on display Sunday at Radio Radio.
For just two people, Young and drummer Jeff White can kick up a formidable noise. His Bonham-sized beats lay a heavy foundation for her satirical songs, extreme vocals and extravagant, costumed persona, which have drawn comparisons to P.J. Harvey and Tori Amos.
This fall will bring the release of Music for Strippers, Hookers and the Odd Onlooker, the band’s sixth full-length album since 1997 and the fourth with legendary producer and longtime David Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti. Meeting Visconti and winning his support was a major boost for Young, whose first project with him, 2003’s Breasticles, won her a much wider audience.
“I gave him a CD,” she recalls of their first meeting. “He gave me confidence, sustenance, the possibility of expansion to a Wagner-sized scope. And salvation from waiting tables.”
Through Visconti, Young and White met and were befriended by former Smiths frontman Morrissey, who released a couple singles for the band on his label in 2006 and adopted them as a support act for a world tour that stretched through most of 2007. He even called on Young to sing in the studio and appear with him on the Letterman show.
At some point, an on stage incident caused KRISTEENYOUNG to be booted from the Morrissey tour. Young doesn’t talk about it anymore, but various versions of the story can be found online, if you’re curious.
For the record, she has nothing but high praise for the guy the British magazines call “Moz.” The tour, she says, was “the best of all things.”