Kaity Heart may have been born in the 1980s, but her soul is a true ’70s classic. She gives voice to that soul with her music and her original band, Sunflower Fox and the Chicken Leg.
Heart, who has been singing since she was 14, started the rock group during the pandemic. Drawing influence from 1970s powerhouses like Heart, Aerosmith, Thin Lizzy and Bad Company, the 2001 Eden Prairie High School graduate dreamed of creating a modern band that played the kind of music she grew up listening to. “I’d love to see a resurgence of a retro rock style,” she said.
“Heart was my mom’s favorite band,” said Heart. “When she passed away, I took that on as my last name.” Heart graduated EPHS in 2001 as Kaitlin Yilek.
Heart set out to find working musicians who shared her vision. “This is a pandemic band,” she said. “When music is your whole life, and the world shuts down, it’s like, what do we do now?”
Undigitized rock and roll
Turns out, it wasn’t hard to find people who also had a love for Olympia beer, shag carpet and “undigitized rock and roll.” With Heart handling lead vocals, James Gross and Mike Schmidt on guitar, Craig Holets on bass, Kyle Primus on drums and Al Berg on keys, Sunflower Fox and the Chicken Leg was born. They began writing music in 2020. “Because of the pandemic, we actually had time to write,” said Heart.
With fresh songs in hand, they started recording in 2021. Their first stop was Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, where The Jayhawks recorded the album “Hollywood Town Hall,” Soul Asylum laid down “Grave Dancers Union,” and Nirvana’s “In Utero” was born. They also hit up Studio in the Country, where Kansas recorded their iconic song “Carry On My Wayward Son.”
“We had an idea,” said Heart. “We said we’re going to do this like they did in the ’70s — live — play it until we get it right.”
“Our esoteric mission is to bring back the reality of music,” said Heart. In essence, that means the band is less interested in post-production perfection and more interested in delivering a sound unique to their spirit. The album will sound as live as a live Sunflower Fox and the Chicken Leg performance. “We wanted to capture the magic in the studio.”
All about the music
Sunflower Fox and the Chicken Leg have already released a series of covers and a couple of original tunes, including their latest “Shadow Girl.” Their self-titled debut album will be released this spring. And if listeners like what they hear, they’re in luck. “We’ve got another full album ready to go,” said Heart, adding that albums three and four are also in the works, as are plans to record in as many iconic studios as time and funds will allow.
“If you like the ’70s, then this is going to click all the boxes,” said Heart, of their music.
Heart would happily devote herself to nothing but ’70s rock music if Sunflower Fox and the Chicken Leg is a success. But until the band takes off, she’ll keep singing with “money making bands” like Shirts & Skins, Anthony Shore’s All Star Band, and Mike and Kaity Sing Acoustic Stuff. Those bands offer Heart a range of musical styles from funk to country to pop to Motown.
“When I’m singing on stage, I feel more like myself than when I’m not on stage,” she said. “My brain is switched off and it’s just about the music.”
But if she has her way, someday it will be all buckskin coats, wooden clogs and bellbottoms to go with her powerhouse rock vocals. “I genuinely love making people happy.”
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