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The creative force behind Mity Lion has one of the most significant voices in the last three decades of melodic hardcore, and yet only recently did he decide to write his first song. Ari Katz led Lifetime throughout the early and mid 90s, directly influencing untold thousands of millennial emo, hardcore, and pop-punk bands. Some of them would surpass Lifetime’s own prominence and commercial success: most notably Saves The Day, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, and Fall Out Boy. Lifetime broke up in 1997, and aside from the occasional reunion show, Katz would never play in another hardcore band again. Though his stamp on the band’s sound was arguably its most defined characteristic, his input was limited to lyrics and vocals. Various projects followed, including successful dance and vintage synthesizer-laden projects such as Zero Zero, and Miss TK and The Revenge, both collaborative efforts with his wife, Tannis Kristjanson, who was, for the most part, the predominant songwriter with Katz providing drums and vocals. Throughout his twenty-five year long career, Katz had yet to create a song, or an album, start to finish, top to bottom; had yet to arrange instrumentation, make authoritative production decisions, or write a guitar hook. And then Hurricane Irene pummeled Asbury Park in 2011.
“My wife and kids retreated inland to North Brunswick, but I stayed in Asbury to make sure my house didn’t explode,” Katz reflects. Trapped alone inside his home while his Jersey shore world was crashing in around him, Katz stayed up all night and began writing songs that would make up Mity Lion’s forthcoming debut album Nite Flite. “It started then, and over the next three years, I wrote about thirty-three songs. Eventually I whittled it down to my ten favorite, ten that made sense as a cohesive album.” The album bucks all expectations, and transcends the torrential chaos of its genesis, as well as Katz’s hardcore pedigree. With his trademark lovelorn lyrics and seemingly effortless ability to get a hook caught in your head, the songs that make up Nite Flite are laid back, leaning more toward the current tastes of the now forty four year-old Katz: classic soul, doo-wop and dance music. There’s a glitchy undercurrent of synthesized drums, and keyboard sounds, varying from sounds culled from 1970s farfisa organs, all the way up to iPhone app percussion generators. There’s some beachside-vibe Jamaican influence, peppered with a bit of modern melody, meeting traditional rhythms akin to Paul Simon in the Graceland era. On top of it all, there are fuzzed out guitars performed by friends and collaborators such as Jamie Goldfard of Miss TK and The Revenge, and Pete Steinkopf of the Bouncing Souls. Much like Katz himself, the sounds on Mity Lion’s debut span decades of genre and musical trends, almost acting as a guide through the history of electronic dance and rhythm & blues; all funneled through a punk lens.
“Everything I’ve ever done musically in my life is informed by the punk and hardcore scenes,” Katz says. “I went on tour for the first time in 1989, and I was able to be around for a really awesome period of hardcore and underground music. It’s taught me everything... In terms of how to be a singer, how to behave as a person. Everything you need to know about life, you can learn from being in a band in that scene.” Though he admits that through growing up, settling down, having a family, and having more life stability, he doesn’t necessarily have the frustrated hardcore disposition anymore. “I’m sort of writing about my life now, being married, having kids, and enjoying everything. Even the mundane stuff. I’m only good at doing one particular thing, and it’s the thing that I do. This album is me being as authentically myself as possible.”
Like lightning in a bottle, or a storm on the shore, Mity Lion’s Nite Flite is a snapshot of a captured moment in a longer history, one that is still ongoing. Ari Katz’s musical life has stopped off here for a while, before it continues on its flite.
Mity Lion will release Nite Flite on November 27, 2015 via Don Giovanni Records.