Damn the Witch Siren finds creative freedom onscreen and in the studio

Before the Columbus premiere of 'Poser' and a headlining show at the Newport on Saturday, Bobbi Kitten talks about her new acting career and forthcoming album 'Gold Magic'

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
Bobbi Kitten of Damn the Witch Siren

“Poser” came at just the right time for Bobbi Kitten and Z Wolf of Columbus electro-pop act Damn the Witch Siren. The duo was feeling burnt out and craving a change of pace, and the locally made Loose Films movie allowed them to channel their creativity into a new form of artistic expression. 

“It was a little bit of a reprieve, and something to focus on during the pandemic,” Kitten said of the film, which premieres in Columbus tonight (Thursday, June 2) at the Gateway Film Center. “‘Poser’ just felt so special and unique. All these real musicians and artists converged to tell this story. … And then Tribeca happened.” 

In June of 2021, “Poser” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, and two days later, while hanging out in a NYC Airbnb, still celebrating the weekend, Kitten got a call from a manager at 3 Arts Entertainment, who was impressed by her work in “Poser.”

More:In ‘Poser,’ filmmakers and cast prove they’re the real deal

“It was a really surreal conversation. I didn't know whether to believe her or not,” Kitten said. “She was like, ‘I work with artists like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.’ … Tina Fey is one of my biggest heroes. I read her book like three times.” 

Kitten still wasn’t sure if it was all real, but when she got back to Columbus, her manager began sending her auditions for feature films. “My sixth audition, I got this script and Tina Fey was starring in it, and I just flipped out, like, ‘I got to get this part. I have to get this role.’ I was so convinced. I had to be in a Tina Fey movie.”

And it happened. Two weeks after Kitten’s audition, director John Slattery (of “Mad Men” fame) called to offer her a part in “Maggie Moore(s)” alongside Fey, Jon Hamm (also “Mad Men”) and others. “I have scenes with Jon Hamm and Nick Mohammed from ‘Ted Lasso,’ and they were upstanding gentlemen, just the coolest, sweetest people. Jon Hamm is hilarious. Any moment he's onscreen I have a hard time not laughing,” Kitten said. “[Slattery] was so embracing of me as an artist. He treated me like a peer right off the bat. It was the coolest feeling. He hired me to wear my own wardrobe and he knew about my band. He told everybody on the set about my band.”

Ah yes, the band. Damn the Witch Siren will headline the Newport Music Hall on Saturday, June 4, and on July 29, the band will release Gold Magic, an album Kitten and Z Wolf were working on even before their 2020 release, White Magic. It’s the band’s most confident, catchy record yet, led by first single “Vulture Culture,” which is quite possibly the best song Damn the Witch Siren has ever written. And don’t miss the video, in which Kitten and others wander through a party, putting on brief, false personas for photo ops, then staring back at their phones in a numbed haze.

More:Damn the Witch Siren peels back the layers on 'White Magic'

“The culture is sick/Get me out of it,” Kitten sings on the chorus.  

“Some of the songs feel more prescient after all the movie stuff started happening, because a lot of the themes are centered around fame and social media,” she said. “It sometimes feels like being an artist, you have to be a product nowadays. You have to play the algorithm game. … People want to know how to market you. You talk to PR agencies, and they just want to know what your package deal is, what your PR moves are, what's your branding. It's insulting and demeaning.” 

Those frustrations are threaded throughout Gold Magic’s 13 tracks, but often the songs feel so good that you might not catch on to the weightiness of the lyrics at first. “My intention in this band was to make fun dance music, but I don't think that's who I've ever really been as a writer,” Kitten said. “I really hope people pay attention to the lyrics this time around. I feel like I finally have said a lot more things that I wanted to say on this album. … There's a lot of feminism and politics. ‘Call the Police’ is a song that’s written from a few different perspectives about privilege, guilt and oppression.”

Kitten also wears her Madonna influences proudly on her sleeve. In fact, she recently auditioned for the forthcoming Madonna biopic. “She's been my idol forever. Since I was a little girl, I've been dancing to Madonna. And ‘Truth or Dare’ is my biggest inspiration. That documentary is one of the best music documentaries that has ever existed. And she’s one of the best performers of all time,” Kitten said. “It was a lengthy audition, and I cried the entire week I worked on it.” 

Rather than distract from the plans Kitten and Z Wolf have for Damn the Witch Siren, Kitten’s new acting career has given the duo more excitement about their future in music, which could eventually include a move out of Ohio.  

“We've always felt like the black sheep in the [Columbus] scene. … And seeing what people have to say about our band, like the New York Times and IndieWire, it's given me so much more confidence. It finally feels like we could really have an audience, but maybe this just isn't our place,” said Kitten, who’s also grateful to have multiple creative outlets. “I've been so hyper focused on trying to do music as a career that I feel a little bit more confident having options now, getting into film. I would love to write and direct, too. It just feels like a different gateway for us.”