On the 25th of November, we experienced an intimate show that left us in awe. On stage were two songbirds; twin sisters exuding their "MANcqunia" flare we soon fell for by the end of the night. The KTNA quickly illustrated how vulnerability can be the source of unlocking the inner strength you often leave lurking in the shadows. Touring the U.K., hitting four major cities (Manchester, Leeds, London and Birmingham), Hope and Millie wore each other's hearts on their sleeves.
The KTNA provided a shelter for us all to cry, laugh, dance and sing to our heart's content. During the journey home, we were elated. Even more so at the satisfaction that we would be able to uncover the story behind these entrancing voices. Their charm continued to shine through in conversation, and it was discovered quickly that The KTNA do not play when it comes to their craft. So get to know the women who champion us all to have our own alter egos, reveal how rebelling through punk music brought their freedom and share how the challenges of being independent artists fuel them both to be heard.
Photographed by Kenny Ogunneye
The KTNA on stage is an experience anyone who loves live music should encounter. Seeing them perform at London's Colours Hoxton for the first time left many spectators buzzing with energy and emotion. It was a night of *saucy* latex, electricity and the microphones ON. But, as we discussed the show's aftermath, it still didn't capture how incredible their set was. "The live shows we just created were our favourite to do ever," they admitted.
"Getting out and seeing people crying and singing the lyrics is a surreal experience. Most of these songs we wrote in our room when we were very, very sad. To see it in real life is... perfection."
Performing fan favourites 'MBD', 'BOTTOM', 'B.S.', and 'Summer Never Dies', The KTNA's lyricism and storytelling style illustrate genuine humility. It's raw, soul-wrenching and validating as it holds up a mirror to reality's darkness. Striking painful truths with the deepest shades of blue, Millie and Hope's music allows their fanbase to be seen. They feel accountable to ensure those attending a show receive something unforgettable. "We're very analytical and critical. That's why the show is the way it is. Nobody is a bigger critic than Millie and me on the show, ourselves, and the band," Hope explained.
"We need to change things, but the show will only get better, and it will only be bigger."
From Manchester: home of the voices of Children of Zeus, [ K S R ], Victoria Jane (BBC 1Xtra) and Pip Millet, the KTNA contributes to Manchester's unique pool of artistry. Singing since they were infants, the pair grew up bonding by merging symmetry and tones. Encouraged to be better than they were yesterday, their powerful and rich vocals come from daily practice. "We've pushed each other to be where we are now," they revealed. "There's always another person [referring to themselves] to push us to sound better, blend better, sing better."
"The best way to try something new is by doing it and to practice doing it. It's telling yourself that you are confident, over and over again, to embrace your feminine side"
- Millie Katana (2022)
A mixed batter of soul-infused grunge tied neatly with cinematic, classical strings, The KTNA's musical palette reflects the sounds they heard during their formative years. Even though their White British mother [entangled with Kenyan roots from their father] had Soul, funk and blues soothing the home's atmosphere, Rock piqued the twins' musical ear to expand into other dimensions. "It was out of rebellion", they confessed. "We really enjoyed Rock because our mum HATED it. Mum was more for Steely Dan or Michael McDonald, so her taste always leaned towards funk. But we liked Fall Out Boy." For the Black Alt (Emo) teen, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco, Green Day and Paramore granted this subculture a sense of solace to go beyond the coloured lines society often boxed them in.
What was once embraced in secrecy is now appreciated. However, for The KTNA, the discovery of the genre revealed a new gateway. "I remember the first time I heard Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and I must have been six years old. 'Under the Bridge' was playing, and I remember being like, "What the f*** is this?! I want to make music like this!" That's how we've been able to combine genres," Millie explained.
Proudly claiming the "Sisterz of Darkness" title, the KTNA profess that their best versions of themselves can be found within a spotlight. Their proclaimed title emerged during their teen years as they were draped in black and writing "depressing songs". "I'm not this glamorous, super extroverted, super confident person all the time. And I think it's good because not many artists know how to turn that persona off," Millie claimed. Cosmic Soul is the genre tied to their name. Finding refuge within their pen is where emotions are unleashed and transformed into words of affirmation and resemblance. Their studio space is where therapy can be had just one on one. "It's difficult to stand in front of a room of 250 people and tell them you're a piece of shit," Milled confessed. "You have to go somewhere and have the strength to do it, or else it just feels like you're reading your diary out."
Their latest single 'Cover Me Blue' is a tribute to the Dido era of the gloomy 2000s. Exploring their deep senses of nostalgia, Hope conjured the instrumental as Millie made her final tweaks, leading to an anthem honouring sadness in all its glory. "I wanted it to be about a song that sounded like we were speaking about a person when actually it's just a manifestation of depression," Hope explained.
"My vision while writing about depression was a big blue man suddenly appearing and turning you blue. Depression can just creep up on you. You can just be getting on with your day, and then the blue man suddenly appears and follows you. That's the cool thing about [the song]. It can help you think about depression differently."
Being an independent, mixed group from Manchester, the twins battle many hurdles during their careers. Making the conscious decision to go at it alone granted them control over their sound, artistry, image and money. However, the difficulties of not having labels are rarely spoken about. "It's challenging. It's soul-destroying. It's tough, BUT the positives are you own your own work. No one can tell you what your music is supposed to sound like, how you're supposed to dress if you should lose weight. You know, all the things that can sometimes come with being signed to a label," they revealed.
"We are our own bosses. We make our own music. We do everything ourselves. In the next 20 years, more people will probably do it for themselves because they'll see that the power exchange between an artist and a label is unequal. Making these songs is not worth the blood, sweat and tears."
Signing their first deal at only twelve years old, the KTNA's words of wisdom come from a place of lived experiences. With that, they still wouldn't exchange their journey for anything else and champion others on similar paths. "You must know that if you're going to be independent, everything falls on your shoulders. Nobody is coming to help you. The workload is outrageous. The only person to blame is yourself. Remember that it is a business. You are in control. If you can handle that, then you should do it."
The KTNA's transparency on the music industry and its role on an artist's mental health was only a glimpse into what their fiery force could bring forward. It was clear that this was a conversation significantly close to their hearts. Reform is needed and Hope already has some suggestions on where they can start. "There needs to be a body that governs a record label. There needs to be some sort of HR department, where there is a protocol on how people are treated and spoken to... no matter who they are," she stated. "There's no police for the music industry. There's no one there to hold people accountable. And that's the first thing that needs to change."
"To embrace your dark feminine is to be unapologetic [...] You've got to be your most radical version of yourself."
- Hope Katana (2022)
Through their independence, the KTNA values their inner peace over everything. On stage, they came through as midnight goddesses, strapped in latex, femininity on 100, standing stall in blinging cowboy hats to seal the deal. "Hope and I both struggled with our body image for a long time," Mille revealed. "It's only been the last two years I've embraced wearing things that used to make me feel uncomfortable. Like the latex."
Photographed by Kenny Ogunneye
"The best way to try something new is by doing it. And practice doing it. It's telling yourself that you are confident, over and over again, to embrace your feminine side", she went on to advise. "I'm a bit of a 'roadman' in my everyday life. But tell yourself that you can be many things. It's all within you. Drag Race has opened my eyes to be whoever I want to be. It helped me find the character I can play and be confident in."
Influenced by the sounds of Stevie Wonder (their pretend "music dad") and the Gorillaz, the KTNA shared they would be on their dream collaborations list. While we excitedly continued to discuss what else they should call into fruition in their careers, the canvas for their future was limitless. From wanting to produce and sing the next Bond theme tune to wanting to work with Little Simz, Kendrick Lamar and the Artic Monkeys. The KTNA possesses the recipe to bring forward real genre-defining moments in modern music as they camouflage into diverse soundscapes that translate so well in the majority's ear.
2023 will be victorious for The KTNA. Their hardworking nature and love for music ooze out of them effortlessly. When asked what we could expect from the KTNA, we were reassured next year would be theirs. "It's a music year. We really want to go on tour around September at the end of it. We want to go to Germany and Amsterdam and hit some festivals. But right now, we need more music. Because we are independent, getting songs mixed and paid for is difficult. But we're not gonna focus on that. We're gonna make the music and whatever happens, happens."
We have no doubt that what will come their way will only continue to multiply and expand. We look forward to seeing where their story will lead them next. Until then, have a glimpse of what The KTNA has shared with the world so far and stream 'Cover Me Blue' now.