Immerse Yourself In Girl K's Influences Ahead Of Tomorrow Never Knows Fest

Photos by Kevin Gabrielsen

Photos by Kevin Gabrielsen

Tomorrow Never Knows Fest (TNK Fest) has highlighted rising, independent local artists for over a decade, mixing them with national acts and comedians to create an experience that shows some of what Chicago has to offer in music and comedy. One of our favorite TNK acts is Girl K, an indie-pop/rock band on the wave of momentum following a strong 2018. We had a chance to speak with the eponymous “Girl K” herself, Kathy Patino, ahead of the band’s set on TNK Fest’s opening day (1/16). We learned more about her musical origins, what she loves about Chicago, and her music faves in this Q/A and specially-curated playlist. Be sure to follow Girl K on Twitter and Instagram!

Who (or what) inspired you to pick up a guitar and write songs?

I was definitely a Disney kid, I grew up watching Hannah Montana and Camp Rock, I was the biggest Demi Lovato fan. My sister is also a singer, and I’m sure she picked it up before I did and inspired me to start singing as well. When I was eight I thought I was destined to be a pop star, I’d audition for America’s Got Talent at the age of ten and swore I’d be famous by the time I got to high school. I even wrote a song in the 5th grade called “Famous” and it won this writing contest that was really meant for poetry or short stories, but that moment was a key factor in believing in myself at a young age. However, I got really discouraged and sort of gave up on my dreams all together. You dream about something for so long and as you grow up people stop thinking your dreams are cute or appropriate. Then I found indie music, like 2012 indie music (mostly Grouplove). That was the turning point, where my music went from  unwelcome to having a home. One of my friends from high school encouraged me to do an open mic at a local hot spot in my hometown near Joliet called the Drunken Donut, and one thing led to another and I got back on my feet. People believing in my music really motivated me, and people telling me that my music meant something to them, even more so.

Does your sister still play/write music? Was there a natural gravitation towards guitar, or did you start off playing any other instruments?

My sister lives in California now, she sings every chance she gets and I know likes to write songs occasionally. I encourage her to keep doing so, haha. She had a Casio keyboard when she was younger that I inevitably took and played, when I was ten was probably the earliest I remember playing. I had a guitar for quite some time, but never actually knew how to tune it or play so it just sort of took up space. I asked for a ukulele one year for Christmas when I was in the eighth grade and learned how to play that, that same day. Based off how quickly I picked up the uke I figured I’d play guitar too, so I downloaded this guitar tabs app and started playing songs I liked and learning chords that way. I’d really like to learn how to play drums and probably annoy my bandmates during band practice every time I try to practice. I’ve been recording and releasing music since 2017, but I’ve been writing music ever since I could.

What does Chicago mean to you?

Coming from a small town, Chicago meant opportunity and diversity, a chance to be around like minded people and a chance to feel excited about life again. I had done all I needed to in my hometown and was ready for the next part of my life. I think Chicago is the most magical place some days, and I can walk down the same streets and pass the same buildings only to have new thoughts and a new appreciation towards them. The people in Chicago are magic too, I’ve met so many beautiful people and have learned so much from them.

Do you have any specific spots or neighborhoods you like exploring?

I don’t know what it is about Roscoe Village that I like so much, but it’s nice to walk around. I work in Logan Square so I’m usually wandering around there, I like to walk from Western and Diversey to Wicker Park all the time, and there are so many cool spots there. I currently live in Pilsen, so I would walk up and down 18th a lot during the summer time.

What are your favorite creative outlets outside of music?

I really like drawing, I never really payed attention in school and was constantly doodling all over my papers. I like to experiment with different mediums of art, I used to go to the Artist and Craftsman Supply downtown to buy drawing pens and would always walk out with something different. I also enjoy sewing and making clothes, I go to Joann’s or Michael's and buy felt to hot glue or sew onto thrifted clothes, but more recently have attempted to actually make clothes from scratch. When I was younger I really enjoyed making movies, and taking photos. I don’t really have a camera or laptop, so it’s really whatever I can do on my phone which at times is all I need. I enjoy writing, but don’t think I’ve ever written anything quite profound yet to say that I’m any good at it.

Have you been in charge of the cover art that's come out? I REALLY liked the “Dog Year Lungs” art. I love that with art, we always feel that there's room to grow, that we can't sit on our laurels and kind of settle for the last thing we put out.

Thank you! I do a lot of the art for GIRL K, a lot of it is just doodles that I liked more than I thought I would. I kind of like that my art has become a part of my music as well, but definitely want to seek out other artists for designs and cover art. I really love supporting other artists and musicians, so any chance I get I will absolutely plug them and share their art.

“Borderline” - Madonna

My dad raised me on the ‘80s, he used to be a dancer and DJ back then so he was very much in love with the music. He loved Madonna, so much that I eventually did as well. The beginning of this song reminds me of my childhood in a sentimental way, the rest of the song just makes me want to dance in front of a mirror with a glittery dress and sunglasses.

“Sea Creatures” - SOAK

I love this song with all my heart, I think it’s beautifully written and the lyricism is breathtaking. I think the line “I’d pray for you and you know I don’t like Jesus” is my favorite. There’s so much being said in that one line and I feel encapsulates the whole feeling of the song.

“Ones Who Love You” - Alvvays

I love Alvvays, they don’t have a single bad song, and I don’t think I could ever write a song as good as theirs. This song was one that I would blast in my headphones and sing along to in the open air whenever I would wander around the city. I could listen to the melodies in this song forever.

“Telescope” - Cage The Elephant

Beautiful song. Melophobia is still my favorite album of theirs, and this song my favorite off of it. The bridge is so powerful and helps me get energy out, like if I’m feeling small and dismissed or if I’m very excited about something and need to just yell.

“Love is a Losing Game” - Amy Winehouse

One of my favorite musicians of all time. I can sing along to Amy’s discography for the entirety of a day only to want to listen to again the next. I remember hearing this song for the first time and just feeling every word in my heart, not having ever been in love myself. Her voice is like magic and I can only ever think of how lucky we were to have had such a raw personality amongst us even if only for a short time.

“Crane Your Neck” - Lady Lamb

I’ll never tire of this song, the lyricism, the melody, the emotion. I listened to this song the entire day I first heard it, and then again the next, and the next until I had memorized it. I can only imagine this is what falling in love is like, I don’t know it just gives me heavy imagery of someone being tossed into different parts of life going into each one having learned something from the last, but is stuck in this never-ending rotation.

“Fall Back on the Arrow You Love” - Varsity

Probably my favorite band from Chicago, hands down. I can never be disappointed by them. This song leaves me in awe, how do you write like this?! I listen to Varsity a lot whenever I feel like my life is changing tremendously or whenever I’m struggling.

“Colours” - Grouplove

So. I love Grouplove. I’ve seen them every time they've been to Chicago and (unnecessarily) waited 24 hours in line for them when the played the Metro earlier this year. They always close their shows with this song, and I’m always sobbing and making really ugly faces while I sing along and then continue to cry when the show ends. They’re powerful people, to me at least, because they changed my life so much. They’re beautiful people inside and out and that’s where their power comes from.

“The Breeze” - Dr. Dog

Dr. Dog rocks, and this song just hurts my heart every time I listen to it, but I’m so glad to have found it. Their entire Shame, Shame album was my holy grail when I was in a funk and needed some new music to get me motivated and inspired.

“Everybody Wants To Rule The World” - Tears For Fears

I don’t think I can ever explain how much this song means to me. I grew up with it from the background of my childhood to the frontlines of my adolescence. If there were ever a way to summarize myself using a song, it would be with this one. I think it’s my end credit song. When I look back at my life, and if I could see it before my eyes like on a screen, I would want this song behind it.