Kat Steih is an artist, musician, and educator with a philosophy of using improvisation to express the “emotion of the moment.” Her creative output includes 15 solo albums as an electronic music producer as well as collaborations with the bands Walk Your Bike and March of the Ant.
Kat is an accomplished vocalist, sound designer, and composer. Much of her solo output has been released under her stage name iO Megaji. She has performed throughout the United States, as well as in Korea, Poland, Spain, Ireland, Germany, and Denmark, with a focus on free, powerful expression the whole time.
Kat’s artistic path has not always been a smooth one. She has had to overcome obstacles including learning disabilities, performance anxiety, and singing difficulties including vocal surgery and a period of vocal rest when she could only speak for a few moments per day.
Hymns of the Huron is Kat’s first release after surgery as well as her first time recording her own songs with others.
A chat with Kat Steih
How and when did you get your start?
In 2010 I was absolutely obsessed with writing my own music. I always had tons of song ideas in my head, but when I tried to write them, I couldn’t remember the order the song/chords were in, or I didn’t know how to capture the idea! I was too nervous to book any gigs or play with friends. My difficulties were huge blocks. Then, one day, out of the blue, I received a call from my best friend’s aunt, who had visions and worked as a psychic. I had never met her before, but she called me and said, “Kat, I know you’ve never met me, but I just had a vision that God wants you to be a musician.” So, I went to my friends who used Ableton and they showed me how to use it. I also started steadily switching my school degree over to music so that I could learn what I needed to know to write songs.
What are the band’s biggest musical influences?
There are three things I love about music: when the instrumentals create “an imagination world”; lyrics that are very self-possessed; and artists who are in control of their creative process. For those reasons, my first musical love was Eminem and Dr. Dre (because of the lyrics); then Pink Floyd (the sonic imagination world); then Kate Bush (her creative personality, melodies, lyrics and sonic world); and then most recently Lucinda (for her lyrics and their sparseness, and her dedication to her vision.)
How has your music changed over the years?
Over the years, my music has gone from completely self-produced to collaborating more with others. This change came through my own growth as a musician and person. Even though I love working with others, many factors (being very protective of my music; not knowing what I needed help with; figuring out the creative process of working with others) held me back from working with others for a long time. For this album, Ben (Lorenz, the producer) contacted me and wanted to record it, so the pieces kind of fell into place naturally, when they hadn’t before.
How have you grown as a band and how has your following grown?
I’ve grown as an artist by striking a balance between pursuing my own way of doing things and embracing ideas that others give me. My following has grown as I meet more people and our lives intertwine.
Do you have an upcoming projects or plans you want to feature?
I have a new album, titled Hymns of the Huron. In my home towns of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, the Huron River is a place where people go to punctuate important experiences in their lives. I wrote these songs in moments of inspiration that came from reflections on my relationships. Later, I realized the songs were a blend of folk rock (with the instrumentation) and African American spirituals (with their chord structure and repetitive melodies.) Their is an emphasis on mantra-like hooks and melodies, prioritizing feeling over thinking.
The songs are meant to be a healing experience just like the old hymns and spirituals. That’s why I called the album Hymns of the Huron. This is a collection of modern hymns, about the very real and modern themes of love and relationship. I hope that, when others listen to it, they’ll be able to express and understand their own experiences in new ways that will bring healing.
2 or 3 fun facts about you and the band:
One of songs my songs on the album was inspired by a graveyard.
The members of this band are in another band called WPD (Willis Police Department) that plays “cop show rock”.
I have an additional performance art project called iO Megaji.