In an attempt to shine light on local music, The Lantern’s “Columbus’ Own” is a weekly series that will profile a new Columbus band every week.
There’s nothing like a fresh start, especially when it’s all made up.
Columbus electro-pop two-piece Damn the Witch Siren was built on equivalent pillars of imagination, armed with alter egos and a desire to collapse every portion of the arts into one magnificent music project.
“I came up with Bobbi Kitten — I wanted something androgynous but feisty and cute, and my friends always called me ‘kitten’ – so I liked ‘Bobbi,’” vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Krista Botjer explained of her stage name. “It’s fierce-sounding.”
Producer and multi-instrumentalist Nathan Photos’ stage name of “Z Wolf” came shortly after hers, as Botjer remembered. Photos wanted a DJ name and has a passion for wolves, and one night of light brainstorming gave the two their permanent stage names.
“It’s funny how you don’t have a strong intention behind something — you’re just having fun — but then you realize all of the influences of your life and things that you loved throughout your life,” Botjer explained, “like witches and magic and wolves.
“You start writing around it, and it’s all this fake fantasy — I think (that) was unintentional, but it was birthed out of all of this influence,” Botjer said.
Damn the Witch Siren’s self-proclaimed genre is now “witch rock,” which the members describe as dark, mystical and ethereal with “powerful female empowerment.”
Botjer and Photos came together in 2012 after meeting in the Columbus music scene. Upon leaving separate groups in which they were previously involved, the two found common ground in their shared determination to melt and experiment with genres in a way that might expand their music into the realm of fashion, theater and art.
Photos explained that Botjer was big into theater, and she can act. With such talents, Damn the Witch Siren wants to make each set an event through “heavy visuals” and performance art.
“We talked about — before we did this project — ‘What is missing when we go see music?’” Botjer said.
“We’ve been constantly building up our live show,” Photos said. “It’s getting kind of big for two people.”
“Being sexy is just very natural to us,” Botjer said slyly, on their sexually charged performances, which include provocative outfits and orgasmic yelps on Botjer’s part. “I’ve just always felt like a very sexual being.”
Both members of the band are attracted to an “avant-garde” life of creativity and sex, as Botjer put it.
“You write what you know, right?” Photos said rhetorically as the duo shared a laugh. “Music without sex is not as interesting to me.”
In May, Damn the Witch Siren released the 7-track “Superdelicious,” which showcased glamorous song titles such as “Pearls and Lace,” “Tu Sais Je T’aime Bien” and “Life Like Movies.”
“We’re both dreamers and it’s like tapping into these characters we have created,” Botjer said. “They’re not just characters — they’re alter egos, and they’re these entities that we’re trying to eventually fully land inside of, and ‘Superdelicious’ was trying to get there.
“(‘Life Like Movies’ is) about being broke and being a dreamer,” Botjer said. “When you have a dream but you’re in this dead-end job that isn’t going to take you anywhere you want to go.
“It’s about anxiety from that lifestyle, from working really hard and not ever seeing it pay off,” Botjer continued. “But it’s basically like, ‘Well, I don’t care if I don’t ever see it pay off, ‘cause this is all I have.’”
Another song, titled “Microphone,” refers to a “loser with a microphone.” The irony sits within Botjer singing the lyrics.
“I am!” said Botjer laughing, answering who the “loser” is.
Lately, Damn the Witch Siren has been busy with a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. At $1,530 as of Monday evening, the band members hope to receive $5,000 in donations toward building a studio in their new home in Marion, Ohio — a studio that would give themselves and any other artist the opportunity to record, film, photograph, animate and more.
“It (will be) called Voula Studios,” Photos said. “That was my late grandmother’s name, this (was) her house.”
With the Voula Studios Indiegogo campaign ending this week, Damn the Witch Siren intends to push on with the studio plans regardless, but hopes it can add a few extra dollars before setting up shop.
Bobbi Kitten and Z Wolf drew attention to themselves June 26 when they publicly opposed R. Kelly’s addition to Columbus’ first Fashion Meets Music Festival. “An Open Letter to Columbus, R. Kelly, Fashion Meets Music Festival, and All Women” appeared on the band’s blog shortly after Damn the Witch Siren was invited to be on the bill.
While the band members received both support and opposition for their public post, the most important thing was the amount of dialogue it began, within and beyond their blog, Z Wolf said.
“There were performers who were in FMMF who reached out to us about donating all of their proceeds from the festival towards rape victims and the (Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence). People were asking us about that,” Kitten explained.
When the FMMF post occurred, the band wasn’t necessarily attempting to evoke a reaction over the subject, Photos. It’s something that he and Botjer feel very strongly about, so — being involved with the festival — the two spoke up, Botjer said.
“That was the first time the both of us have ever done anything publicly like that, besides being involved in other peoples’ charities and events,” Kitten said.
They performed at Femmefest and Pelotonia’s Rock n’ Wheels, and Damn the Witch Siren’s members said they try to do as many charity shows as possible. The band’s agenda rides on feminism and female empowerment, as well as recycling and taking care of the earth, Bobbi Kitten said.
Damn the Witch Siren is passionate about the ‘80s, from the music all the way to actively reviving the fashion.
“People give the ‘80s a lot of s— for their fashion, but honestly I love the ’80s fashion,” Kitten said.
“It’s fun, ridiculous, and daring,” Z Wolf added, “I prefer that to the ’90s when everyone just wore flannel and tried to look like they worked at a gas station.”
“We’re both dreamers,” Kitten said.
Many people don’t always want to try new things, sticking hard to the same sound and style, Kitten said. Damn the Witch Siren is not interested in that autonomy.
“Life gets stale and boring, and the way you keep it creative and keep yourself inspired is to travel to these places inside of your brain,” Kitten said.