A Ripple Conversation With Sunflower Fox And The Chicken Leg

Name of your band:


Sunflower Fox and the Chicken Leg and we’re Kaity Heart the vocalist, Mike Schmidt Lead Guitar and Kyle Primus, Drums, percussion, and the absent cowbell


What have been your musical epiphany moments?


Kaity- It was closing my business of 12 years and just focusing on music. The business I owned was always just a means to an end-but I was making enough money just singing that I finally decided to just pursue music. The other would be when we were in the midst of Covid realising that we finally had time to actually write! When you’re gigging all the time-you lose that creativity-all of a sudden we had time to actually be creative that’s where the idea for Sunflower came from.

Mike- My dad was a musician, and growing up listening to his recordings set the stage for me, then finding my influences locked everything into place for me. There has never been a question or another option for me. I knew very young music is what I will do/have to do.

Kyle: I had a few.  When I was 6, my cousins lent me an ACDC Live at Donnington CD.  I heard that and knew I wanted to be a drummer.  I started playing in bars at 15 and knew I wanted to perform until I died.  When I was in college, I was studying mechanical engineering at the U of M and I hated it.  Sophomore year I decided that I could choose a career path that actually made me happy, so I changed my degree to music and haven’t looked back.


Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?


Kaity: It’s completely different every single time. It might start with me with a melody line and basic chords. Or it might start with Mike or James with a riff on guitar? Or Al (keys) with an entire song structured out. We kind of just throw everything at the wall and see what sticks! Then it will evolve until we get a song everyone likes. Everyone just adds their piece to it as we go along. This is the most accepting and constructively critical band I’ve ever been apart of. We truly write for the song, not ourselves. We’re really trying to nail that 1970’s sound.

Kyle: my role in this group is much more a supportive role and that’s how I prefer to be.  The rest of the group comes up with the riffs, chords, and lyrics, and then I write parts that stay out of the way of Kaity and all musicians while also highlighting and accenting their writing.


Who has influenced you the most?


Kaity: For myself it’s going to be Heart and probably Fleetwood Mac. But you can hear lots of Runaways and Joan Jett in some of the heavier songs. There’s Headeast in there, Zeppelin, Aerosmith…even allusions to spinal tap. It just depends on the song!

Mike: Tom Petty, Cheap Trick, Thin Lizzy… another huge influence is Guns N’ Roses and they were influenced by tons of 70's bands.

Kyle: I am younger than the rest of the group, so most of my inspiration comes from 80’s hair metal and 90’s prog metal.  However, there is a simple purity in bands like Rainbow, Boston, and 70’s ACDC and Van Halen that I am drawn to.


Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?


Kaity: The new classic rock bands that are coming out now are fantastic. It’s awesome to know we’re not the only ones trying to bring this style back. Bands like Dirty Honey, Greta Van Fleet, Ace Monroe Band, Gyasi and I think you can even throw Maneskin in there for their references to the days of glam rock. Rock is going to make a comeback. I can feel it in my bones.

Kyle: I draw my non-drumming ideas (themes, lyrics, melodies) from movies and TV shows.  I absorb my drumming inspiration for our records simply from dissecting 70’s records.  Specifically listening to how much the drummers were listening to the other musicians. Were they complimenting the guitarist?  The bassist?  Were they off on their own little world?


We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?


Kaity: We’re all from the state of Minnesota and around the Twin Cities…where Prince and the ‘Minneapolis Funk’ sound was born. I think that funky groove is just kind of bred into all musicians from around here. Hell, the first producer I ever worked with was from Paisley Park. Anyways-you can definitely hear the groove in the bass lines and drums and even the keys in some of these songs. You can’t escape it!

Kyle: I am from small town central MN.  It was all rap and country with no musical diversity.  I had to explore any and all rock as an individual.


Where'd the band name come from?

Kaity: Ahhh…there are many stories. But-our keyboard player Al Berg really likes birds…in fact it was one of his emphasis’ in college. And oddly enough his favourite bird is the common chicken. I came up with the name of Sunflower Fox but we thought that was too indie-so we tacked on ‘and the chicken leg’ and it stuck!


You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?


Kaity: Oh anything that would have anything to do with the 70’s of course. A 70’s witchy, folk horror would be perfect for us. Like if Midsommar happened in the 70’s. So I guess doing the soundtrack for the original Wicker Man or Susperia would be sick!

Kyle - 1978 The Lord of the Rings.


You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?).  You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?


Kaity: ‘Barracuda’ and why it means more today than it did in the 70’s. Heart wrote that song as a direct fuck you to the record labels. But now-there are even more barracudas in the sea…fleecing you for every penny and dime. Selling dreams and and straight up lying to people about their own potential. There’s no longer just labels…it’s EVERYONE you gotta watch out for!

Kyle - “Kill the King” - Rainbow  - The song was “metal” before the genre existed.  Ronnie James Dio, regicide, and double-bass….  Count me in!


Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?


Kaity: Oh god. So many. A lot of us in Sunflower play in a dance band that tours and plays lots of private events. It literally pays for all the cool things we get to do in Sunflower! So we found out we are playing a wedding on a farm and normally those are like fake cute farms and it’s just for an aesthetic. We roll up and it’s a real working farm. We had to pull power from the street lamps. The ‘dance floor’ was dirt. There were chickens…everywhere. I had to legit pull the set lists because the chickens were eating them. They put catering (which was a bunch of little 15/16 year old pigtailed girls) IN THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE. It was all kinds of crazy. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time!!

Mike: This biggest thing is you never watch that movie before a gig, it will ruin the night. Backstage “dressing rooms” can be very Spinal Tab, or finding your way to and from them.

Kyle: Against my stern wishes, they made me record with a cowbell on our first record.  AND THEY DIDN’T EVEN USE IT.

Kaity: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Oh it was so mean. We’re sorry Kyle.

Kyle: They also shaved my face into a handle-bar moustache for the recording of the first record.  Now they demand it be shaved properly for every recording venture.


Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?


Kaity: Combined we all have an incredible amount of stage time. Everyone of us has toured the country in different groups and we’re looking forward to doing this with Sunflower. Everyone is a dynamic performer, we love travelling and we’re also just the right mix of serious ass kicking rock and roll and unbridled ridiculousness.


What makes a great song?


Kaity: Peaks and Valleys. I love a song that goes somewhere. That isn’t just a straight line of background music. Nothing bores me more than the bare minimum. Which oddly enough seems kind of popular right now-but I think dynamics in lyrics, in sonic quality, in structure is so exciting. Who doesn’t want that? It’s why songs from the 60’s-90’s still are so popular. They have all these levels.

Kyle: Letting the song breathe.  Not everything to the grid.  Musicians performing together instead of recording one instrument at a time.  Authenticity; writing the song for yourself and not for the fans or streaming platforms.


Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?


Mike:  I wrote my first song directly after my dad taught me my first 2 chords on guitar at the age about about 10. Pretty basic A and D with a sus 4 in it. I still have the recording…

Kyle: I may be wrong here (we are talking about 3 years ago), but I think the first song we started working on collectively was “Past.”  Kaity and James had laid the foundation and then brought it to me to start with a drum part.


What piece of your music are particularly proud of?


Mike: I had an original band in the 90's and 2000's and I had come up with some pretty cool riffs that I'm still and proud of looking back. I hope some of this newer stuff we are writing now holds up… I think it will, there are a lot of great songs we have put together.

Kyle: Our first release “Breathe It In.”  It %100 the band’s.  No outside producers or pressures.  Everybody brought “theirs” to the table and the collaboration was an absolute success.

Kaity: Ditto what Kyle said.

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?


Kyle: Iron Maiden are still kicking ass on the stage and in the studio despite being well into their 60’s and 70’s and being well over 40 years into their career.  Their songs are still catchy and identifiable as theirs.  Their live shows only get more and more exciting.

Kaity: Marvellous Three just recently put out an album after 20 years that kicks ass. I love what MARINA is doing-especially the song Man’s World. And I’m pretty obsessed with literally every album by The Pierces. They are like a new wave of Heart and I’m here for it.


Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?


Kaity: Vinyl. C’mon. We’re a 70’s original band hahahah

Mike: Digital is convenient to grab a song or two quickly, but vinyl you get the whole experience of putting it on, the large format artwork, and listening to a full record.

Kyle: Vinyl is great for the true listening experience.  It’s like watching a movie.  You have to make time for it and be fully engaged.  Otherwise lossless audio streaming for all the convenient applications.


Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice


Kaity: Beer. Preferably Hamms. But we wish Olympia would make a comeback.

Although I think Mike (guitar), Craig (bass) and Al (keyboards) might vote whiskey…but we do drink a lot of beer.

Mike: Whiskey and beer go hand and hand, depends on the day/night.

Kyle: Jack Daniels.  Jack Daniels.  Jack Daniels.  Wait….and more Jack Daniels.

Kaity: Come on Kyle. You know me and you can barely make it through a sixer together. hahaha.


We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?


Electric Fetus or No Name Records-both absolutely fantastic.


What's next for the band?


Kaity: We will finish releasing covers/singles for album 1. Album 2 is currently being mixed and we are almost done writing albums 3 & 4. This will free us up to work on touring and playing live! This was always our plan. We will literally have new music for a solid four years straight with no break. We’re very excited!

Mike: Writing, recording, and playing live, maybe another music video here and there… We want to get the music to the people!


Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?


We’re doing this live. We are all in a room together-we don’t do overdubs unless we have to. We’re trying to bring back the magic that happened in these iconic studios. It’s one thing to record in our basements (where honestly, we totally could-the technology is totally there) but it’s a whole other thing to go to another part of the country, and be in the same space as Kansas/Stevie Wonder (Studio in the Country) or Nirvana/Live (Pachyderm Studios) or Sublime/Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Sonic Ranch) and feel that energy. That’s what they did in the 70’s and that’s what we’re doing now.


Also…If you have proof that sasquatches or skunk apes exist, we would like to see it.