By Joey Grihalva
Katie Lafond is no stranger to the big stage. She’s performed (as Siren) all over the country alongside her partner Sam Ahmed (WebsterX), anchoring his signature hit “Doomsday.” Even before becoming the New Age Narcissism (NAN) collective’s secret weapon, she was playing to thousands of people with just her guitar and breathtaking voice, including her own sets at Summerfest and State Fair.
On February 11, Lafond performed her most high profile solo set as Siren, opening for Chicago poet/rapper Noname at The Miramar Theatre. Noname has delivered standout guest verses on Chance the Rapper’s mixtapes, but a recent appearance alongside the Grammy winner on Saturday Night Live has made her an overnight sensation.
Noname’s entire tour has sold out, evident by the number of Chicagoans who made the trip up to Milwaukee because tickets to Noname’s hometown shows went so fast. By the time Lafond took the stage, half the dance floor was packed with an eager and attentive audience.
Lafond’s charming awkwardness and magnetic vocals quickly won over the crowd. She was backed by most members of the NAN band, rebranded as “The Truth.” Lafond debuted a new song, “Context,” which had a jazzier bent than her previous material, but that could be due to the The Truth’s interpretation. Saxophonist Jay Anderson — who has added marvelous depth to live performances of Lafond’s signature track “Queen Medusa” — shined during a solo near the end of her set.
By the time Siren and The Truth played their final song, “RIP MCR,” the crowd was gleefully singing along. Lafond praised the lineup for being all-female — Rayven Lenae performed before Noname took the stage — and offered a parting refrain, “My name is Siren, I’m from Milwaukee. You can find me on the streets doing legal things.”
The next day, I spoke with Lafond over the phone.
“Last night was too much fun,” she says. “Because I’m used to doing bigger shows with Sam, it’s really different when it’s for me. I got way more nervous and I kept forgetting the spotlight would be on me.”
“I was like, ‘Why is everybody asking me questions?’ You know, stuff that Sam usually answers. It was super cool and exciting though.”
Lafond is the only member of NAN to have not yet released an EP, mixtape or album. In that respect, she has a soul sister in Noname, who had a notoriously long delay before releasing of her debut project Telefone. Noname’s live performance touched on this early in the show, projecting on the screen above her and her band a barrage of tweets from impatient fans asking about Telefone.
“Sam and I were talking about that. I was like, ‘Damn, that’s so me.’ I don’t have this EP out yet and people keep expecting it to happen. Hearing from Noname and seeing how successful she is, that was kind of a relief. It’s cool that I’ve built this buzz and it’s gonna be raw when I am finally able to get my stuff together.”
Lafond’s perfectionism is the main thing keeping her debut project from being unleashed into the world. She’s also not eager to relinquish her relative anonymity. As Chance’s skyrocketing popularity propelled Noname into the spotlight, WebsterX’s upcoming debut release and growing notoriety may do the same for Siren.
Personally, I’ve grown accustomed with Lafond being “our little secret.” But it’s only a matter of time until the Siren call spreads beyond Wisconsin.