Songstress in Stiletto Boots:
Meet Chenot Keith
of Mission Zero
By Zoe Alexandra
The New Haven scene can sometimes feel like a “boys club.” These days it is rare to find a female taking the lead. Enter, Chenot Keith, one half of the brother/ sister electro pop group, Mission 0, who is giving the boys club a run for their money, with her sultry voice (think Phantogram meets Tori Amos), tall stiletto boots, and Jane Mansfield meets Nico vibe. She is a class act, along with her amazingly talented brother David Keith (formerly of the Mighty Purple and Nightcrawler 1947). Groove gets the skinny on the group from Chenot herself.
Groove: Where does your musical talent come from? When did you first start playing music?
Chenot: David and I grew up in a house that was filled with music. There would always be something playing on the stereo, or people coming over to sing and play guitar and piano with our mom, so it was completely natural that we both became musicians. There’s footage somewhere of us playing drums and piano together when we were really tiny… we just never stopped.
Groove: What made you decide to start a band with your brother (David Keith)? How did Mission Zero come about?
Chenot: Not to get all “little-sistery”, but David is one of the finest musicians I know. He’s a ridiculously gifted composer, and he has this voice that he can transform in a split second. He’s obviously a great drummer too, but David always contributes so much more musically to every band he’s in than just sitting in the back and hitting stuff. When I set out to start Mission Zero, there was no one else I wanted by my side. Maybe it’s because David and I understand each others’ musical sensibilities, or maybe because he’s so patient and kind, but we never fight, ever. I’ve never been happier to play music with anyone else. Which isn’t to say I don’t love working with other musicians – New Haven especially is full of all these wonderful, incredibly talented people with whom we’ve been fortunate enough to play – but when I’m about to make some goofy inside joke, David’s already laughing before I even start saying it.
Groove: In general, the music scene can be very male dominated so I love to see powerful women fronting bands that play good music. What female musicians have influenced you and which ones do you regularly listen to?
Chenot: I’m kind of drawn to female singers who look deceptively delicate and then they open their mouths and these grown-up, kick-ass, soulful voices come out. Eva Cassidy and Shirley Manson come to mind. But lately my strongest female icon is Sagit Shir from Hank & Cupcakes. We’ve played with them twice now and she astounds me. She never wastes an opportunity to engage her audience, and she’s just as comfortable and natural when she’s off-stage… I guess that probably sounds backwards, that I think someone should be as comfy off-stage as on, but I have a harder time being socially courageous when I’m not performing, and she seems fearless and genuine either way. I really admire her.
Groove: You play light airy songs like When the Morning Comes which are reminiscent of Massive attack and Phantogram, keyboard ballads like Newport Bridge that bring to mind Tori Amos as well as heavier songs like Heavy Boots reminiscent of The Dead Weather. How would you classify the music that you play?
Chenot: …Sorry, I’m still thinking about trying to smoosh Phantogram, The Dead Weather, Tori Amos and Massive Attack into one band. And I want to be that band! Argh, how good would that be?! Incidentally, I was watching The Dead Weather perform at Bonnaroo the very instant I decided I needed to quit my job and start the band that would become Mission Zero. It took me a couple years to quit the job but the band started up as soon as I got home.
Groove: In your stage show you incorporate keyboards, laptop loops and synth pop sounds with occasional drumming (you have a drum that you play—besides the beats provided by David Keith) as well as effects pedals, all while singing. Is this hard to do? You make it look so effortless?
Chenot: It’s tough when I wear the super-high boots! But it’s worth it.
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