As music director and afternoon DJ for The X (105.9 FM) and host of "PromoWest Live!," Abby "Kat" Krizner could be considered the face -- and a pretty one at that -- of the Pittsburgh alt-rock scene.
While it heightens the visibility of her band, Fist Fight in the Parking Lot, it's something of a two-edged sword.
"People always ask me if there's a conflict as to whether I play Fist Fight on The X, which as a rule for myself, I do not," she says firmly. "The thing that's hard about it is we do a lot of local features -- things like 'Edge of the X' and 'Local Listen' -- and it seems like cheap to me if I were to put myself at the front of the line. Which I don't think the rest of Fist Fight thinks is particularly fair because maybe it's reverse favoritism."
There's no question Fist Fight would rise to Edge of the X caliber -- and it had a pedigree before forming somewhat spontaneously five years ago. Ms. Krizner, who stems from Dunbar, Fayette County, and grew up in Shaler, had recently split from punk/metal band Motorpsychos when she went to see one of her favorite local bands, Mojo Filter, on the night before Thanksgiving 2009 at Club Cafe. She was well-versed enough in the lyrics that when Mojo's singer didn't show up, she took over the vocals. Kind of like a scene in "Rock Star."
They ended up forming this sludgy, stoner metal band that had no name until they saw the "Saturday Night Live" skit about a fictional punk band called Fist Fight in the Parking Lot reuniting at a wedding. When they released their self-titled debut album in February 2012, critics and bloggers had a little trouble getting past the name.
"Whenever we got some press two years ago, any blogs that were not local would give us a little bit of an elbow about the name, and I think it's because you have all these bands now with just unbelievably long names and I never wanted us to be one of those bands, but it just kind of happened. It was funny to us, and we didn't really think it through, but I think we're happy with it now."
The new 2014 bio begins with "Fist Fight in the Parking Lot doesn't care if you like their name. Glad we got that out of the way. ... Now onto the music."
The music is the new five-song EP "The Year of the Ox," which states its intentions early with an opening track, "The Ox," that tops the 6:30 mark and evokes the monstrous riffage of classic Black Sabbath.
"This album needed to start off with one of the longer songs just to be very clear that we're not ashamed of anything we've done, but we're moving forward," the singer says. "There's a lot more exploring the space and that was really fun because I like to sing and I don't necessarily mind being a frontperson ... but I like to play."
"I wanted it to be different than our first record," adds guitarist Jason Sichi, "and I didn't want to paint ourselves into a corner, musically. I think a lot of heavier bands get caught up with how fast or how heavy they are. So they basically put out the same album over and over again. ... And that works well for a lot of bands, but I want to be able to write songs without second guessing whether or not it's 'metal' enough. With this album, we used a lot more space, slowed things down and let the songs breathe more than on our last album."
Fist Fight makes no apologies for taking its cues from Sabbath and its stoner-rock disciple Queens of the Stone Age.
"I think they end up being big factors," Ms. Krizner says. "Queens of the Stone Age is obviously a huge favorite of everybody in Fist Fight, but it's a band that is extremely difficult to sound like, because they have their own thing and they're incredibly quirky and inventive, and they do have a lot of classic influences. That might be hoping to encompass the attitude of a band like that. There is something that's been a newer phenomenon, and that's the Sabbath thing. When I listen back to [our EP], I think, 'This kind of sounds DARK' in that slow and deliberate Sabbath way."
Of course, Fist Fight's touch is that rather than getting Josh Homme or Ozzy Osbourne, you're getting a tough female vocalist with a big range and the ability to roar, as she does two minutes into "The Ox."
Along with being singer and guitarist, her role in the band is to turn the heavy tracks she works out with guitarist Sichi, bassist John McCallough and drummer Chris Ruane into songs.
"What we start with is always music," she says. "Jason is like a riff factory, so he comes in and starts riffing on something and we'll jam on things for a very long time."
"I've been called a lot of things before, but that is a first," Mr. Sichi says with a laugh.
Most of his ideas, he says, come when he doesn't even have a guitar in his hand or when he's just sitting around unplugged.
"I'd say 90 percent of the music for the last two albums was originally written on an acoustic ... the majority of the songs being written while watching 'Breaking Bad!' "
Ms. Krizner says that she lives with the tracks until she's practically sick of them, waiting for melodies and lyrics to come.
"I tend to find very mundane things to write about but in a hopefully passionate way. My mom and dad will listen to the record for the first time and be like, 'What's this song about?' I'll be like, 'One day I saw this news story on something and I just wrote about that.' I don't have a lot of deep-seated connection. I'm not revealing too much about myself. I just take inspiration from very small things and make them bigger."
In other words, she dishes out some proper dark metal lyrics while being an otherwise upbeat person who is not only wildly popular but happily employed and (recently) happily married.
"Whenever the band reads the lyrics for the first time, and they did this on the last record, too, they make fun of me mercilessly for being so angry," she says. "They're like, 'What are you so mad about?' I'm like, 'I don't know! It's in there somewhere!"
Mr. Sichi loves the "beautiful and trippy melodies and harmonies" she brings to the songs, but beyond that, he says, "She comes up with amazing guitar parts that counterpoint my parts. I think that's what I enjoy the most about writing with her. We're both coming from different places, but our ideas work well together."