Raw Trash Rock Direct From The Kills
Amidst a U.S. and Swedish garage-punk explosion, The Kills are ready to make some noise for Britain. With one self-recorded EP release a raw, trashy five-song debut called Black Rooster, released in May on Dim Mak Records the London two-piece is considering offers from Rough Trade and UK label Domino Records, home to critic favorites Clinic.
"England's got a bit complacent," guitarist-drummer Hotel said in a recent phone interview from the road. "I started realizing that the only exciting bands that have happened in the last year or so haven't been British bands.
"The time is now for a British band to create a new thing, and we'd like to be in control of that and not have the enemy do it for us," he added, laughing.
Inspired by Royal Trux and the Velvet Underground and led by sultry, bedroom vocals, broken guitar lines and hollowed-out drumming, Black Rooster feels rough, sexy and drugged up. Sometimes jangly and melodic, other times dark and droning, the EP is stunningly powerful. Further, it includes a cover of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band's "Dropout Boogie" from Safe As Milk. The Kills also have a track, "Restaurant Blouse" on an upcoming 5RC comp. They plan to release two or three more EPs before combining them into a compilation record, which Hotel estimates will be out by January. Hoping to work with both Domino and Rough Trade on some level, the band isn't sure which label they'll sign to yet but intend to release their first full-length in the spring.
In the wake of such music press hyped acts as The Strokes and the White Stripes, The Kills Hotel and singer VV hope to elude the frequently damaging and disorienting consequences of being in the media's spotlight. Hotel recognized what he called "the eternal paradox" of such a stance wanting to escape the press while getting your music heard. So The Kills stop short of not doing any interviews, but so far they're taking a grassroots approach to spreading the word. "People aren't short of seeing bands photographed in papers and magazines," Hotel said. "I think it's time for a bit of a ground zero; it's time to start thinking about things differently [and] create a bit more mystery, 'cause I think people are sick to death of bands being hyped. I'd quite like to avoid that.
"I wanna concentrate on things that are a bit more organic," he continued. "The way we recorded, that was organic as we could get it. I don't know what the attitude is [in the U.S.] with the way people record, but in England everything is done on Pro Tools. It's all multi-track and digital and it's a sound that's a bit stagnant it doesn't really jump out at you anymore. So, we were quite careful to make sure that [Black Rooster's] sound was organic and raw and live, the same as our artwork. Our artwork was all cut-and-paste. We try to not get too far away from this grassroots idea. I like the idea of being hand-to-mouth."
The Kills, currently more than a month into a U.S. tour, captured Black Rooster's primitive, lo-fi feel at an old analog studio in London. "It got a bit out of control the best time I've had in a studio," said Hotel with a sense of delight in his voice. "A really odd studio; all vintage-style, nothing was made after 1970, a really incredible-looking building. We recorded onto the eight-track machine. We only had two days and it was one of the first times of absolutely not having enough time to try different things or try to keep different takes. It was just bang it out straight away without thinking too much.
"I really like the vibe of [the record] when I listen back to it," he continued. "It sounds really raw and like it's a session rather than ... so many recordings nowadays sounds almost over-perfected."
The Kills started out by sending tapes back and forth between Hotel's London home and VV's in the U.S. for six months. VV former frontwoman for the Florida punk group Discount moved to London about three months ago, allowing The Kills to pick up the pace. "We started playing whatever came to mind, kind of messing around playing stuff and it worked out somewhere and became coherent," Hotel explained. "It went through stages and then, at a certain point, we decided we weren't going to get anybody else involved. It was just gonna be two of us.
"We were recently working out these songs in our basement, just the two of us, and it seemed like getting the right attitude and the right vibe for the music was more important than the overall sound of it," he continued. "So we got pretty stuck on it just being a duet thing [and] seeing how far we could go with that, so that's the reason we didn't involve a drummer."
As for the duo's music, Hotel says its source is a mystery, even to him, "To be honest, I don't know where half the songs come from," Hotel said. "I don't want to sound pretentious, but it's like one minute they're not there and then the next minute they are. It's not really much that we've done in the way of working things out or planning arrangements. So far, we've just been on a roll. It's been a very natural thing. I'll have a few ideas on the guitar, play those [then] VV starts singing and we've got a song in a few minutes, it's pretty cool like that." Jenny Tatone [Thursday, July 18, 2002]