With The Kills, it's a messy, sexy and heavy garage-rock meets lo-fi brash and instinctual rock ‘n’ roll. Comparisons to bands such as The White Stripes, PJ Harvey, and The Velvet Underground are all suitable, but The Kills have fashioned their very own distinctive style. The pair met in Hince's hometown of London, England, in 2000, when singer Mosshart was touring with her former band from Florida, named Discount. And three full-length albums in, the Kills are as mesmerizing as ever. "It was like we'd lived parallel lives," Hince affirmed on The Kills' Domino Records Web site. "We had these bedrooms on different sides of the Atlantic which were full of artworks and films and music that we'd made for no one to listen to. We had so many things in common. It was at a time that if you spend a lot of time making art and dressing up you got beaten down for being pretentious. Everything was about being down to earth. And we both just felt this relief when we met each other."
When Mosshart and Hince met in London, fate handed them a full house. They immediately began writing songs together. After Mosshart went back to Florida, her punk band Discount broke up, and she and Hince began sending tapes back and forth through the mail. They were writing songs by themselves and then fusing them together in a perfectly chaotic manner. After half a year of writing this way, Mosshart left Florida's sunny skies and moved to London. In 2002, the Kills released the EP Black Rooster on the California label Dim Mak Records. The five-song CD was a sharp cut of two-piece contemporary garage-rock with a mystifying twist. Rob Tannenbaum of Blender wrote, "The Kills turn blues imagery into tough attitude, landing between the overloaded lo-fi mayhem of Sonic Youth and the concise minimalism of the White Stripes." The band would receive reviews like this one for much of their independent label career.
Black Rooster secured the duo a signing to British label Rough Trade Records. In 2003 The Kills released their full-length debut record, Keep on Your Mean Side. Rolling Stone journalist Peter Relic wrote that The Kills' new record was a "bruising disc of post-modern blues." Keep on Your Mean Side sent the duo around the world playing at both small and large venues. The pair's on-stage demeanor was erotic, loud, and enticing. In interviews about the new disc, reviewers didn't seem to believe that Hince and Mosshart were just great friends and not in a romantic relationship. "We're aware that that's how it comes across," Hince admitted on the Domino Records Web site. "But honestly … that just came out of nerves! When there's two people on stage of different genders, and you're scared to death and don't want to look at the audience so you stare at each other instead, that's just how it comes out."
When it came time for The Kills to make their second album, instead of recording in London or New York, the band ended up in the small town of Benton Harbor, Michigan. Hince had heard mysterious stories about a "legendary" mixing console made in the late 1960s by the Flickinger Company, one of which was specially designed for Sly Stone. He decided he had to find it and record with it. Hince tracked down the board to a small, unknown recording studio in Michigan. Opened up in 2002, the Key Club Recording Company in Benton Harbor, Michigan, has since gone on to record with the Fiery Furnaces, Franz Ferdinand, and Wolf Eyes. When The Kills got there, it was a completely unknown studio. "Well, when there's something that you've imagined, and there are all these legends surrounding it, it kinda grows in size in your mind," Hince confided to Paste Magazine writer Tom Lanham. "But when I finally saw the console, my first reaction was … ‘It's really small!’ Because I'd built it up into this huge … thing with all this history around it. … But it sounded absolutely amazing."
Upon finding the console, the duo decided to make their second full-length album, No Wow, in Benton Harbor. The Kills recorded by themselves for roughly three and a half weeks, without any outside influences, not hard to do considering their location. "We're both shy and secretive," Mosshart said on the Domino Web site. "Which is why we don't need other people when we're working. We're just control freaks." The 2005 LP No Wow earned critical praise. "It's a record partially indebted to rock and roll's bluesy, raw roots," journalist James Montgomery wrote on MTV.com, "partially indebted to the grimy, gritty punk of the '70s and totally in love with the darker, sexier sides of both."
After touring for more than a year following the release of No Wow, The Kills left Rough Trade for the Domino Recording Company. They began work on their third album in Los Angeles, but ended up back in Benton Harbor for additional work. Little was heard from the enigmatic band in 2006 and 2007. Work for their third album was two years in the making, with lyrics written down here and there and loops made out of any sound possible. "We really wanted a record that sounded like 2008," Hince told Nylon writer April Long. "We talked a lot about how things had gotten so retro, and how everyone was just referencing bands from the past, and we wanted to get to a point where we weren't doing that." For this album, The Kills changed things up, getting more into the beats and rhythm than ever before. "I sort of decided on this record [that] I'd always been really lazy with rhythm," Hince told Erin Podolsky of the Detroit Free Press. "I'd always been too excited about coming up with guitar lines, so the rhythm had kind of been left behind. … And this time out, I thought I'd concentrate on rhythm because we never had before, and I got into this whole new world of writing drum beats."
In March of 2008, The Kills released Midnight Boom, one of their most insatiable discs to date. Within the loops, beats, and distorted guitar and raw vocals, Midnight Boom embraced more styles of music than the band had ever intended. The lo-fi garage-rock contained urban and soul rhythms and pulsing beats. "Whatever it is people call it—a chemistry, electricity, voodoo, whatever—that there is between two people … there is [more] between me and Alison," Hince told Podolsky.
At the time of the release of Midnight Boom, Hince and Mosshart shared a home in London, England. Hince was also rumored to be dating supermodel Kate Moss. The Kills set up their shared space in a Warhol-esque former art space that allowed them to be as chaotic and creative as they wanted to, at any time. "We have screaming matches with each other, but there's never any doubt that we're still going to be best friends on our deathbeds," Mosshart admitted to Long, about her relationship with Hince. "We fill in each other's blanks."
For the Record …
Members include Jamie Hince , guitar, vocals, drums, drum machine; Alison Mosshart , vocals, guitar.
Group formed in 2000 after meeting in a London hotel; wrote songs from London and Florida; released Black Rooster (Dim Mak, 2002); signed with Rough Trade, released Keep on Your Mean Side (2003) and No Wow, (2005); for Domino, released Midnight Boom, 2008.
Addresses: Record company—Domino Recording Company, 55 Washington St., Ste. 458, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Web site—The Kills Official Web site: http://www.thekills.tv.
Black Rooster, Dim Mak Records, 2002.
Keep on your Mean Side, Rough Trade, 2003.
No Wow, Rough Trade, 2005.
Midnight Boom, Domino Recording Company, 2008.
Nylon, February 2008.
Rolling Stone, May 15, 2003.
Black Rooster EP, Blender,http://www.blender.com/guide/reviews.aspx?id=525 (June 10, 2008).
"Five questions with Jamie Hince, guitarist for rock duo the Kills," Detroit Free Press,http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080501/ENT04/805010322/1039/ENT (June 10, 2008).
"The Kills," Domino Recording Company Official Web site, http://www.dominorecordco.com/site/index.php?page=artists&artistID=135 (June 10, 2008).
"The Kills: The Search for the Fabled Flickinger," Paste Magazine,http://www.pastemagazine.com/action/article/1467/feature/music/the_kills (June 10, 2008).
"The Kills Track Down Cursed Studio Gear For Dark New Album," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1500109/20050413/kills.jhtml?headlines=true (June 10, 2008).
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