“I’ve gotta warn you,” yelled Alison “VV” Mosshart, the co-vocalist and one half of the post-punk duo The Kills. “It’s really loud here; I’m trying to hide from the noise. [Our set] was really good,” she continued, “and the audience was amazing and rambunctious.” Talking to Mosshart in between sets at the Monolith Festival (held annually at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado) was a problematic venture at best. Cell reception was splotchy, and feedback created by a screaming crowd and blaring bands roared over the telephone line throughout our chat. But regardless of it all, Mosshart was able to share some basic Kills history, her thoughts on American audiences, and the artistically rewarding agony of writing and engineering the band’s latest offering, Midnight Boom.
Due in part to the enthusiastic reception of their Denver performance (which could still be heard long after the duo had left the stage), Mosshart felt inclined to comment on the difference between urban and rural crowds. “In big cities, kids are too cool to show much excitement,” she explained. “Small places are wilder. Sometimes an audience will really study us, [and] I don’t mind-I love performing. I’m in my own world, so it doesn’t matter,” she concluded before wandering outside of cell range and losing the call.
When Mosshart called back, the topic of discussion quickly changed from her audience to the release of Midnight Boom, which has been quite commonly regarded as the band’s most commercially successful release to date. “The vision certainly was not to make a more commercial record,” Mosshart promised. “We planned a few things; we wanted to push everything vocally and experiment with the drums. We wrote for more than one year in a studio in Michigan, and wrote every day. What we really liked was this sound we didn’t recognize; it was a bit more ugly. The drum thing wasn’t the emphasis. We tried to do something [that was] a little different for us. It was an entirely fun experience.” When asked to elaborate on her definition of “ugly,” Mosshart explained, “When you feel confident, or safe, or comfortable, the art isn’t challenged. But if it doesn’t seem recognizable, it’s exciting and nervous. It has its own energy and is important. You come to terms with what is in you; it’s scary and ugly : like putting on an ugly dress. You know you’ll piss people off.”
She went on to explain, “We’re very happy with [Midnight Boom]. But every time you finish a record, you think, ‘I could write something else a thousand times better!’ It’s totally something different when you play live, though. And that’s the beauty of [recording].”
Mosshart and her bandmate, Jamie “Hotel” Hince (vocals, guitar), met in London in 2000. Since then, the duo have been noted for having a certain raw energy onstage, something Mosshart attributes to “being excited about art and performing.”
“I guess [the energy] started when Jamie and I met each other,” she went on to explain. “We met where I was staying in this flat. He lived upstairs and I could hear him playing his guitar and thought, ‘He’s fucking awesome.’ I was in another band [Discount] and was ready to leave anyway. Jamie and I had the same music taste. So I went on tour with my other band, taught myself how to play guitar, and came back with this four-track. It was like a sound collage, really, and Jamie was part of that.”
“So I moved back to Florida,” Mosshart continued. “I left my band and returned to London to play with Jamie.” And the rest, as they say, is history. Three critically acclaimed albums later, The Kills have found themselves touring the country alongside The Raconteurs. Together with the supergroup-which features Jack White of the White Stripes, Brendan Benson, and several members of the indie garage blues-rock-revival sensation The Greenhornes-The Kills will hit the Santa Barbara Bowl this Thursday, September 25. And even though tickets went on sale at the beginning of the summer, anyone who thought they missed their chance to purchase a pair will be delightfully surprised the show has yet to sell out completely.
The Kills open for The Raconteurs at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Thursday, September 25, at 7 p.m. For tickets and information, call 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com.