Life under lockdown isn’t so different for Alison Mosshart. The Kills‘ frontwoman – also of The Dead Weather – has been hunkered down in her Nashville residence for the past two months, flexing every creative muscle in her body as a means to combat quarantine-induced boredom. “I’m so lucky that I ended up getting trapped here,” she tells NME from her home-turned-workshop, “because this is where my studio is, my art supplies and guitars… everything.”
For the most part, it’s business as usual. But Mosshart, who’s happiest living out of a suitcase, flitting between Los Angeles and Tennesse’s Music City, has found that the enforced extra downtime offers a rare opportunity to reflect – having been out on the road for almost 25 years. She’s also shared her first-ever solo material amid these trying times, a result of digging through her extensive archives of unreleased songs. Out today (May 13), new track ‘It Ain’t Water’ serves as the B-side to new single ‘Rise‘, and comes with a video made by Mosshart herself.
The cut is somewhat symptomatic of Mosshart’s time in isolation, which she says has been “just a lot of drinking and talking to myself”. In one verse, she sings: “I set a place at the table, and become my own stranger”, while expressing the disorientating, hazy feeling of days rolling into each other (“Today becomes tomorrow”). “Very ‘now’, man,” she says of the lyrics’ newfound relevance. “It feels very ‘now’ for me.” On the flipside, the “empowering” ‘Rise’ – penned about desperately missing a loved one – presents a glimmer of hope that we’ll make it through to the other side, set against a slab of crunching desert rock.
Mosshart also spoke to NME about life in lockdown, progress on The Kills’ next record, and her dreams of returning to the road eventually.
What’s the latest with The Kills?
“Me and Jamie are in the middle of writing a record. If we’re ever allowed to see one another again and I can go back to LA, that would be ideal. We’ve just been writing and demoing and stuff, so we’ve got about three or four tracks that we’re really into – and then a tonne of other ones that are just in rotation that we’re working on. They sound different, but everyone will probably think they sound like us.”
Have you managed to progress with the record during isolation?
“Well, we’re doing it. But I have to say, this is just the weirdest time on Earth. I mean, it’s just such a strange energy. I’ve been really trying to find my feet with writing music throughout this. Things that are coming really easy to me are making videos, painting, drawing pictures and reading – reading so much. I feel like I’m going back to school in a weird way. It’s like: study, read, practise this or that. My brain is really wanting that kind of stuff right now.
“But I work on music every night. I kept thinking this is gonna psychological and emotional phases this whole time. And I feel like that in the last couple of weeks, it’s my guitar that I really wanna pick up.”
You both seem to use your limitations as a tool, working with just the gear at your fingertips…
“Well, all the songs start out pretty simple; it’s usually me and an acoustic guitar. I’ve been messing around with the keyboard lately, which is hilarious because I don’t know how to play a keyboard – but I’m learning. Jamie’s been taking piano lessons online and he’s having so much fun. We’re always trying to use things that we don’t particularly use, even if it’s just to write the song. It might not end up on the record but it kinda sparks different ideas. Whatever I have to hit, smash and make noise with in my house – I’m gonna use it.”
Previous record ‘Ash & Ice’ felt like a big departure – you introduced new genres and brought extra musicians to the shows. Can we expect a similar thing for album number six?
“I don’t know what we’re gonna do next time. The recording and the record will dictate that. I really like having a drummer behind my body onstage; it’s like this incredible force pushing me forward. It’s a nice feeling, rather than the drums coming out of the speakers at your face. Well, they were both happening the whole fucking time.”
The Kills’ 20th anniversary is looming – do you plan on celebrating?
“People keep saying that. It’s looming; it’s two years looming. I have a tattoo on the side of my hand from the very first day we played a show. That was Valentines Day 2002, so we’ve got two years. By 2022 I think we’re gonna be in a lot better shape and I really hope that we can be playing shows and really celebrating that. It feels like a thousand years away when I think of it like that, but it’s something to look forward to at least.”
Do you think we’ll be in a gig-free world for the long haul?
“I think it’s gonna change things for a long period of time, yeah. Listening and reading about all of the re-opening strategies and stuff, it really is like the very, very last phase, to have crowds anywhere. Maybe there’ll be other types of things where you have smaller venues and cooler, weirder events with like 10 people and a camera live-streaming. I think we have to get inventive. I’m not really super-into just [live-streamed performances]. I’m not finding it ultimately satisfying to watch people performing on my phone.”
Instagram Live sessions don’t seem very ‘Kills’…
“It just lacks energy and adrenaline; it’s very much a solo mission. Who knows, my mind might change. There might be some kind of thing where that suddenly clicks with me, but I like being in a room with people. I will do everything in my power to prepare myself for really going on the road again. That’s just my favourite thing in the world. It’s gonna be hard to replace that.”
How has self-isolation changed you?
“I keep saying, being home is like being on an adventure to me because I really don’t feel like I’ve been home in 24 years. So it’s like, ‘Wow, what is this life? This is really fucking crazy’. I have a lot to catch up on. Being home has been interesting because I’ve been face-to-face with basically the artefacts of my whole life. They are everywhere, and I can at least live through a whole shit tonne of memories that I forgot that I even had.”
Do you think we’ll become more united after this?
“God, I really hope so. But I have no idea what this is really doing to people, or if we’re just gonna get over this and go back to the shitty way that we were before. I hope not; I hope it changes us for the better. I’ve noticed during this that I can’t stop fucking waving at people. I wave at everybody – I wave at anything! I stop to notice everything; I have so much more patience. There’s never been anything that we’ve all shared so much. Something’s gotta come of that.”
How would you describe the mood in the US right now?
“It’s really scary. I’m trying to find silver linings, you know. All these governors, mayors and local governments are coming out and being incredible. Not all of them, there are a lot of problems. But you have these rising voices that make sense and they give a shit. It’s nice because on a general day you don’t hear those voices. You just hear that one horrible fucking voice. I really hope he [Trump] goes away.”
And stops telling people to drink disinfectant…
“Yeah. He’s the biggest dick of all time, he truly is.”
Do you hold out hope for the upcoming election?
“I believe that things can change, so I hope that they do. All of us are like, ‘Well, we were tricked the first time’. We didn’t think that could ever, ever happen – and it did. So there’s that trauma and fear that it could happen again, but I think nothing would be worse for us if it did. We can’t handle any more of it.”
Alison Mosshart releases ‘Rise’ as a 7″ single on July 31. Pre-order it here.