The Kills have released a new video for deep-cut ‘Weed Killer’. See it first on NME below, as the band tell us about their new rarities compilation and work on new material.
‘Weed Killer’ is a B-side from 2009 and comes with electrifying footage from a New York club show in 2012. It’s taken from The Kills’ new B-sides compilation ‘Little Bastards’, collecting 20 songs from the 7” and CD singles the duo released between 2002-09 for their first three albums.
With Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince reunited after five months apart in lockdown, they told NME about plans for their first album since 2016’s ‘Ash And Ice’, how they love their songs they once hated, the future of Jack White supergroup The Dead Weather and why they miss overflowing gig venue toilets…
Hello Alison and Jamie. The new live video for ‘Weed Killer’ must make you miss playing shows…
Alison Mosshart: “It hurts my whole body. I miss playing and I miss seeing other bands play. It’s so much of an inspiration to get lost in someone else’s music and disappear in an audience, and I miss being onstage when I can share getting lost in music with everyone else. Not being able to do it is emotionally damaging.”
Jamie Hince: “I used to swear about the tourbus and being backstage. But I’d give anything right now to drink warm beer and eat warm sandwiches somewhere backstage with an overflowing toilet. I took the joy for granted.”
Why have you decided to release a B-sides compilation?
Jamie: “We were in the middle of making a new record when lockdown happened. I was in the headspace of ‘New music! Forward!’. When Domino Records’ boss Laurence Bell suggested the compilation, I thought it was a terrible idea at first. Nostalgia makes me shudder and I told him ‘What do you mean? Put out songs we recorded shittily on four-tracks 15 years ago?’ But the live aspect is vital for us. I love artists who are dropping stuff in lockdown and moving on, but I’ve always thought our records are a way to promote our shows, rather than the other way round. Putting an album out when we can’t tour it doesn’t make sense for us.”
Alison: “I was excited by the idea of ‘Little Bastards’, as I don’t sit around listening to our 7”s. Even to me, a lot of these songs felt quite vague. As soon as we put the first playlist of the compilation together, I was going ‘Oh yeah, I remember now! I really like that song!’
Jamie: “We put out so many B-sides at the time which are lost on streaming. You can barely find them anymore, and this is a good way to present them again.”
Alison: “I’m pleased it’s a B-sides compilation, not a Best Of. We’re not old enough for that. I feel like we’re still a baby band, even though it’s been 18 years.”
B-sides barely exist since streaming. What’s so special about them?
Alison: There’s a different creative freedom. It’s not a song for radio, so you can experiment, or give a home to that strange freak in the room that doesn’t fit anywhere else, but you still really want people to hear. We still do B-sides on 7”s, but we used to do four B-sides for CD singles. That was just crazy, because for every single you had to make a whole new mini-album.”
Jamie: “I’d rail against that at the time. ‘Passion Is Accurate’ was about having to be mathematical about your passion, having to roll yet another song out. I thought B-sides were corporate music industry conveyer-belt shit. It made me so mad, but I love it now. Some real magic and unexpected great music came out of having to do songs in such a short time. I’d thought ‘Half Of Us’ was a complete failure, my voice stupid and weak when I’d all these epic ideas for the song. I hear it now and think ‘That’s great!’ It’s like looking at old photos of yourself and thinking ‘The clothes are stupid, but it’s still cool’.”
Looking back to 18 years ago, when did you realise The Kills had taken off?
Jamie: We never took off in a massive way. We never went for trying to get a mega hit, because we wanted to be a band like Fugazi, who made their lives into their art and their art into their lives. I remember writing songs in Alison’s kitchen, talking about our heroes like Iggy Pop. Then you’re at Coachella, with Ian Mackaye from Fugazi giving you a hug at the side of the stage and going to dinner with Iggy Pop. Those are the things where I feel ‘Oh my God, I’ve peaked here’!”
Jamie, you’ve hardly done anything away from The Kills since the band started. Why not?
Jamie: “The Kills isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it’s definitely my focus. Alison creates a lot and she needs outlets for it, whereas I’m slower and more deliberate. I’m aware I don’t need to do more.”
Whereas you’re also in The Dead Weather, Alison. What’s happening with you, Jack White, Dean Fertita and Jack Lawrence?
Alison: “Nothing. Everybody is everywhere, at the same time as everything has stopped. Jack White is in Nashville, Dean is recording a Queens Of The Stone Age record, so all the things that are on pause will immediately resume when they can. None of us are free and that seems to happen most of the time with The Dead Weather. But that’s the weird magic of the band. We’ll suddenly be in town in Nashville at the same time, so we’ll go in the studio and do something. It just hasn’t been that way for a number of years.”
How is work going on the new Kills album?
Jamie: “I wanted to make the focus on the songwriting. I didn’t want to restrict the songs by getting on the guitar and doing my thing. I’ve been writing without guitar a lot, to throw songs in a different direction. That’s been eye-opening. I’ve realised we can make a Kills record that sounds like us without the usual ways of making it. I’ve always wanted that to be the case.”
Alison: “I’ve written a lot on keyboard. I’ve learned I can’t play keyboard, but it’s still a great tool to write with. When we write, the songs usually direct us, as we hit on something and go ‘That’s where we need to go’. I don’t know what the thread is on these songs yet, but they all sound something new to me.”
Jamie: “I’m sick of self-producing. I’d like to work with a few people and there are names in the frame, but I can’t say who yet. There’s a new song called ‘Bullet Sound’ which is getting a pretty major reaction. I like the idea of beating that and we’re going to keep writing until we do.”
Has lockdown affected what you’re writing about?
Jamie: “Seven songs are about time, which is understandable right now.”
Alison: “Yeah, but we’ll edit that down. The automatic response is to write about what’s going on in the world, but we want to write a record for the future, not about a pandemic.”
Jamie: “Thinking about going back on the road, us and the audience will want to jump around. It’ll be ‘Thank God! We’re back out!’ You’ll be celebrating, so you can’t then play an introspective song about waiting around while the world is on pause. We want to make something incredibly uplifting.”
‘Little Bastards’ is out now on Domino.