The Kills have shared new single ‘103’ and announced details of their long-awaited sixth album ‘God Games’.
Last month, the duo comprised of vocalist Alison Mosshart and guitarist Jamie Hince, teased their new album with the release of a dual single ‘New York’/’LA Hex’. ‘New York’ saw the pair merging their trademark, gritty rock and roll sound with cinematic horns and rattling rhythm, while ‘LA Hex’ saw them layering warped trumpets and choral harmonies on top of a stuttering beat.
Today (August 30), along with the announcement of ‘God Games’ – their first album in seven years since 2016’s ‘Ashes & Ice‘ – the band have shared the album’s third single ‘103’, which Mosshart has described as a “dark twisted love song”. ‘103’ kicks in with pounding and crashing percussion, dizzying distorted guitars, and Mosshart musing over her experience driving back and forth from Los Angeles to Nashville during the pandemic, likening the heat she felt to an “apocalyptic vibe”.
The Kills have also shared the visuals for the track, which were shot in rock and fashion photographer Steven Sebring’s 3D film studio in New York City. In the video, Mosshart and Hince rotate under a blistering sun while donning tanning goggles and reflective suits, taking on the rising flames in stride. The album’s lead singles, much like the rest of the collection, see The Kills venturing into fresh sonic territory — the creative result of taking on a different approach in the studio.
“We had all these demos, and this record was burning a hole in us,” Mosshart told NME. They brought those demos to Grammy Award Winning producer Paul Epworth, a friend of the band who happened to be their first soundman back in 2002 and knew the duo when they just had “two amps, a lightbulb, and a couple of mics in a van”.
The three of them decamped in an old church, tracking much of what would become ‘God Games’. “We played it to Paul before we went in, and he was like, ‘You don’t need a producer, it’s done’,” Hince told us. “That was so great because it was the first time I could remember where we could record stress free and I never make it stress free. Just when we have something absolutely ready, I’ve decided it’s got to be brilliant.”
Mosshart added that the process of recording ‘God Games’ was quicker than their last three albums. “There was really no fussing,” she said. “We were just getting down great takes of everything. It felt good and exciting and it reminded me so much of making our first record.”
Hince, however, said the recording experience was “quite different” for him. “Frame of mind is a weird thing because we’re quite happy with the record,” he said. “When you look at it in retrospect you imagine all your faults, mistakes, hesitations, stresses and tantrums were all meant to be.” Heading into Sweetzerland studio in Los Angeles where the band tracked part of the album, Hince was “really stressed and terrified” noting that at that point only “five per cent” of the ‘God Games’ had guitar parts.
“I was terrified because there was so little guitar, but your experience was different,” he said to Mosshart adding that she “could sit on the sofa and listen to me coming up with things but I was scared”.
In the end, the added pressure lead to success. “I would hope that I’d be daring enough to do it again,” Hince said. “Being forced to make decisions on the spot rather than labouring these ideas over and over again. It came out really good.”
The Kills hoped that writing the first iteration of the album without a guitar would take their sound somewhere new. Hince convinced Mosshart to buy a $100 keyboard (which Mosshart noted she “cannot play”) and the instrument gave the band a new path of sound to travel down. “It was freeing because writing on a guitar, there’s so much rhythm that I was locked in to writing the same things,” she said. “So it was incredible to have this tool and just say, ‘I want that note or I want this note’. That was really different and I’ve never done that before.”
“It’s part of the journey of a band when you want to be a band forever,” Hince added, noting that writing songs with a keyboard instead of on guitar “was a really exciting starting point but a really terffiying ending point.”
Hince also taught himself how to use pro-tools software in the studio for this album. Being able to take on parts of the production process felt “really liberating” because he “didn’t have to be in that awful space where you have to describe with words what’s in your head”.
“It’s just a difficult task to do, especially when you’re talking to morons sometimes,” Hince added with a laugh. Mosshart agreed: “When you’re trying to relay a sound that you want it’s hard to do it without sharing an example of something that already exist. That’s immediately a stopping point when you’re trying to convey the thing that’s in your head that you haven’t heard before.”
The new approach to songwriting and recording gave the duo more space to stretch their creativity – allowing them to make an album that wasn’t derivative of other bands, or even themselves. Hince called the original nature of ‘God Games’ “a happy accident”.
“It’s not a deliberate choice to not sound like anybody or not sound like anything else that’s going on,” he explained. “One of the first things that excited me on the album was ‘LA Hex’. It came from me standing in the street corner in LA at 2am trying to get home and hearing all these cars passing. You’d hear trap music in one car, and the other way, you’d hear mariachi music and then the other way you’d hear some rock and roll.
“I loved that cacophony and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to make a song like that?’ In a way, it’s five elements that are really genre-specific but mixing them up was liberating. It had gone somewhere I didn’t expect.”
Though they’ve been releasing music since the American-English duo formed back in 2001, with each new release there is still a desire to push themselves to “the max out point” according to Mosshart. “You’ve dug and dug, and that’s why you’re like, ‘I’m not going to release this record until that point’. It never gets easier, and that’s what’s so much fun about it. It’s not easy it’s terrifying and that’s exciting.”
“That’s the world now,” Hince added. “You feel panicked, like if you don’t have an album out, no one knows you’re there. As time goes on you become more concerned about it. But there’s this strange magic that I can’t understand or explain when you’re up against something and feel like, ‘This is do or die, and this has got to be incredible.’ You don’t sit down and say ‘I’m going to write a song that I absolutely love’. But when you’re up against panic, those things happen.”
When asked how they think they’ll feel once ‘God Games’ is out in the world, Mosshart said: “I’ll be very relieved I know I’ll probably sleep better at night,” adding, “I’ll just generally be a much healthier person,” with a laugh. “We were on tour for three years for [‘Ash & Ice’] then we were about to start recording and there was the pandemic. We finished recording this record last November so it feels like a long time coming.”
She continued: “Now we finally get to get going again and thankfully, I still really love it. It’s going to be great to have it out there and have people listen to it. We can finally go and play.”
‘God Games’ is out on October 27 via Domino Records. Check out the tracklist below. The band will also play a special Halloween album launch show at PRYZM in Kingston, London
‘Going to Heaven’
‘Love and Tenderness’
‘My Girls My Girls’