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The Kills are a British-American indie rock band formed by American singer Alison Mosshart (“VV”) and English guitarist Jamie Hince (“Hotel”). They are signed to Domino records and their first four albums, Keep On Your Mean Side, No Wow, Midnight Boom, and Blood Pressures all reached the UK album chart. Ash & Ice, their fifth and most recent studio album was released on June 3, 2016 and reached the UK Top 20 album chart.
Both Mosshart and Hince played in other bands before they formed The Kills in 2001. Mosshart was previously the vocalist of Floridian punk rock band Discount, while Hince featured in the British rock bands Fiji, Scarfo and Blyth Power. Mosshart encountered Hince when her band was touring England where “he was staying in the flat upstairs from where I was staying” in London. Mosshart insisted on forming a band with Hince and “really persisted, and eventually we started writing and he encouraged me”. Hince supplied her with a four-track tape recorder and insisted she write music as well as lyrics while on tour with her band. The two continued to exchange music ideas by sending each other tapes. Discount disbanded in 2000, and Mosshart moved to London in the same year. Before settling on a name, Mosshart and Hince performed as “VV” and “Hotel”, respectively, Hince explaining that they “named each other off the top of our heads as a stupid romantic ode to the pop art scene”. The duo opted for The Kills as it “sounded like a band that could exist in any decade”.
Using the ideas on the tapes, Mosshart and Hince began to write minimalist songs with the aid of a drum machine. In 2001 they showcased their new songs on a demo tape; however, the pair shunned approaches from major record labels. Recording as VV and Hotel, they contributed the song “Restaurant Blouse” to the compilation If the Twenty-First Century Did Not Exist, It Would Be Necessary to Invent It. Shortly after this they recorded their debut release, the Black Rooster EP, which saw release on British indie label Domino Records and was picked up for distribution by Dim Mak Records in the United States.
It was lo-fi in both musical and aesthetic terms. The record sleeve featured photos of Mosshart and Hince taken in a photo booth rather than professional photography. Musically, the record was a sparse, lo-fi garage rock/blues hybrid. Though the band cites Captain Beefheart, PJ Harvey, LCD Soundsystem, The Velvet Underground, The Fall, Patti Smith, Suicide and Royal Trux as immediate influences, the music press has largely compared them to The White Stripes.
Keep on Your Mean Side
Following international touring, they entered Toe Rag Studios, where the White Stripes had recorded their album Elephant, to record their debut album Keep on Your Mean Side, mostly on 8-track, in just 2 weeks. Distributed in the US and UK by Rough Trade Records, the album was similar in style to the EP, veering from the Velvets-esque stomp of “Wait” to the noisy, dirty garage punk blues of “Fuck the People” and dark psychedelia of “Kissy Kissy”. The record was well received by the music press, though the White Stripes comparisons would not go away.
Maintaining an anti-careerist, anti-music industry attitude, the band rarely granted interviews. Instead, they got the music press to come to them with their live shows (which also included the drum machine). Mosshart chain-smoked while singing, rarely speaking to the audience; at a New York City show following the ban on public smoking, Mosshart went on stage with three bottles of water, lit up a cigarette and proceeded to smoke constantly from the first song to the last note of the set. In 2004 Mosshard and Hince bought a house together in Dalston.
In 2005, “Monkey 23” was used in “De battre mon cœur s’est arrêté”, the film by Jacques Audiard. It played over the closing credits. It was also featured in season three of Peaky Blinders (TV series).
In 2006, “Wait” was used in Children of Men, the film by Alfonso Cuarón. It was played on Radio Avalon and described as “a blast from the past all the way back to 2003, that beautiful time when people refused to accept the future is just around the corner”.