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The Kills.

THE KILLS ARE THE TRANS-ATLANTIC DUO known by their eccentric stage names VV and Hotel and for their ingenious interpretation of lo-fi bluesy rock 'n' roll. Six years ago, after their respective bands Discount and Scarfo disbanded, the two held themselves up in a space no larger than a bedroom closet with only a metronome, a drum machine, and one amp. Both minimalist and extremist, they were determined to create an aesthetic movement where art was all consuming and mediocre wasn't an option. They emerged and took to the road to inspire a rebellious progressive spirit unmatched since the Velvet Underground or Sonic Youth. With a handful of exceptional releases and three years of almost constant touring, there are no signs of this couple stopping. In person, they're wonderful conversationalists that are modest about their achievements and passionate about their artistic pursuits.

No Wow is the title of your second and most recent release. It's a reference to the information overload we experience every day. Do you make an effort to shelter yourselves from certain pop culture to keep your work pure or do you need to have a handle on what the masses are consuming to have an idea of how to go against the grain?

VV: I think we instinctually do the things that inspire us and stay away from the things that will bore us to death, and there is quite a lot that bores us to death. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about. I know when I feel like I'm being affected by something, I'll walk away from it. People naturally protect themselves from what they don't want to become.

Keep On Your Mean Side and the Black Rooster EP (Dim Mak) were both written slowly and laboriously with the exchange of tapes each of you made for the other and sent back and forth across the Atlantic. This record was written in two weeks in Michigan. What made all the difference?

Hotel: The idea of shutting out the world came really naturally. There was absolutely nothing to do in Benton Harbor. It's like a ghost town. We had been on tour for a year and hadn't written a song. I felt like a Charlatan trying to write a song when I didn't feel it. We had taken thousands of photographs and written books and books of journals and that's what we surrounded ourselves with. These things were our wallpaper and furniture and we made a little world out of it.

VV: When we got there, there was a relief to finally get the headspace we needed and took advantage of it. Even when we were finished with the record we didn't want to stop. We went home and kept writing.

Your shows are more than just a concert or a performance; there's something at stake when you're on stage. What is it?

Hotel: When we started off in my basement writing we always felt like it was us against the world and we've never lost that feeling. Music is a really weird place to be--I mean, on one hand it's a life or death thing, on the other hand it's completely ridiculous in the context of the world. It killed Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis ,Joplin. There is a place in my heart that knows it's absurd, but I'm more on the side of it being life or death. That's what it's like when we play.

Tell me about the connection you had when you first met?

Hotel: She had moved into my building with her band, but we met when she came up to me in a bar near our place. She said hello and turned bright red and walked away. Someone later told me she was a singer and I just laughed that a person who didn't have the courage to speak could be a singer in a band. When I saw her live she was incredible. I hadn't seen anything like that it before. With other singers you can tell they have learned and taken from the history of music. With her it was like there was no history. Performing to her was a gut reaction and completely natural. It was like the performance began off stage when she was trying to socialize.

Where are you most comfortable, the studio, on stage, or at home?

VV: On stage, it's that moment that I wait for all day to release any bad shit I have in me. It is the most now thing; you can't rewind and fix it.

Hotel: I love creating something that can be listened to and receiving that response back from the label and listeners, but live you get that immediate response in an hour. Live is a different experience where nerves turn into adrenaline, giving you goose bumps. When people record they tend to add more comforts. We don't want any comforts.

VV: We do the exact opposite when we're recording; we take away all comforts, even sleeping.

Hotel: I want to be stressed out when I'm recording. I want to be volatile, uncomfortable, and claustrophobic. I want some sense of fear in the music.

Do you see yourselves doing anything else or is this it?

Hotel: This is it. Right now. Right here.

VV: You find something you love so much that really challenges and inspires you at the same time and when that stops happening then you obviously are going to change things. I don't feel like I'm very good yet, I haven't even started, so it's really exciting for me. I don't think I'll get bored anytime soon until I become a fucking genius and I don't see that happening any time soon.

Do you have any milestones you've set or are you living more day-by-day?

Hotel: When we started off we had a bunch of things we wanted to achieve and without sounding arrogant we achieved them pretty quickly. That's not saying how great we are, but rather how small our expectations were. We wanted a Peel Session; our name on one of those fliers advertising a club, to make a record and that was about it. Well we also wanted to meet Sonic Youth and that was a total disaster.

VV: We met them another time and it wasn't so bad.

Hotel: The first time was tragic. We read this interview that said they'd like to go on tour with us. So I thought they would be aware of what we looked like, so I went up to Thurston Moore, and said, "Hey I just wanted to say I think your band is amazing and has been a big inspiration" and he says, "Cool" and that's it. So I kind of got thrown by this and started rummaging in my bag looking for my cigarettes, and then I realized we were in New York and I couldn't smoke indoors, so I was just fake rummaging. He thought I was looking for a pen for an autograph and he says, "You ain't got a pen?" It was really mortifying. I just headed for the door.
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Author:Locks, Jesse
Article Type:Interview
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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