Sharp guitars and snarling vocals stick out of the Kills’ prickly garage rock.
But guitarist and sometime vocalist Jamie Hince (a.k.a. Hotel) explained the detailed-oriented duo attack every track drums-first.
“Every song I write always starts with rhythm,” said Hince. “The way I play guitar is as a very rhythmic instrument, and for me percussion saturates everything.”
This attention to percussive detail is amplified in the band’s new disc, Midnight Boom. Though it’s the first time Hince really experimented with detailed drum arrangements, he’s a big fan of dance remixes of rock tracks. However, he’s always felt “working as a rock and roll band, we’re a bit uptight about letting loose on dance music.”
Despite reservations with four-on-the-floor beat-making, Hince’s tinkering paid off. Rather than layering melodies over top percussion, Alison (VV) Mosshart’s vocals and Hince’s guitar stabs work between beats pushed to the front of the mix.
“(On Midnight Boom) the guitar lines were written really sparsely to fill up the space between the drums — to have the guitar works around the drums,” said Hince. “Before, the guitar just sort of sat loudly on top of them.”
While percussive arrangements are a new focus, the Kills have long been interested in quirky drum sounds, blending loops with live bass kicks. Even when working with samples, the Kills aim for a blend of organic and electronic: Similar to the flat crunch of Queens Of The Stone Age’s track I’m Designer, Hince processed real drum hits to sound like a retro sampler.
“I’ve always spent a lot of time programming drums and getting samples,” he said. “Sometimes I played real drums on top, like using a bass drum … (I would) never use obvious drum machine sounds, like those on an 808. (I wanted) to try and make the drum kit sound like a weird old drum machine.”
For the new disc, the duo recruited producer Alex Epton (Armani XXXchange from Spank Rock) to polish the beats. On board for a couple months after the Kills had spent a year and a half recording, Epton added the final percussive flourishes.
“He was really keen to come in and put his mark on it,” said Hince. (He wanted) live drums, a full live band, but that’s not what we wanted … (Instead) he worked a lot on editing — on moving the bass drum a few milliseconds to get a totally different feeling. He’s great at that.”