Exposure: Kill it Kid
- John Johnson
- 25 August 2009
Kill it Kid - Date It The Day (Toe Rag Version)
Their Americana twang will leave you feeling like you’ve ended up in deepest, darkest Alabama, especially when singer Chris Turpin’s melancholic roar booms across the room and keyboardist Stephanie Ward’s voice stands in opposition, but Kill It Kid’s roots in deepest, darkest Bath means that there’s a strong cider country heart beating at the centre of it all. I caught up with Chris before the band’s UK tour takes them to Glasgow.
How did you five meet?
We met University where four-fifths of the us where studying music. Me and Adam started Kill It Kid as a two piece acoustic blues outfit, and first we met Rich after we asked him to do sessions for us on some recordings we were doing. Steph joined in after she had asked me to play guitar behind her for a jazz viva she was putting on. I also met Marc relatively early, he approached me after show at The Porter in Bath and a couple of weeks later he was playing a few shows with me! It made sense to bring everyone together, so about Febuary 08 we formed Kill It Kid the five-piece, then four shows and four months later One Little Indian picked us up.
The Americana sound isn't something exactly native to Bristol/Bath area. How did you discover it?
I was very interested in the garage scene that came out of Detroit. Bands like The Kills and The Von Bondies. I read the name Robert Johnson in an interview somewhere and found myself next to a CD of Robert Johnson's entire recorded collection for a fiver in HMV. This was the first link in a long trail that led through to Blind Willie McTell to Bob Dylan to Gram Parsons to Johnny Cash to Tom Waits to John Prine and now bands like The Low Anthem. Delta and Ragtime Blues was the music I really fell for, as Steph did with singers like Bessie Smith. In fact my first ever show was when I was 15 and I remember playing Blind Blake in an industrial estate warehouse to a crowd of metal heads in Swafham! You’d be surprised how well ragtime country blues goes down in Swafham's progressive metal community.
What do you love about it so much?
Taking a very mundane thing and making it meaningful. And it's very honest music. It’s extremely powerful, with a character simply saying his piece. A lot of these songs are first person monologues and there's a simplicity and sincerity in the writing that I think is now harder to find in a lot of popular music. 'Wedding Bells' by Hank Williams is a song that comes to mind.
Even though playing this traditionally American style of music, there's a very British sensibility to it. Was that something you tried to work on?
There was nothing we intentionally tried to 'make British' about it. We really made an effort to make it relevant to us and what we wanted to hear, not to rehash what has gone before and hopefully make something credible and viable next to modern British-scene indie bands, that was distinctly ours.
Tell us about your debut album. What was the process and are you happy with what you've got?
As we've said before, we had about five months to put the album together. We were picked up by our label at such an early point in the band's development that what people will hear on the record is literally what we had at the birth of the band. We had no opportunity to over-think or obsess over what we had, its what the five of us were doing at that point in time. This makes the release of the record a real blessing but also a daunting prospect to see how it was received. We were only ever out to please ourselves.
The romanticism of the Midwest was very appealing to me at the time some of the songs were being written. We took from unfashionable and outmoded performers like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and June Carter and Blind Willie McTell and Ruth Willis which felt relevant to me and Stephanie, but took care to avoid kitsch. But with our rhythm section it is a lot heavier and more raucous than any of the above musicians suggests.
The actual record took about a month to record and produce in all. It was a pleasure to work with Ryan Hadlock. Having the support and friendship from someone who’s worked with such great acts at this stage of the band is unbelievable. Having only been a band for about a year and a bit it was very surreal to be flown out to Seattle to record our first album. Being in the same studio as the Fleet Foxes, James Brown, The Strokes and The Foo Fighters have recorded was quite humbling. Also getting the album master by Gavin Lurrsen who did the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, a couple of Tom Waits records, Johnny Cash hits, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Ben Harper and Loretta Lynn is just crazy. We know we still have a lot to learn but at that point in time, we were proud of what we put down. It seems like it’s very early days for us still and that’s quite an exciting feeling.
Your favourite track on there right now?
I think my favourite right now is the last track on the album. It is called 'Taste the Rain', it was the newest song written and the last song we recorded and a lot was left up to chance. It used a completely different set up to the other tracks. On our last day we rebuilt Marc's drum kit, taped it with a tambourines and built it out of kick drum, toms and towered symbols. We spent an early morning rehearsing it and finished it in two or three takes.
If you could explain a night with Kill it Kid you would say...
Plenty of hoarse singing and giggling. And we have been known to play scrabble until 5am.
Kill it Kid play Oran Mor, Glasgow, Sat 8 Aug