Alison Mosshart of The Kills is always creating something, whether it’s painting in the middle of a crowded room or singing on another artist’s album. The fifth record from her British-American garage duo is nearly, almost, possibly done. Two years ago, vocalist Mosshart and guitarist Jamie Hince began work on a follow-up to 2011’s Blood Pressures. But other projects and interests slowed their momentum.
“We’re getting there. We’re almost done with the next one, I swear,” Mosshart promised during a recent interview in New York. “It should be coming out at some point. I think we only have a couple of months of work to do. That’s not to say when we will get those couple of months, but it’s coming along.”
Hince, from London, and Mosshart, a Florida native, usually take several years to make a record, often starting on both sides of the Atlantic, and this was no different. At long last, fans will have a chance to listen to some of The Kills’ new tunes this summer on a three-month cross-country tour, beginning July 25 in Seattle.
“We’ve been playing the same songs for four years [and] I’m ready for some new blood,” Mosshart says.
The duo wants the new album to be a departure from Blood Pressures, and while Mosshart has trouble explaining their new bearing, she says it begins with altered percussion, and the possible introduction of several session drummers, after years of pushing the boundaries of drum machines.
“The only thing to do at this point is to…have actual human people drumming,” she says. “Which is super exciting, except then Jamie is absolutely going to fuck it up beyond control and…it won’t sound human.”
Mosshart credits Hince for being the primary driver behind The Kills’ constant sonic growth. The British guitarist is always tinkering with how to alter the duo’s sound and create different textures and atmospheres, all while not changing the essence of the band.
She is pleased how, as diverse as their records have been, alternating between lo-fi, garage and blues rock—from Blood Pressures, to 2008’s Midnight Boom, 2005’s No Wow and 2003’s debut Keep on Your Mean Side—on stage, the duo’s songs blend together seamlessly.
“That’s how it’s supposed to be, but I’m allowed to be surprised by it because I’m so close to the process and what we went through for every single record,” she says. “Every time, you have to push yourself really far from your comfort zone, and somehow it snaps back to this place that makes perfect sense. It’s a process I couldn’t even write an essay about because it’s so confusing. It takes everything out of us.”
By late June, The Kills had completed 10 songs and were looking for two more. Mosshart acknowledges that she and Hince might still alter everything they have written beyond recognition in post-production, and she won’t settle on an aural depiction of the new songs. She is, however, able to compare them to a work of art, something she knows a little about.
“If it was a painting, it would be incredibly complex and it would take four years to paint,” she says. “I would stare at it in the museum and think, ‘I don’t know how they did that.’ I would be one inch away from it, wondering, ‘What brush? What paint? How did it happen? What is that?’”
Mosshart has been interested in art for as long as she can remember. Her mother, a high school art teacher, entertained her with pens, paints, markers and paper. She would sit in one place and work on her projects for hours at a time.
Art was her way of socializing, and to this day, she says, she would rather paint than talk.
“If I’m at a party, and there are lots of people running around, you’ll most likely find me on the floor, painting. … I want to be at the party, but I want to do something,” she says. “I’m just not very idle, at all.”
Until recently, her artwork was viewable only by herself, her friends and her family, who recommended that she should start sharing the pieces. One year ago, the Joseph Gross Gallery in New York offered Mosshart her own show. The gallery selected 127 pieces out of the 350 she offered.
“Most of it is work on paper; it’s not massive,” she says. “It’s suitcase-size art.”
Mosshart took a total of three years to complete the work. Last year, after being offered the exhibition, she rented a studio in Nashville, and began to expand her creativity to canvas paintings.
“It was a relatively new thing for me, because you don’t just bring canvases with you on the bus,” she says.
The exhibition, titled Fire Power, ran from June 18-July 11. Her works featured exaggerated drawings of people with multiple faces, evoking various moods and possibly altered states, as well as abstract art created using a toy car to create skid marks on canvas.
“I do always want to be creating something; I can’t help it,” she says. “I don’t know why that is, but I’m certainly not gonna knock it now, at the age of 36. It seems to be working.”
Mosshart, of course, also splits her time between The Kills and the Dead Weather (the latter band has a new album, Dodge & Burn, scheduled for release in September), and has been involved in a number of recent one-off projects, such as contributing vocals to the solo album from Stooges guitarist James Williamson, and The Walking Dead soundtrack, as well as recording a song with the musical director of Sons of Anarchy and his band (and filming a video starring several actors from the show).
“It’s fun and super exciting to see how other people work, how other people write music and how other people put things together,” she says. “To me it’s an endless learning process, and I love doing it because everybody works so completely differently.”
In a way, Mosshart and Hince are still learning how to make music together. It’s much more difficult to do so as a duo than a traditional four-piece band that can play and find the answers simultaneously.
“It’s so funny how complex it can get when there are only two people,” Mosshart acknowledges. “With us, you add a little bit, you add a little bit, you add a little bit; you scrap the whole thing. You change this, you change the sound of that, you work, and you work, and you work, and you work, and you’re piling things up and taking them away. It’s kind of baffling.”
The Kills Tour Dates
—Seattle, Wash. @ Capitol Hill Block Party 27
—Los Angeles, Calif. @ El Rey 28
—Pomona, Calif. @ Glass House 31
—Montreal, Quebec @ Osheaga Music and Arts Festival
1—Detroit, Mich. @ St. Andrew’s Hall
3—Minneapolis, Minn. @ First Avenue
5—Denver, Colo. @ Ogden Theatre
6—Salt Lake City, Utah @ Twilight Concert Series (Pioneer Park)
8—Portland, Ore. @ Roseland Theatre
9—Squamish, B.C. @ Squamish Valley Music Festival
23—Philadelphia, Pa. @ Union Transfer
24—Brooklyn, N.Y. @ Warsaw
27—Washington D.C. @ Landmark Festival