Interview: Kill it Kid

Think you know Kill it Kid? Think again. The Bath outfit were barely out of their teens when they became the darlings of the music press on the release of their Americana-inspired debut album three years ago, being labelled as the latest additions to the ‘nu-folk’ scene. But now they’ve ditched the violins, brought in some samples of 1920s preachers, turned up the volume and made the raw, garage-blues rock record they always wanted. Frontman CHRIS TURPIN tells Chris Moriarty how frustration fuelled their reinvention.

Kill it Kid are a band that had to grow up fast. Signed just months after recording a demo as part of someone else’s college project, they were still wet behind the ears when they were jetted off to the USA to record their debut album — and still too young to play any gigs in the country.

“We were so young the first time round,” says Chris. “The first album did great, it got us acclaimed and press-wise we did really well out of it but we were a really young band. We’d only formed three months before we were signed so that didn’t give us the chance to really build up our own fan base so it felt like we’ve been constantly playing catch-up.”

Now at the grand old age of 23, frontman Chris Turpin feels they are finally coming of age as a band; and while it draws on the bluesmen of nearly a century ago, their sound has grown up too. Determined to shake off their unwanted folk tag, line-up changes and a rawer sound have steered Kill it Kid down a rockier path. “We got caught up with the nu-folk scene which we never really saw ourselves as. This new record has asserted the fact that that it’s not us, it’s much more of a garage, blues album. “Things have naturally changed and developed. We don’t have a violin player anymore. You’re instantly stereotyped as a band if you do have a violin player.

“There seems a lack of real bands right now which is frustrating and we got sick of playing with indie scene bands and being mis-billed really. This album has come out of that frustration.”

For Kill it Kid, it has been a case of looking back to help them move forward, taking inspiration from some vintage sounds and even sampling 1920s recordings of American preachers.

“It’s all born out of an interest in 1920s and 1930s acoustic country blues music. People like Mississipi McDowell and on the female side Steph [co-vocalist] liked people like Etta James.

“Our drummer is very much influenced by people like Ben Harper, Rage Against the Machine and Queens of the Stone Age which is where that energy comes from as well. The new record is very much similar to the Black Keys and the Dead Weather, that kind of sound.

“Really early on in my formative years, the early White Stripes material was a massive influence on me as well. We managed to meet Jack White at SXSW and it was a massive thing for me. People always warn you about meeting your heroes but he was an absolute gentleman.”

While it may feel to some that Kill it Kid dropped off the radar, Chris insists they have been working hard out of sight to create the album they wanted: “It’s just the nature of timeframes, this is literally as soon as we can get the album out,” he says. That forthcoming record, made with Brian Eno-collaborator Leo Abrahams on production duties, will once again be released in this country through hipster label One Little Indian Records while the ink is also drying on a deal for American release.

“We’re looking for October to release the album as you can’t release anything in the summer apparently. It’s so frustrating sometimes havingto wait. People think we’ve been sitting around when in reality these songs have been written now for about a year, we recorded it in December and already we’re moving on to other things.

“We’re really happy with it though. This whole album was a bit more focussed than album one. It was approached very differently, we had 10 days in the studio and 10 songs to record in those 10 days.

“We decided conceptually to take a lot of old 1920s Alan Lomax field recordings. Alan Lomax used to go around prison camps and fields recording local folk songs and teachings, so there’s 1920s Baptist preachers screaming across the album. We wanted to create something that’s not really been done before and build something quite unique and I think we’ve done that.

“We use the samples in the live sets as well and hearing preachers screaming at you through huge speakers can be quite an arresting experience. We haven’t recruited any live preachers yet though, maybe one day when the budget allows.”

Chris insists the development may come as a shock to some fans, while those hankering to hear much of their first album in their live shows these days may also be disappointed — although they still maintain the crucial male-female vocal interaction, with Chris and bandmate Stephanie Ward sharing vocal duties “more so than ever.”

“It’s an entirely different band if you listen to it. It’s going to shock a lot of our fans as it is so different to the first album. We were young and excited the first time, we just recorded what we had from the first four months of being in a band. There’s been a lot more creative direction this time around.

“We’ve been playing these songs now for the past six months. We’re not doing our fans many favours at shows at the moment as we’re not really playing any old stuff. We might do bits and pieces but it doesn’t really work anymore with the new material.”

But pleasing everyone has certainly not been Kill it Kid’s inten- tion on their sophomore album. In an era of over-produced pop music and fans “cherry picking albums from five second samples on iTunes,” Chris insists they have “created an album that hangs together as an album.”

“There’s three or four songs that are on there which are over four minutes which is commercial suicide if you listen to some people,” he adds. “We had to ignore some of the advice we were getting from the label. We didn’t want to compromise and put things on there just for radio play.”

Kill it Kid are live at the Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, on July 13.

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