Kill to Kill on their reunion after a three-year hiatus
Rock trio Kill to Kill might just be the anti-buzz band. After forming in 2007, the band built a devoted fan base via their intense live shows and eventually joined Guilt Ridden Pop's diverse roster. In 2009, they released their debut EP Fighter and Gimme Noise called Kill to Kill a band to watch. Employing no traditional electric guitar, they're comprised of drums, bass/baritone guitar, the fairly rare Bass VI, and the raw, emotive vocals of Sylvia Izabella.
Primed to record an anticipated full-length and plotting a national tour, the band split late summer 2010 when Izabella suddenly moved to New York. But in late spring, hints of a reunion were dropped on their Facebook page. Rather than creating any hoopla, they appeared in town for two brief four-song warm-up performances, revealing that Sylvia had in fact returned to the Cities to reform the band.
Gimme Noise met up with Izabella on a rainy afternoon at the Black Forest Inn, where she works as a cook, along with Bass VI player Chad Weber and drummer Joe Gaskill, to talk about the band's return, their unique sound and their first full-set performance this Friday, June 21 at Nomad for the Mouth by Mouthwest Benefit show. Despite Izabella's self-proclaimed shyness, the three chatted and laughed freely about their back story and mishaps over beers, bread and jam.
Gimme Noise: Let's start at the beginning, when you two -- Chad and Sylvia -- first met at the guitar store in 2006...
Chad: So Sylvia came into Encore and asked for a capo and I told her electric guitars were cooler.
Joe: And she said... "Fuck you." [everyone laughs]
C: That's pretty much how it went.
Sylvia: I don't remember saying "Fuck you."
C: You totally did.
S: But I might of...I don't deny it.
C: And then I plugged you into a fancy guitar and amplifier in the corner and let you sit there and play.
S: I sat for hours...
So, you're at Encore, you're playing for hours, but you're playing guitar not bass yet...when does it move to "Let's start a band?"
C: Literally, when she brought the guitar back to the counter, she said "You're right, they're cooler" and then you just asked me if I wanted to start a band. [laughs]
S: I don't know what brought me to say that or why I did. Sometimes I don't even think about my words, they just come out and that was one of those cases. Just like when I came back to Minneapolis from New York, the same thing came over me. I go, I do, and I don't even think.
C: But we hung out that same day and played guitar for hours and hours and it became a reality shortly after that. We had different drummer for awhile that was a friend of mine that I'd known for 10 years. When we first started playing, it was kinda gonna be some slightly punkier version of Cat Power, but then she decided she wanted to start playing bass guitar... and when she did, she started yelling.
S: I had a lot of angst that I didn't even know I had and it all just came out.
J: You told me you love playing bass because of the power it kicks out at your legs.
S: It's so physical, it goes through your entire your body. Everybody might not realize it, but it's totally just changing your cellular structure....or just passing through you.
C: When she found the bass, we became a rock band. But really, when this gentlemen [points at Joe] came up to us, probably around... maybe a year after we had been playing?
J: I didn't really know them at all, but I knew the other bands that were playing with them at the 7th Street Entry, so I went downstairs to smoke a cigarette, when you could still do that, and I went up to Chad and Sylvia right after they got off stage. I noticed that their drummer wasn't down there. [Everyone laughs].
C: You said, "Let me know if anything happens to your drummer."
J: I just said, "If something happens to your drummer, give me a call, 'cause you guys kick ass." It was funny, cause I didn't think it was an offensive thing to say. I just meant, it would be awesome to be in that band. The drummer was good, he just seemed disinterested. Maybe a little out of place for them, they were loud and aggressive.
Chad, Can you talk a little bit about the Bass VI as an instrument and why you chose it?
C: Basically, I've always wanted a band that was based on two bass guitars. I found the Bass VI the year after Fender discontinued its reissue in 1997. I was obsessed with this instrument. I used to go to guitar shops and ask repeatedly, have you seen one? Not until Chad Speck [owner, Encore Music Shop] pulls out a picture, I didn't even know what it looked like! I had just seen it written in the credits of a Tortoise record as gear used and it was a Jerry Jones Bass VI.
Chad and his Jerry Jones Bass VI
J: Why did they start making them?
C: Bass players didn't like the electric bass guitar. Leo Fender invented that in 1951, the precision bass that had frets, and players were like, "What? You hold it sidewise?" The upright bass was still king. It took a long time to get bass players to convert to the electric instrument. So Leo Fender had the idea that, I will make an instrument that's in the same range as a bass guitar, but is playable to guitar players, hence the same tuning, octave down, spacing like a guitar, strings are a little thinner. (Danelectro actually invented it first). They used to use it to double the upright bass parts, cause there was no attack on an upright bass.
You can make chord structures a lot easier [on a Bass VI] than on a bass. It never really caught on in any real capacity. It was used on a lot of famous records. I mean, the Beatles used the shit out of Bass VIs. Harrison and Lennon both played Bass VI. The Cure did it. It's just a guitar that's tuned one octave down and 4 inches shorter than a regular bass and it has 6 strings, I like to shove it through guitar amps though, cause the lower register abusing the amp is attractive to me somehow....It gives you a dark quality right away. When you're playing a full chord, it's too many transient frequencies, it gets really murky, so you have to thin it out. I use a lot of power chords and inversions and arpeggios.
Sylvia, you switch between a traditional electric bass and a baritone guitar?
S: I like playing it [baritone guitar] cause I have big hands and I feel like I can rip it really well. My fingers are almost too big for a guitar.
C: Your man hands.
S: My man hands. It's a good cross between guitar and bass.
C: It's in between. We like the in-between.
S: It gives us both the opportunity to do both low and high parts. There's a lot of freedom.
C: There's still some substantial low end.
J: It's not twiddly or insubstantial. It'll still be really loud and punchy even up high.
So you guys have this great chemistry, you're on the cusp of bigger things...and then Sylvia, you take off for New York for a substantial hiatus. In the past three years the music zeitgeist has continued on its path of constant mutation, how does a band like Kill to Kill pick up where they left off and find relevancy in your aesthetic?
J: The stuff we like is still the stuff we like. Any band we'll say "We don't follow trends, man." But you know, we're still loud.
C: I think we're on a better page now than we would be three years ago. We were kinda the weird kids then. All the other bands that we played with and even on a label with, they were all shoegazy or more punk than we were.
J: Me and Chad have this '80s thrash metal obsession that we still nurse in the back of our minds and sometimes it comes out.
So would you say time apart has given you a new sense of focus?
S: For me personally, I feel like I have lost almost all my inhibitions, which is really important to me as a writer and performer. My lyrics aren't so guarded. I'm working more on what I have to say and really feeling my words, and my voice, not being afraid to let it all out. My fear is gone. I think it was there a little bit, but I was still afraid of the silences. There's so much silence that you have to break through, to not feel intimidated. I think that's how I've changed, how this band might be changing.
You guys are marking the return of Kill to Kill with your first full-set show at the Nomad at the Mouth by Mouthwest Benefit this Friday?
J: Good friend, Nicole Jacobson, this March slipped on the ice and broke her teeth and didn't have any dental insurance. We've all been friends with her for years, so we thought it'd be cool to put on a benefit show. It grew, people really rallied around her. She goes to Nomad a lot, is on the bocce ball league. The owner really wanted to help Nicole in any way, so we got a whole bunch of bands that are friends with her too who decided to throw in their time. Now there's seven bands on the bill. It should be rad.
Will you be playing any new material? Mostly old stuff?
C: Mostly stuff we were playing out before the band split, but was post-EP. We picked the ones we were fond of playing in the past, and are pretty good representations of what what we do, right [asking Joe and Sylvia]?
J: If we're doing it!
C: But she and I actually spent a fair amount of time in New York, maybe three months writing 10-12 songs... She moves to New York post the band breaking up, and me being a dumbass, was like "I'm going to move to fucking New York and try and be in a band with her." Not very well-conceived, but I did it. I went out there, we wrote songs together, we came back and played two shows with her on DRUMS of all things. She didn't know how to play drums, she didn't care, she was just fearless about it. It may not have been the best thing that we ever did, but it helped spur this reunion thing.
S: We have a lot of songs now. So we're going to bring them back and rework them as Kill to Kill songs, with Joe -- not me drumming [laughs] -- thank god!
Is that the holy grail: to find musicians you want to collaborate with that bring out your best creativity?
S: That's exactly what I realized! I found the holy grail, then I left and had to come back! [pauses] I guess.
Kill to Kill perform this Friday, June 21 at Nomad World Pub for MOUTH BY MOUTHWEST - A Benefit For Nicole Jacobson's Busted-Ass Grill, also featuring Little Man, Buildings, Speed's The Name, Dreamcrusher, Fort Wilson Riot. Bollywood, an art auction and drink specials. Music starts at 8pm, $10 at door.
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