Alison Mosshart is in the middle of talking about the often crazy moments she experiences onstage when something outside the window catches the eye of Jamie Hince, her bandmate in The Kills. Hince begins yelping, not unlike a canine might at the mailman arriving.
“He’s turning into a dog,” Mosshart says matter-of-factly. “Because he got bitten by a dog on his face.”
Sure enough, Hince has a nasty little gouge on the right side of his cheek, the result of a friendly encounter gone wrong with a “medium-sized little fucker.”
“I love dogs, and he came up to me and was all friendly, and I was a bit drunk,” the guitarist says. “Normally I would be a bit careful with it, but I kind of went, 'Woahah!' and started kissing it. It was fine, and he started [mimics a dog being friendly]. Then, I must’ve just crowded in too much and he just snapped and [mimics angry dog barking]. And then my friend said, ‘Your face is bleeding.’”
“We are very accident-prone,” adds Mosshart. “I fell into the mixing desk the other day, and then stood up and proceeded to fall straight into the drum kit.” She laughs. “I was like, ‘What … the … fuck?’ Every time I took a step I just tripped over something.”
While the garage-rock duo can joke about their most recent mishaps, it was no laughing matter back in 2013 when Hince slammed his hand in a car door, leading to multiple surgeries and, for a while, rendering him unable to play guitar. The accident briefly called into question the future of The Kills, who this week see release of their fifth album, and first in five years, Ash & Ice.
“You sit there and think,” Hince says. “You put all your effort into doing what you want to with your life, being in a band, and people are like, 'It’s all right for you, you don’t have to get up for work tomorrow,' and it feels like that most of the time. But times like that? You feel like, 'Shit, I’ve actually got nothing. This is my fucking income. This is how I live, and I might not be able to do this anymore and I’ve got no healthcare, nothing.’”
That was only a fleeting thought, according to Hince, as for the most part he had simply set his mind on getting through the unfortunate circumstances, having to cancel gigs and putting new music temporarily on hold.
“One of the things I discovered about myself is I’m just really positive,” he says, laughing. “And I never really got too down about it. I just kept thinking how we were gonna work ’round this. I don’t know if it’s naivety, but I never felt like a ‘coming back’ thing.”
Mosshart carries a similar air of optimism. “I tend to not worry about anything until I have proof that something is going to be changed,” she says, though she admits to feeling a wave of relief when she knew Hince was OK and The Kills weren’t going to be prematurely cut short.
“I remember the first time hearing him play guitar, after a year and a half, after all of the surgery stuff,” she says. “Hearing an old song — I don’t even know what it was — and a wave of crazy emotion came over me just to hear a riff that I was so familiar with, and right at that moment I realized how insanely sad it would be had I never heard that again. It was the most joyous moment to hear it.”
Ash & Ice certainly feels like a typically assured Kills record, filled with Mosshart’s soaring and hauntingly persistent vocals and Hince's snarling, swaggering guitar. Musically it jitters and shakes in a familiar way, even though Hince did have to change his playing technique on the album, part of which was recorded in Los Angeles, where Hince now lives. Citing the lead single “Doing It to Death” as one example, he says, “I would’ve never written that with the use of all my fingers. It’s all these individual notes because I can’t play a chord. It worked out good. … I like my new style.”
The duo is banking on fans feeling the same way — to the point of getting the band's symbols tattooed on their bodies. As part of a short film project being made today, The Kills have found 15 fans to get different symbols — each representing a song on Ash & Ice — tattooed on their bodies by Mark Mahoney at Shamrock Social Club. For more details on the project, visit the band's website.
Ash & Ice is out now on Domino. The Kills will be back in town to perform at the Fox Theatre Pomona on Sept. 2, the Wiltern on Sept. 3 and the Observatory on Sept. 4 — barring any unforeseen accidents.