Spiting in the face of lesser bands, The Kill Devil Hills are the sort of blokes you’d expect to find in some backwater swamp-house, brewing up their own brand of crocodile bile whiskey while some poor fat guy’s tied up out back, squealing like a pig. Turns out they’re from Freemantle, but hey, I wasn’t far off
Drawing on the more deep and meaningful vocalisations of Dylan at his best, and mixing in the dirge of more contemporary swamp rockers like the Beasts of Bourbon, the KDH have gone through several lineup changes in their short history, but as Jesse Hayward finds out, each shift in personnel is also a shift in direction for a band that is still quite on the up and up, dismissing current trends in country and folk for something more visceral, meaningful – there’s no laid back John Butler-esque hippy music here.
Music Feeds: So does it seem a long time since the debut album in 2004?
Kill Devil Hills: Yes, it seems like a fair while, but also, there’s a weird feeling in the last year or so of really actually starting…
MF: What’s been the biggest change for the band in that time then?
KDH: Probably when we had to drown our banjo player a while back… Seriously though, I think each time the lineup changes the band changes, by its very nature, each time that’s happened it’s been really positive and new room appears.
MF: You had a chance to play with the Beasts of Bourbon and The Dirty Three, any good stories to tell us there?
KDH: Yeah, the Beasts owe us money and the Dirty Three are still my favourite band.
MF: Considering the airplay and industry attention Kill Devil Hills are attracting, do you feel like you’ve ‘made it’ as a band?
KDH: That’s meaningless really, ask Lotto winners. The fun’s in the journey of it all… It’s funny what people think just cause they see your photo in the paper.
MF: So what would tell you, 100%, “This band has MADE IT!” ?
KDH: When people are more interested in your drug problems than your music..
MF: Blues/Roots/Folk seems to be experiencing a resurgence at the moment, what with acts like The Decemberists and Fleet Foxes. Where do you think KDH fits in to the new sound?
KDH: Well, if that resurgence is some kind of bandwagon, then we’re the guy who’s stolen one of the horses and galloping in the other direction to the nearest brothel.
MF: Why are you named after the Kill Devil Hills? Was it the Wright brothers? Or the legend of the deadly rum?
KDH: You’ve done your research… I heard it in reference to Greil Marcus’ book The Invisible Republic about the Basement Tapes sessions, it’s the title of a chapter, Harry Smith and all that…
(The Basement Tapes are one of the holy grails of musical bootlegs. Bob Dylan and The Band recorded over one hundred songs over several months in 1967 in the basement of a house nicknamed ‘The Big Pink’, while Dylan was recovering from a motorcycle accident. It was a time of great musical and stylistic upheaval for Dylan, who was trying to forge his own folk-orientated musical direction while the rest of the world was enamored with psychedelic rock. Official releases of the sessions contain only a fraction of the material recorded – Ed.)
MF: How firm is the current line-up? Is it comfortable?
KDH: Firmer than a matron who’s just taken a first class degree in Firmness from the University of Firm, with Honours.
MF: What do you think of current music in general?
KDH: We need more tuba.
MF: What do you think of blues/roots/folk music at the moment?
KDH: It’s terrible, it all sounds like John Butler…
MF: Can you recommend any acts we may not have heard of?
KDH: The WA Narcotics Act is a very fine piece of reading, magic mushrooms were only recently re-classified from an Attempted Suicide charge… We may be economically leading the way but…
MF: What are your plans for the next few months?
KDH: We’re going to get ready ready to go to Europe in September.
MF: When can we expect a new Aussie tour?
KDH: Mid-year I hope.
MF: Was there any particular reason for the limited edition vinyl import version of Heathen Songs released through Spanish record label Bang! Records? People asking for vinyl?
KDH: That’s the unique thing that Bang! does with every band they release… And yeah, they got swallowed up pretty quick. Not everyone’s into Ipods, thank the Lord…
The Kill Devil Hills are touring nationally throughout February. Click here for full tour details.