Well, the Serbs know them, and the Croats know them, and over the next few weeks punters in various venues along the East Coast will have the opportunity see them – Fremantle band The Kill Devil Hills are in town, fresh from a European tour in late 2010 that saw them cover more of the continent than night-dwellers covering corners on King St. For those who are a little behind the keen ears of our European counterparts, the Kill Devil Hills have a versatile sound, with feet in all of the country, rock, blues and punk camps. Tone Deaf was lucky enough to have a chat with the guys about their tour, upcoming album, Dave Grohl and other musical matters.

You’ve recently returned back to familiar shores from what looks like a pretty hectic European tour schedule – did you make waves over there?

It’s a big pond to throw stones in but I guess you could say we’re starting to make the odd ripple, yes. Second time there now, and we had Kim Salmon on board for half the recent tour, which was great… certain countries, particularly France and Spain, are proving to be real hubs for our kind of music, we’re gonna be going back again this year.

How did our Eastern European friends react to your brand of ‘swamp/punk/blues/rock’?

They seem to get it much more eloquently and directly than most Australians do actually. In my humble opinion, most Australians have very little idea of Aussie music outside of what they’re told to like by the often limited ears of certain wanker programmers, whereas Europeans, in general, are free from both that limitation, and the vagaries of Australian pub ‘play some Chisel’-type yearnings…it makes for a great audience, in general, and I have frequently met people in places over in both Eastern and Western Europe that know a shitload more about the more obscure realms of Australian music than I do, and I’ve put a fair bit of time into it myself.

It’s interesting how some bands can have large fan bases in particular (or peculiar) countries – were there any shows in Europe that shocked you by your fan base there?

Not on the most recent trip, but when we went to parts of Eastern Europe in late 2010, we were pretty blown away to hit Serbia and Croatia for the first time, with limited promo, and have pretty packed rooms, with people singing along to songs, that was pretty spun out, we were really taken aback by that in particular.

In the past you’ve toured the US– are you more in favour of the European or US punters?

It’s hard to say – we went to the US and Canada quite some time ago, with no distro there, and not very well-organised shows. It was pretty average. Given similar efforts to what we’ve given to playing in Europe, that may be quite different, I really couldn’t say, apples and oranges.

You guys have been making music since 2004 and with that comes a lot of touring and playing– is the vibe after a show no days more Nicky Sixx or cups of tea and scones whilst discussing world politics?

We’ve all been making music for a lot longer than that, personally having been in bands since about 1990, as have some of the other guys. The quality of drinks backstage has probably improved a bit in that time, though some places still give you warm Toohey’s beer, ah the nostalgia of it. As for the fine points of discussion, things still largely focus around ‘Who farted?” and “That’s my beer you fucker! No, it’s not!” That kind of thing.

Way back in 2005 you played at the Bridgetown Blues and Roots Festival alongside a stellar crop of artists, one of those being The Black Keys, who look as though they are verging on widespread success in Australia. Are you a fan of their material?

It was actually a city show and then later, we did a national tour with the Black Keys when they were starting to crack it in Australia. About 2007 I think it was. They’re alright, I guess, bit one dimensional at times. Some of their new stuff’s an improvement, but it’s not really the kind of music I rave about. Dan Auerbach’s solo album’s pretty good value I thought.

We’ve heard you’re working on your fourth album – when is it due to hit the airwaves?

Dunno yet, still working on it, be a while yet, so later this year some time is the best I can give you right now.

Who is producing this album?

We are, along with the guy engineering it; a fellow called Matt Gio.

Was there anything you heard during the European tour that pricked your ears and inspired some songs on the new record?

Not in particular – a lot of the stuff that’s likely to get on the next record was already written beforehand. We’ll see. Definitely got exposed to some totally new stuff over there, just talking to people, getting given records or whatever. All goes into the mix I guess… hard to say what inspires what after a point.

The newest member to join the ranks of KDH is drummer Todd Pickett – has this made any noticeable changes to the bands’ sound?

Mos def. In my opinion, he’s been a very vibrant, passionate and very hard-hitting influence upon how we play, and the overall synergy of the band as a playing unit. It feels really tight and powerful with him behind the skins, and he can sing like an angel to boot, which has opened up some new possibilities in songs too.

What have been the main influences behind the material for album number four – is it a mirror of your lives as they are currently, or does it draw on experiences you’ve had in the past?

Sorry but can’t really answer that in any simple way. It opens up too much of a can of worms about authorial intention, life paralleling art, blah blah… they’re just songs, they pop out of experiences we have , yes, but they’re also theatre, smoke and lies, stories, fairytales, that work simply cos it sounds right at the time of writing. It doesn’t have to refer to anything in our lives. I think the ‘personal’ aspect of pop or rock music is a serious danger to both interpretation, criticism and any real appreciation. It is much more about sounding good than about the lyrical intent; that will always shift and change depending who’s listening or watching. That’s what I reckon anyway.

Is there an Australian tour on the cards for 2012?

Yes, later in the year after we’ve got the recording done with and been to Europe again, for sure.

Finally (and on a bit of a tangent), Dave Grohl has just been on a rant (again) about the state of music, saying that at this point in time popular music is dominated by computers rather than real people with real instruments playing real stuff. Do you identify at all with what is currently termed ‘pop-music’, and do you see music made with instruments rather than computers taking back the music charts in the future?

Hmmm, I figured Dave Grohl’s music was made by computers. Oops. Not a fan. Music is evolving, that’s all. If we get all antsy about computers in music etc then we should just all chuck our iPhones in the river, or hypocrisy reigns. Computers – digital – is here, and it’s not going away. Embrace it, sure. That doesn’t mean that analogue playing will disappear, no need to get all Matrix about it. Machines have been in popular music since the pianola popped into widespread use in the 1880s, bit late to start getting miffed about it. And who really cares what’s in the charts anyway. End rant.

The Kill Devil Hills head out on their “The Week In Pictures” single tour tomorrow. 


Thursday 19 January
The Zoo

Friday 20 January
The Annandale

Saturday 21 January
The Corner

Sunday 22 January
Jive Bar