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q&a: the kill devil hills

After having just graced stages across Europe in a 40-date journey across the continent, WA’s bluesy fivesome, The Kill Devil Hills, are about to equally wow audiences across their native Australia. Lip chats to vocalist/guitarist/banjoist, Brendon Humphries.

How’s the new album coming along?
We’re just in the process of writing a lot of the material at the moment. We’re just throwing hats into the ring and seeing which ones get stomped on by bulls.

Do you think it’s a different sound to your other albums?
It’s still undefined as to how it’s going to end up. Yeah, definitely moving outward into some new territory, I’m not quite sure what yet. But I think that’s always the case – when you’re trying to do something exactly the same but you’re not really going to be able to do it any way. It is for sure, it’s different, we’ve got a new lineup. I mean we’ve got a new drummer who adds a lot of punchy dynamics to the rhythm. He’s got a full sort of voice for the backing singing so, there is a different sound in there.

Your band’s been together for a while now, do you think your song writing process has changed at all?
Not really. You always try to improve and develop as a writer and a musician, I think in a lot of different ways, always working on every aspect on playing. In terms of how the songs mutate in the band, not really. It’s always been pretty much myself or one of the other main songwriters in the band basically knocking something into form and being gently set afloat into the band pool. It drowns out, and stays afloat and eventually turns into a song – often quite radically departed from the original concept. We don’t really tend to write in a room together – the band has songwriters, then it’s written, then they’re sort of pulled apart and put together again musically.

I heard that your band completed a tour through Europe last year, how was that?
We sort of have been quiet the last several months, we  had a few shows here in Perth, we’ve been writing and reforming the band with the new drummer. That was on the back of him coming with us, actually for the first time. We played something like 40 shows there. That was an incredibly intense and wonderful experience. We’re going back later this year to do the same thing again.

How do you think the crowds received you over in Europe? Do you have a big following?
It’s not quite big, it’s the first time we’ve been there, but in parts of Spain we had some particularly well attended shows. In other places it was just walking into a town where no one’s ever heard of you. But it was surprising the places people seemed to know about the albums which are all released in Europe on CD and vinyl, and have been for a while. There’s a very strong underground presence of Australian music  in Germany and western Europe. We went to eastern Europe as well and they’re pretty switched onto it. It’s surprising. I was surprised by the relative anonymity of us in what is a massive touring circuit. The fact that people knew it, would come to see it, would buy or already have some of the albums, it was a very worthwhile first endeavour over there for sure. That’s why we’re doing it again, we really want to be spending as much time as we can over there.

How does your band handle touring? You said it was quite intense, was there any memorable moments?
Many. We collectively wrote a blog that’s on blogspot. We were travelling in a van together for almost three months. The band didn’t break up, we became a much better band for it on the positive side. On the negative side, you go quite crazy, and there sort of was a degree of psychosis from spending so much time continually, being tired and travelling, driving all the time. This is normal, doing that sort of stuff. It was the biggest sort of run that we had done, which made us think, woah, this is pretty full on, but we loved it. Europe is an amazing place to move through and to be able to blast out of one town into the next. It was exhausting but it was exciting. It’s a real on and off thing. You’re really on, then you’re really off and there’s not much you can do.

Do you have any plans to have a tour throughout Australia, or is it just the East coast dates in Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane?
We will be later, when we come back. Probably at the end of the year, we’ll be doing a full tour. Probably in the summer with the summer craziness. It’s been a while since we’ve played over in the Eastern states. We’ll be regularly shipping ourselves over. Despite airlines falling all around us.

You were talking about your new drummer, (Steve Gibson) how’s he fitting into the band at the moment?
Brilliant. We had a bit of a cross over. He came over to Europe with us, so he came and joined at a point where he had sort of taken over from our previous drummer. So basically he got baptised by fire and jumped on and played a couple of shows in Australia, and then came to play three months straight. So that was a really excellent and intensive way of, I guess, melding as a band. We’ve known him for some time, independently, he’s been playing with us, playing around a bit here. He’s been around for a lot of projects too so he’s been a great addition so far.

How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
It’s a noisy racquet made by five rather astute West Australian men. But we seem to find that we have quite a strong female following into the music. We sort of go for that sort of flakey rock. That’s the sort of thing that we do. I would describe it as astute folk rock.

How do you find the live music scene at the moment? There have been a fair few venues that have closed down in Sydney, what’s your take on the live music scene in Australia, or in Perth?
It’s actually booming in Perth. We don’t have pokies, so we’re kind of immune to the cancer of that you sort of have in Sydney. Sydney, ironically enough, for its population and size, it has an unfortunately small live music scene to what we had in the past. I think Melbourne always, is nationally the hub of things, but then you’ve got a greater concentration of bands. I can’t really compare that scene to what I’m involved with here, which is fairly active and busy, and it’s producing some bands that are getting a lot of national and international interests, most recently like Tame Impala. Anytime one or two bands really get a lot of recognition or spotlight, it seems to have a rather catalytic effect on the scene in general. If people are inspired by that, that’s an indication that anything’s doable or possible, regardless of the type of music. It’s always a positive thing, certainly on a broader scale. The people I’m in touch with seem to be moving and grooving.

Do you have any advice for people who are looking to start up their own band?
No (laughs). Read the manual. My advice would be that music is a passion for you and you’ve got to do it. It’s like an illness and the only cure is to play. Whether that means you have to go and spend a lot of money doing it, or trouncing around the country or the world. That’s a different question really, its not about music it’s about livelihood, you don’t really have a choice.

The Kill Devil Hills are playing a string of dates in August. See them in Sydney at the Annandale Hotel August 18, in Melbourne at Ruby’s Lounge, Belgrave August 19, The East Brunswick Club August 20, and in Adelaide at Jive August 21.

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