Little Bastards

Little Bastards

“It sort of became a celebration and a reminiscence of that time,” The Kills’ Alison Mosshart says about looking back at the band’s first decade together for this odds-and-ends collection. “You remember smells in studios and where you lived and what you were wearing, and how cold it was outside, and whatever it was you were trying to achieve—basically who you were at the time. It's so ethereal.” What began as a suggestion from their label Domino became a full trip down memory lane for Mosshart and multi-instrumentalist Jamie Hince, who both agreed it felt like a fun endeavor during lockdown. Little Bastards is packed with 20 B-sides and rarities dating back to the band's first 7-inch singles in 2002. And though it might seem like they wanted to stop there, there's a more practical reason why the songs don't go past their 2011 studio album Blood Pressures. “It's interesting that when Blood Pressures came out, that was really the time when vinyl singles weren't being released anymore,” says Hince. “Things have really shifted quite quickly into digital downloads, and so there just wasn't that clamoring for extra songs like there was in the period beforehand.” Here, Mosshart and Hince walk us through some of their favorite tracks featured on the compilation.
Superpowerless Alison Mosshart: “We had done a demo of it that had this magic about it. We did something wrong. The timing in the song was wrong, we made a mistake, and it was the most beautiful mistake that we tried to repeat and we never quite could. And it was because of that demo that was so magical that we could never get over it.” Jamie Hince: “It just felt like there was something really crazy special about it, and I felt like we should wait and rerecord it to really do it justice. And then, at the same time, it somehow didn't quite fit. There's a strict sonic aesthetic on Midnight Boom, and it didn't quite fit into it. I always thought we would resurrect it and do something with it, and then you just write tons of new songs. The more songs you write, the less relevant the old ones seem to be.”
Passion Is Accurate JH: “For me, it was the song that sums up about, at the time, feeling like it was just a stupid corporate conveyor belt of having to write songs to put on a single. You've got a single coming out. You've got to write two more songs. And I'd be like, 'No, I did not start a band for writing songs. I did not start a band to have to write songs to order.' And 'Passion Is Accurate' was one that I was on my hands and knees writing the lyrics for before the day of recording. Even the lyrics are this little dig about having to be mathematical about your emotions and your passion. 'Oh, we've got five hours to be passionate.' I wrote it in the day, recorded in the evening, and days later we were playing it at Le Cigale in Paris. And that sums it up how tiny a song starts and how much it travels and when it picks up along the way. It's pretty incredible. I mean, honestly, the hairs on my arms are standing up. This is why I do music.”
Kiss the Wrong Side JH: “When we were doing that session, that one just felt like it was one of the first times it seemed like music wasn't a struggle. It was just coming out of us. I really liked that.”
Raise Me AM: “We did that at Key Club, 2009, and that was a song that I really, really loved. Much like all of these, you're writing a batch of songs at the time, and then suddenly you've got this very clear idea of what you want your record to be, the shape of it and the ebbs and flows of it. And certain things don't exactly fit into the puzzle. This was one of them where I remember leaving this song and just moving on and we never looked at it again. Our feelings at the time were that it wasn't finished, we hadn't figured it out yet.” JH: “It's interesting that when we talk about these songs or little verses, it's funny to me, I find myself moving between explaining why we never did anything with them as well as explaining why we love them. There's just always so much going on when you're writing songs. It's like discovering a camera with a roll of film in it and developing it and finding out that the stuff on the film is 15 years old, and you can't help but look at it in a different way. Time has a habit of finishing things for you, and it felt like that with 'Raise Me.' I can't say it would have worked on Midnight Boom or Blood Pressures or whatever. So it just has to stand on its own, I think.”
Half of Us JH: “I remember doing that during a really late-night session at this studio called The Fortress, which was just an awful place, to be honest. The only time we could get in was after all the bands have already recorded. I spent the day writing the song, and then we went in at midnight and recorded it. I wrote it on an acoustic guitar. Those days, I was so shy about demoing and singing, so all my vocals were such a little whisper. And I had done this really quiet version, almost in my head, of the song. I imagined it's this grand, Cabaret Voltaire-like dark electronic thing with a sort of dark guitar in it. And then coming to record it, I was so gutted. It sounded terrible to me because it didn't come out the way I wanted it to; it didn't sound like the thing I had in my head. I never wanted to hear that song ever again. It was a massive failure to me. That sort of weakness in my voice, though, I love that now. It sounds so vulnerable, it sounds like it was recorded a bit like whispering something in someone's ear.”
I Call It Art JH: “Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin had been mentioned a lot in articles and interviews about us because it was this idea of Bonnie and Clyde, this sort of love story, and it was a similar dynamic. A lot of other male-female duos were mentioned, but the spirit of Serge Gainsbourg was mentioned quite a lot, so we were asked to do this compilation pretty much of that. So, we jumped at the chance. I had this huge, broken, hardly working Polymoog. And I wanted to sell it, because we didn't have much money and it was just taking up so much room. We built the whole thing around this Polymoog and the sounds on that—it was my swan song to my ’70s Polymoog. And then the guitar part is just pretty much what you'd expect from Serge Gainsbourg. It just came out of necessity for this piece of equipment that we need to use.” AM: “Also, I'm just so obsessed with the words. That translation is so incredibly beautiful. I don't speak French, so I don't know how the original song feels lyrically, but the English translation that they did, I think, is stunning. Just such a beautiful song to sing.”
Love Is a Deserter (Xfm Session) JH: “Both ‘Passion Is Accurate’ and ‘Love Is a Deserter,’ that Xfm session, are recorded on the same day in the same studio. This radio station, they normally wanted to plug in some digital machine and not take any amplifiers in. We were like, ‘No way.’ So we recorded and did a proper session—which is why I love it so much, because it's just this one little room—but all our amps just blaring in the room. And me and Alison are just staring at each other. I think there's video footage of it, actually. Like hardly taking our eyes off each other, just willing each other on. Mostly because you couldn't hear anything, it was too loud. We always just used to face each other. Turn away from the audience and play like that, just because it was the one familiar thing. I didn't want to break the magic.”
Blue Moon AM: “I remember bringing that one to Jamie and being like, 'I think we should do this.' I just loved the lyrics. I think I was listening to a lot of Neil Young or something then. I don't know if that even translates. I thought it was a really pretty song. And I'm glad we recorded it, but we didn't do anything with it for a while until we needed a song.” JH: “I remember that I flew back to London for a week. We were in the studio for months and I went back to London to see my family and stuff. And you wrote that and recorded it, sort of demoed it while I was away. That was pretty much all you, and then I just came back and put a guitar part on it. I think maybe that's why it stuck. It just wasn't thought of as being part of the family of an album.”
Baby’s Eyes AM: “You can hear that basically the only thing I listen to is Velvet Underground at this time in my life.” JH: “Yeah, we could produce a whole record of that. Alison would constantly come with all of these Velvet Underground-type songs. We’ve got tons of it, but I felt like [jokingly] ‘No, not another one.’” AM: “I’m sorry, I couldn’t stop. Once I like something, that’s it.” JH: “It was kind of a time when everything that wasn't pop music was not cool. There was like this anti-pop thing. That's where things like 'Baby's Eyes' would be proof that you can write a really beautiful song, but you just record it in a way that was like, 'Fuck you.' It's not going to be a pop song.”


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