I’m afraid to interview musicians. Not because a lot of them smell weird. Because of all the rules. I’ve mentioned before how when my sister was ten she told me Green Day had sold out. Actually, she sang the words to the tune of “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” a move both snotty and in-the-know. Though eight years her senior, I thought maybe Green Day were the ones fronted by the guy with the giant bald head and I couldn’t figure why success was a bad thing.
It’s not that I don’t believe in rules. Once my Significant Other claimed that for a book, painting or film to have artistic worth, only ONE person must enjoy it. First I asked her, “what if that person is Aaron Spelling?” And then I stopped talking to her until I couldn’t find my favorite pair of shoes at which point I had to talk to her but just to ask if she’d seen them.
In my view, to create quality art, one must learn the rules if only to break from them. But when it comes to music, the rules seem somehow arbitrary. I don’t understand what makes something “good.”
The Kickback has all of the former and none of the latter plus Rolling Stone says they “conjure the very best parts of the Veils and the Walkmen and the Killers, writing lean, nervy songs that snarl and snap.”
I don’t know who any of those people are, but I interviewed The Kickback guitarist Billy Yost and he smells just fine!
Our Town How would you describe your sound?
Billy Yost I use [this] as something to aspire to: the Zombies listening to Jeff Buckley listening to a moderately-talented church choir listening to The Beatles in the “back to basics” stage of their career who would stay together long enough to be influenced by the Sales brothers who wound up backing Iggy Pop in the “Berlin era.” Our tunes wouldn’t express that at all, at the moment, however. So, I guess you can consider this an opportunity to get in on the ground level. I sound like Bernie Madoff.
OT Who are your influences?
BY Randy Newman, music from "classic period" Muppet film and television, David Foster Wallace, Iggy Pop, unresolved Catholicism, 1989's Batman, a lot of older brothers, people who use harmony well.
OT How did growing up in South Dakota inform your music?
BY My main connection to music for the first decade or so of my life was mostly informed by drives to Sioux Falls from Beresford and back--a 30-mile trip each way. My mom would have the radio tuned almost exclusively to '50s and '60s oldies. That's where I learned about harmony and developed a love for melody. I think [South Dakota] also rooted us with a healthy Midwestern guilt that tends to set off warning bells when I find myself using phrases like "our aesthetic" or "sushi."
OT Your brother Danny is part of the band. What’s it like to work so closely with a sibling?
BY Pros- He gets it already. Cons- That doesn't mean he has to like it and then you're dealing with 25 years of subtle jabbing, from the hair-pulling incident at Mt. Rushmore (age 7) to present day.
OT What’s the story behind the David Foster Wallace quote?
BY Our impending debut LP is titled Sorry All Over The Place which is a fictional unfinished film in a fictional filmography in a fictional footnote in Wallace's novel, Infinite Jest. The book took me three months to read and as much as a piece of literature can change you and reformat some of your more fleeting emotions, it did. It's one of the best things that has ever happened to me. The adultery and hope and trust and fear and sadness have really informed the record and so it felt only right to acknowledge that. That and when I first read the filmography, I nearly dropped the book in the bath tub because I was laughing so hard. There's something so funny about it to me. I don't know. I also feel it's important to point out that bringing Wallace's name into this is probably a disgrace to his estate and is completely unfair considering he's not alive to distance himself from any of this, God rest him. I have dreams about him coming to see us live and actually spitting on the ground.
OT Does the band write collaboratively or do you divvy it up?
BY I tend to write the song to completion and then bring it in to get chopped up and worked over. It's a double-edged face-slapper really, as if I don't bring in most of a whole song, we usually don't get anywhere. But that means my feelings about messing with written parts tend to be a little rawer.
OT What concert would you attend if you knew you could never see live music again?
BY I'd like to see Randy Newman one more time. To be frank, if I wasn't allowed to go see concerts anymore, I don't think that would be a serious inconvenience. I spent my junior high and high school years memorizing hours and hours of downloaded video of bands that I loved. That's my preferred way to see a band. On my computer with nobody around and eyes on who's controlling what and how. I can sit and watch the same Radiohead video 15-times in a row but if I was watching them live, I would be very concerned about the smell of the man in front of me and little else.
OT Convince me to attend one of your shows.
BY Hey, how are you? How's your mother? Oh, that's good. She's a swell lady and I'll fight any man that claims otherwise. Anyway, do you like honesty? Do you like panic? No, well, do you like seeing other people panic? Yeah, me, too. Well, I'd really like you to come see this show. The whole thing operates under the pretense that we're a tight band but I seem to consistently work to undermine this. Sounds awesome, right? Do you like watching a guy hit himself when he sings off key? I knew I had you there. So, come on already?
The Kickback plays Beat Kitchen June 21st at 8 p.m.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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