The Kill Devil Hills recently launched their fifth album, Pink Fit, with a show at Badlands Bar fitting of their rough-and-tumble-yet-tender nature. They’ve played a lot of shows – and launches – before, but every time they step out is a worthy moment indeed.
“It was bloody stressful,” says vocalist/guitarist, Brendon Humphries, “and a technical nightmare for boring reasons I won’t go into, but that thankfully got solved by showtime.
“So going by our collective anxiety in that process, I’d say we still give a fairly hefty shit about every show. Especially a kind of creative checkpoint like a launch.”
The Pink Fit album release comes off the back of a European tour, shared on social media and which looked to be a lot of fun. They’re all tour-hardened fellas, and well know how to exist together on these longer hauls, travelling across various borders.
“It’s generally astoundingly good fun,” Humphries notes, “but it’s still work, too. I don’t usually go to work with a hangover every day, so that takes a bit of calibrating in the first week or so.
“There’s like a collective hormonal cycle that seems to happen on any long stints of time away, in a man-pack, with very little personal time or space, so everyone hits their own personal walls at different points of the loony cycle, and then it’s everyone else’s job to use their finely-honed skills at giving them shit about it or ignoring it. A well-oiled machine. And the shows were great too.”
The Pink Fit album was recorded and mixed at RADA Studios back in January, and produced by the band with the help of Matt Gio and Dan Carroll. Time and circumstances involved quick and instinctual thinking, which is what was delivered.
“We only had three days to record,” Humphries reveals, “which isn’t very long really. And not everything was finished to a written and rehearsed stage, so it was actually a very compressed, quick, and quite experimental approach taken to getting it all down. We needed at least three-to-four songs to scrape together an EP, we came away with six meaty tracks, so that was really down to playing it all mostly live in the room together and not overthinking the process too much.
“This is the first time we’ve recorded without (ex-guitarist) Steve Joines in the band so that makes it a really different thing. The new line-up with Luke Dux means we naturally adjust to find a new synergy and make new beastly noises.
There’s a world-weariness in the music and the songs. Humphries, however, is not without optimism.
“I think that particular bunch of songs are fairly heavy as a batch, yes,” he responds. “The cards kind of fell like that, not much bouncy levity on that album… fair cop, I guess. I see it as cathartic though, you never know how people will actually perceive songs and find value in them. I’ve never found world-weariness to be a flaw in songs, it’s more of a point of connection with a listener. That equally applies to joy of course, but we’re not a pop band, that’s the next record...
“Some of the songs came via personally difficult stuff, You’ll Never Die In This Town Again came out of two very painful losses of some dear friends, and I was sad and that felt good to write about. I Don’t Believe It Any More is a fairly gospel kind of tune to me, so that’s all that drown-to-be-reborn narrative I guess, which ultimately is quite positive isn’t it? Stained is a total pig rock pisstake kinda track; it’s meant to just be kind of dirty and dumb. In my mind it’s a bit like the spectrum of world affairs, a horror-comedy of sorts.”
The lyrics stand on their own, poetically. Read on their own they don’t adhere to the needs of song structure as such, but fit beautifully into the songs they have found their way into.
“Cheers. My girlfriend and I got a cool new house this year and our shed is proving a fruitful space to work in. A good shed is the key, in my opinion.
“I don’t write specifically for the band, there’s no expectation that a song must reach their grimy ears, but if it doesn’t end up as a Kill Devil Hills song then it gets shelved away until the day comes. My cousin Myles and I are going to create an electro band called Montron and these abandoned words will be dusted off for that, I suspect.”
Humphries has at least two decades’ of songwriting under his belt, going back to the mid-to-late ‘90s with Gutterville Splendour Six and on from the 2003 formation of Kill Devil Hills. It’s a deep well of storytelling through song but he’s not one to look back and ponder what it meant then and means now.
“I have rarely listened back, to be honest,” he says. “I’m really not very interested. Occasionally I hear a track by chance and usually enjoy it, I must have some kind of early dementia ‘cause it’s like I’ve forgotten a lot of what was done.
“I mainly just care about the new ideas, ‘cause that’s what I enjoy most about writing and jamming, the moments of discovery. Once a song’s finished it’s kind of boring, in a way.”
Kill Devil Hills have always been a band that has seemed like a gang; patched in rather than recruited through classifieds. Even with the ongoing evolution of their line-ups it’s always seemed like a brotherhood.
“Yes, we’re gonna get matching yellow tracksuits soon,” Humphries jokes. “I think that the particular synergy of each line-up has always rested on the friendships that precede the music. It’s very important to have trust and respect and jokes and a few drinks to be able to play well together and it be fun, and not a kind of mechanical drain on your soul or something. We’re all shit at sport, so this is the other option we found in our teens to be able to hang out and be dumb with your mates and occasionally get paid for it.
“Sometimes that means things have to change, sure, hence the analogy of the hydra is a useful one for me - the single beast that will grow back a severed head.”
And how’s the future look for this regenerative single beast?
“Ah the crystal ball question,” Humphries posits. “We’re mainly focussed on getting over to Europe again next year, it’s such a good place for us to play and it’s all with a sense of adventure, too, ‘cause we’ve only been a few times so each time has been different and fresh. So I’m buzzed to be able to do that.
“We’ve started writing for another album recently, so that’s my favourite part. Plus of course all the talented motherfuckers I get to play with in the Kill Devil Hills are busy with their various wonderful bands and projects, so they’re generally not sitting still. A federal election soon would be good too.”
Pink Fit is out now. Kill Devil Hills headline the post-game festivities for the Fremantle Reclink Community Cup at Rock Rover on Saturday, September 8. Details via www.facebook.com/events/250181855543350/
A run of WA and interstate shows will also be announced next week.