5 writers, 5 questions, 1 band, hand-picked by the MWA writers. Welcome to FIVE x FIVE. This week: Chicago/South Dakota rock quartet, The Kickback.
The Kickback was formed after vocalist/guitarist Billy Yost left South Dakota for Chicago in 2009. The group has stayed bust sense, touring steadily, releasing EPs, working on their debut album, and recording 100 episodes of their own podcast. Wrapping up a month long tour, and gearing up for a performance at Chicago’s Metro on 12/6, The Kickback was kind enough to answer a few of our questions for this week’s FIVE x FIVE.
Did forming and growing the band in South Dakota have any influence on your sound, or are your influences more far-reaching than your immediate surroundings?
South Dakota built me in ways I have trouble verbalizing. We had fake bloody fingers on our merch table this tour and that’s probably because of every summer vacation I took to Wall Drug and assorted western South Dakota tourist traps. That probably doesn’t even mean anything to you if you haven’t sat and pondered whether or not buying a fake dog feces key hider was the best use of your vacation stake money. I knew every Frankie Valli song before I heard Nirvana because of the prevalence of oldies radio. The idea of “doing something” intrinsically meant leaving South Dakota, and so there was always this daunting goal you weren’t sure you were up for. I’m fiercely proud of where I am from and it built me, as weird and naive and Interstate 29-bound as that upbringing requires. Chicago made me grow the hell up. I’m also grateful for that.
You’ve been making music in Chicago for a few years now – how often do you make it back to South Dakota for a hometown show, and how good does it feel?
Coming back to South Dakota for a show is usually the most stressful date on a tour. There are so many people i want to see and spend time with, real OGs who know every song not because they’re great songs, but because they’ve been there supporting my idiot face since the beginning. I miss the fun of a lot of those shows because I spend every ounce of the day and about half the set worried I’m letting someone down, either with the set list or not being able to swing by someone’s house and say hey or that I didn’t get to spend enough time with my family. Those people are the reason I’ve had even the most remote success at making a life of this and they’re the ones I can’t let down. The shows are amazing and so rewarding. I just need to get a grip.
How has the band changed or progressed from the days of the Great Self Love EP to now releasing your debut full album?
It wasn’t until we finished Great Self Love that I finally started writing songs that felt like my songs. There were an awful lot of influence demons to exercise in my case, and I have a hard time listening to anything I made before I was 25. Our first couple EPs were me bludgeoning my head against whatever I cut my teeth on and seeing what stuck in my face. The album sounds like The Kickback to me. It’s what our first record needed to be, however long it took to get it made. It feels right for us. Right for its purpose. That’s the first time I can say that, I think. That’s a big deal. I hate everything.
How did you approach the writing and recording process for the new record?
We spent a lot of time with the songs before we recorded them. Years in a few cases. It was really important to make sure that just because we had lived with something for so long, that that wasn’t why we thought it was right. The “My Husband Smelling Like Whiskey Is Just What My Husband Smells Like Right?” dilema. So when Jim Eno, who produced our record, came to Chicago for some pre-production work, he basically sat in the room as we played the songs at him. Then we’d talk and deconstruct and try a few tweaks and change-em-ups. There were some serious alterations, well serious to us, and in almost all the cases they felt 100% right. Just like that. It was invigorating (See: terrifying).
How has the podcast for DISASTOUR helped to chronicle your experiences and how do you envision it being used in the future?
I imagine doing the last episode a few hours before I die. That’s really what the thing has become. I worked hard to strip away any pretense of what being a “band guy” is and try and give people a look into how stupid and hard a life in music is right now for a working group. Being in a band now is probably going to be seen as the dark ages when compared to 20 years prior or post this moment. There’s no money, no way to maintain a living, so you’re out there dying to live. And that’s fine. But Jesus it’s a mess. And I won’t spend my prideful years doing anything else. I hope someone can listen back down the line and just get a few laughs out of businesses that were so flustered, they start turning on the money faucet for things like Facebook likes and Instagram followers. At this moment in history, it’s what matters, and hopefully the podcast is there to highlight just how ludicrous it was. Supremely weird, but not without humor.
If you’re in Chicago, don’t miss The Kickback at the Metro next Saturday playing alongside Mutts, Archie Powell & The Exports, and Pop Goes the Evil. You can pick up your tickets here.