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The Kills come to life onstage

May 21, 2009 |  3:22 pm

Punk 'n' blues bandmates Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince seem to lose their inhibitions during live gigs, and next up is the Fonda Friday.


The Kills are a band of barely controlled urges. Singer-guitarists Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart step onstage most nights in a state of wild delirium, grinding out guitar riffs of pure punk 'n' blues, all sharp edges and raw sexual tension. Their only company is a vintage drum machine, which keeps an agitated beat as the Kills pace behind their microphones, singing of fast times and dark thoughts, kicking their amps or pushing at each other, lost in the moment.

They say the stage is a place of private escape for them, a mutual comfort zone.

"We're quite opposite from what we are onstage," says Hince (a.k.a. "Hotel"). "I think it's the curse of introverted people. I really, really lose myself. It's like a strange sort of hypnosis. I'd never do anything like that normally."

He's on the phone from Minneapolis, another stop on the band's current U.S. tour, which lands Friday in Hollywood at the Henry Fonda Theater.

They've passed through many times before, most recently at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April, where the Kills played a stirring nighttime set of raw, blistering force to a full tent of fans, even as My Bloody Valentine roared from the main stage across the field.

Ever since the band's first album, 2003's "Keep on Your Mean Side" (just reissued with five bonus tracks), the Kills have made minimalist sounds and messages inspired by ancient bluesmen and the hard edges of PJ Harvey and the Velvet Underground. They've sung of boho decay and life on the run, of cheap thrills and love gone almost right.

For last year's "Midnight Boom," the duo stretched out further with new beats and textures, even as Hince continued thrashing at his guitars, slowing down for the gentle album-closing haze of "Goodnight Bad Morning."

"It's all about challenging yourself and experimenting and trying to find something that's new to you . . . or even ugly," says Mosshart (a.k.a. "VV"), who performs lead vocals on most tracks. "When you touch on something that you don't recognize, that's when you've maybe got somewhere."

Hince and Mosshart write songs in a room together, producing most tracks themselves, relying more on attitude than polish.

"I don't have relationships like this with anyone else in my life," says Mosshart, who in 2000 left her Florida home at 19 to begin collaborating with Hince in North London. "It's like a brother/soul mate/best friend -- everything volatile and wonderful. I don't know what it is, but it was a really immediate thing when I met him. It made me want to make stuff. Everything felt new and exciting."

The pair experimented not just with music, but also art, photography and Super-8 film, all elements that would later be seen on their album covers and websites, first appearing onstage together on Valentine's Day 2002.

Still, Mosshart has found time for a new project with Jack White called the Dead Weather, singing lead vocals in a four-piece band. A debut album, "Horehound," is set for release on July 14, accompanied by a summer tour that will stop in the Southland on Aug. 25 for a show at the Wiltern and Aug. 27 at the Glass House in Pomona.

That group emerged as a result of the Kills' 2008 tour with the Raconteurs, when Mosshart filled in on vocals for White, who was suffering from bronchitis, for the final few dates.

"It's a massive challenge to play with Jack," Mosshart says of the Dead Weather. "He's a lot to live up to. In my head, he's the performer of my generation."

She remains committed to the Kills, though, and Mosshart plans to begin writing more music with Hince later this year. Hince has been obsessing over early reggae, which could play a role in the new songs.

That might surprise fans hungry for more of the Kills' chaotic, indie-rock riffs.

"Those old blues guys used to talk about voodoo and music in the same breath," says Hince, "because they had sussed out that it wasn't really about what style of music you were playing -- it was about the attitude of the people playing it. That was always my dream in the Kills."

--Steve Appleford

ROCKIN’ COACHELLA IN APRIL: Says Alison Mosshart, right, of her bandmate Jamie Hince: “It’s like a brother / soul mate / best friend — everything volatile and wonderful.” Credit: Getty Images

The Kills at the Henry Fonda Theater, 6126 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, Friday, May 22.  Tickets are $18, not including surcharges.