"We want this band to be free of any boundaries, in whatever direction we may be heading in at any time"
Kills Birds have just released their sophomore album 'Married' via Royal Mountain Records.
A raw and raucous take on modern rock music, the band have produced an album that's as much a personal exorcism as a dense debrief on the chaos and confusion of the last two years that we have all experienced. It's heartbreaking and harsh, beautiful and bold, jolting and jagged, and the start of something rather extraordinary.
To discuss the process of bringing it to life, we sat down with vocalist Nina Ljeti and bassist Fielder Thomas...
What would you say felt different about this record compared to how you were producing things in the first chapter of your story?
Nina: "We made our debut album ‘Kills Birds’ over eight hours at Justin Reisen’s studio. We were writing those songs from a pretty new place and figuring out what the band was, but there was also a lot of chaos from my end in that I wanted to express every single thing that I wanted to in the lyrics because I didn’t know if we would get the chance to again. We were still very new to being in a band and being performers in that wat. Whereas with ‘Married’, the majority of the album came together through COVID, where we were forced to reckon with many things. There was lots of self-reflection and anger and confusion, so we had a very specific idea of what we wanted it to be because of that. And I feel like we all successfully expressed ourselves in the music just to translate what we were going through. I would say that it then matured us and brought us closer as musicians and friends than ever before."
Fielder: "I would say that there was a lot of maturing going on within this period. I feel that it was then reflected in the music. But what we were going through around us was almost a co-writer in a lot of ways. This wasn’t necessarily when we were going to write this record initially, because we had so many tours and plans in place. But then, suddenly, did we not just have this whole new bunch of time but also all these new emotions due to the circumstances. And they were feelings and moments that you couldn’t duplicate, simply because they were still all so new to us. Then once we started meeting up again, when we could, this band was the only thing that was keeping us going. This record became something that we could pick up every day, work on and then go to bed feeling proud of."
We’re just starting to realise how different our mindsets are from where they were at the beginning of 2020. So in terms of bits and pieces that you may have been working on back then, feel completely different now simply because you are not the same people you were when you started them…
Nina: "I think the thing that felt the most different was how we were all suddenly bound together by this same shared experience. There was a greater sense of urgency to create something out of this, which became this record, and a greater sense of urgency to finish that thing and make it the best thing we could. The loneliness, anger, and confusion about what was happening and what we were witnessing socially and politically became much more of a collective mindset when writing. So when I hear ‘Married’, I can feel that symbiosis more so than I ever could on our first record. Because we were able to make it through all of that and not hate ourselves and lose all hope, that’s why I feel like we are so much stronger now."
Fielder: "In hindsight, it’s easier to listen back to the record now and compare it to how I was then and how I am now. At the time, though, it was just that sense of urgency. There wasn’t that much room for thought. It was just us being forced into this action or inaction. Thankfully we chose action."
And that action has resulted in what is a no-holds-barred record in so many furious and fantastical ways. Do you feel as though it was the sort of record that you expected to make?
Nina: "I feel like we are constantly developing the Kills Birds sound. We want this band to be free of any boundaries, in whatever direction we may be heading in at any time. We’re not so concerned about having to stay punk or write something that stays within these lines. That’s the reason why we started the band in the first place because it felt like we lacked that freedom in other areas of our lives. But I also noticed that I think a lot less nervous about going on stage than when we started because I feel like I have nothing to lose now. I’ve no sense of losing something if I don’t do something well now. Before the pandemic, it felt like we were trying to control so much, and despite our efforts, so much of what we thought we wanted to do was wiped away. That’s why with this record, it feels like we have just said, ‘Fuck it, we’re going to do what we want to do in the way we want to do it. I’m so thankful for that because in my 20’s I was trying to have so much of a say on where I was going to go and what I was going to be by the time I turned 30. So now I don’t care, and I’m having fun for the first time."
Fielder: "It takes a loss like that, of your job or your livelihood, to set that feeling in motion. You realise that even if you try and make all the right moves, then some crazy shit can still come and wash away."
Another part of this is how you eventually were invited to record it in Dave Grohl’s studio by the man himself. How does it feel to have that vindication of sorts of what you’re choosing to do with Kills Birds from people in those positions?
Nina: "I think everything for us is a process, and we don’t celebrate our achievements like this very often. The greatest feeling for us is how we write from an honest place and try and find our influence from places that aren’t strictly the recipe for success. So the fact that people are enjoying this thing that we made is probably the biggest reward we can get from these sorts of experiences. We try not to let everything else go to our heads or distract us."
Fielder: "It’s also pretty challenging to actualise that so many people are supporting us in the way they are now. Like, in 10-15 years, we will sit down and go, ‘That was amazing’, but at this point, we aren’t letting the things around us distract us from our goals."
So what would you say is the thing that brings all of these songs together to fit under the umbrella of ‘Married’?
Nina: "For me, this album consists of many conversations with myself about heartbreaks I’ve experienced, traumas I’ve been through and chapters in my past that I’m closing and learning from. There are self-reflection questions about who I’m supposed to be as a woman and if I’m in the right place and whether that’s a good or bad thing, and whether I’m worth it. These are all questions that I am constantly asking myself, especially within the context of the last two years that changed the lives of everybody on this planet. Then there’s linking everything into social media and my self-worth within that. This is more a solidified version of all those things coming together into our music."
Fielder: "And in terms of where we were at the start of the writing sessions to where we are now, it feels like we are all married to each other. We have this body of work that is binding us together, for better or for worse. The bond that was created getting through this and coming out the other end with this record is what holds us together."
And within that, what does it mean to be able to have this band as such a pivotal part of your lives?
Nina: "For me, it’s a life-saver. It gives me a purpose that I’ve never had before. It’s my therapy and hang time with my best friends. I’m just so proud that we were able to persevere and get through all of these things and come out with the optimism and dedication that we have to each other and our music. That’s what this is to me, and it’s still just the beginning. I look forward to seeing how we grow together even more because we have done so much already."