The last thing you'd expect on a new record by the Kills would be a smoky torch song. The London-based two-piece is best-known for a stripped-down, raw blues-rock (and a dynamic, feral onstage chemistry), but the most striking track on the duo's new record, "Blood Pressures," out Tuesday (Apr. 5) on Domino Records, is "The Last Goodbye," where singer Alison Mosshart unleashes her inner cabaret singer.
"It just sounds like it dropped out of the sky, like it's always been around," Kills guitarist Jamie Hince says. "It sounds like one of those classic songs. That's easily one of my favorites on the record, probably because it is so different."
Kris Gillespie, who runs Domino in the United States, adds, "After one listen to 'The Last Goodbye,' it's hard to miss just how much Alison's voice has matured in her three years of constant activity shared between the Kills and the Dead Weather."
Video: The Kills, "Satellite"
Mosshart may have spent a chunk of time since the Kills' last release, 2008's "Midnight Boom," touring with Jack White and the Dead Weather, but she and Hince have a long history of working together, assembling music across long distances. With Mosshart on tour, Hince says, "maybe I let loose with instruments a bit more than I would've done. I played bass on it. We've never had bass on a record before."
Meanwhile, Mosshart was writing songs differently herself -- the track "Pots and Pans," she says, came from learning by herself on the road. "I was trying to teach myself a different way of playing, of picking [guitar]. I'd never done that before, so that was my learning song; that was the song I invented to learn how to do it quickly and play," she says.
Whatever the inspiration, be it distance, the first Roxy Music record or Hince's childhood in Swaziland, "Blood Pressures" is a bigger, broader, more expansive rock record that still maintains the Kills' signature swagger and sass. It's so much bigger, in fact, that the band members note it might require a different setup when they take it on the road.
"We've always been quite keen on keeping it the two of us," Hince says, "but after this long, we wanted to experiment on the record. The difference of layers, more instruments -- that might dictate having to take someone else out with us."
The record's first single, "Satellite," a crunchy gospel-flavored track, launched Jan. 31 as a stream, accompanied by radio availability and a video directed by Sophie Mueller, creator of the band's memorable "Last Day of Magic" clip. For the "Satellite" video, the duo went to England's Canvey Island, a Coney Island-like resort area that has fallen out of favor, which Hince describes as "kind of a ghost town now."
The Kills' first tour date was March 17 at Domino's South by Southwest showcase. The trek continues in April in San Diego and runs through Coachella, then restarts in late summer or early fall for a longer trip around the country. The band is quite excited about touring. "I'm really glad that people still love to go and interact with other people and see something that's happening right now," Mosshart says. "You don't get to take home a thing. It's not about having things -- it's about having an experience."
In addition, the band is working on a promotion with Polaroid to run concurrently with the album release. The Kills are documenting their tour on Polaroid cameras, with the photos available on Polaroid's website. "The band have long used Polaroid cameras throughout their career in both art and life, so it seemed like an incredibly natural fit to the band's visual aesthetic," Gillespie says.
That aesthetic will be on display in a vinyl release, with a full-art insert and a colored-vinyl record, as well as a 28-page booklet for the CD version -- all designed by Mosshart and Hince. "If physical releases are the 'hardback' to the digital 'paperback,' it never hurts to go the extra mile to make the physical package worth the purchaser's time and money," says Gillespie, who notes that the artwork will be available to digital purchasers as well.
After all, Mosshart says, "these are the things that I live for when I buy a record -- to sit there and read every little tiny thing, to go through and look at all the art and get inspired."