INTERVIEW: The Kickback
  • THURSDAY, JUNE 09, 2016

  • Posted by: Lea Weatherby

Over the course of the last year, The Kickback have emerged in the music scene as a distinctively heady, post-punk band with the melodic sensibilities of a universally likable pop act. Following the 2015 release of their debut album, Sorry All Over the Place The Chicago-based band is steadily becoming the next best thing to hit the alternative genre.

Starting tomorrow, The Kickback will be hitting the road for a string of tour dates and one of the most appealing things about the cerebral four-piece is that they have no idea how cool they actually are. Although Kickback frontman Billy Yost has his reservations, the band delivers explosive live performances, remitting an immersive, airborne energy that tears through the walls of every venue they perform at.

While plenty of bands that have the ability and fortitude to make music, few have the mental faculties or stamina to get it right, and The Kickback is hell-bent on building a sonically hard-hitting and imaginative catalog. By effectively closing in on their abstract and gnawing creative schemes, the band has given perceptible life to their music, and with a relentless passion for what they do, The Kickback are proving to have all the nerve and talent required to see them through.

After a recent gig at The Bowery Electric, I spoke with Billy about staying in tune, writing a song and becoming a CIA operative with a penchant for magic.



LW: When did you guys get started how did you become The Kickback

BY: This has been a loose concept for a really long time but the four of us have been playing together for close to two and a half years in Chicago. I found Eamonn and Jonny, the bass player and guitar player via Craigslist and I wrote really specific ads, like 'I want curly hair...' That's not entirely true but really specific ads about tone and bands you like, There's a lot of people in suits around here, I forgot it's a week night.

LW: Honestly, they seem like douche bags.

BY: Put that in! Lea interjects with douche bag comments! Anyway, then we found Ryan a little bit later, I started in South Dakota and then moved to Chicago and found the boys.

LW: So you took quite a chance on Craig!

BY: When you take a chance on Craigslist, you're basically taking your life into your hands and if you don't bring a buddy to meet at a neutral location there's a good possibility you're going wind up in a ditch naked and afraid.

LW: HIghly likely. So what's your process like when you start working on an album?

BY: It's the most stressful, hardest thing I do in my whole entire life. That includes taxes, which I'm not good at, that includes taking care of myself on a basic human level, I'm also terrible at writing music, which you hear from people like Tom Petty and Brian Wilson who are like, 'Yeah I was whistling in the shower and came up with the greatest song of the 20th century,' and it's actually a lot harder than that. It's fucking hard, but it's also the thing that makes me feel alive and of value to the human race in some tiny little capacity.

LW: So this is your purpose, your calling.

BY: Yeah, it's all I want to do.

LW: What'd you do before music, just out of curiosity?

BY In first grade, I thought I was going to work for the CIA. I had a bunch of spy books and I wanted to figure out new and interesting ways to hide cameras, but not like, in a creepy way.

LW: So you were already thinking about alternative ways to live your lifestyle!

BY: Yeah! I just wanted to be a CIA operative whose cover was a magician.

LW: so kind of like the same thing you're doing now because you still get to get on stage where you can have a totally other persona and blow people's faces off with really noisy and impressive tricks.

BY: That's really nice of you to say. I feel like that's overinflated and completely untrue and mostly, I'm just trying not to be out of tune and look like a total asshole.

LW: You're not out of tune, you don't look like an asshole.

BY: Thank you, thank you. Does that just feel like I'm fishing for compliments?

LW: Not really and I wouldn't just give them away, I'd probably give you a flaccid, unconvincing "mmhm." Also, I probably wouldn't be here if that were the case.

BY: Where are you from?

LW: Long Island.

BY: Ah alright, alright.

LW: Does that give you some context?

BY: No, you're just like, 'fuck you,' and I really appreciate it.

LW: Well that's a relief! So what's your favorite song on the last album?

BY: "Sting's Teacher Years." It's about being terrified and being forced to grow up after your college graduation, and if your big life plan was to be a substitute teacher in service of a musical career, then you should be worried, and you should be afraid, and you have every right to be because that's a terrible plan, but that's how it's been working out for the last four or five years. It's on our first album called Sorry All Over the Place and that process was arduous. We do the slow version of everything we do, and when we record we are the most stressful people to be around. Perfectionists would be the nice way to say it but were just tinkering douche bags who are obsessed with getting things right and can't do it right the first time, so we do it right like, the sixth time.

LW: Which one was the most challenging for you to write?

BY: There's a song called "Little Teach" which is like track 8, so it's not your jammer, it's not in a power position, but there was one day where we'd gotten behind and we were working with Jim Eno from the band Spoon, who is a guy I respect more than probably anyone I can think of in my whole life other than my mom and dad. Anyway, we were just trying to impress, you want to be good for this guy! And we got like, a full day behind because my brother and I were upstairs with 9,000 synthesizers trying to find the perfect sound and couldn't and we almost died, I think we both almost exploded or committed hari-kari, and at that point I thought all was lost but then you pick a sound and your life goes on. It's hard to think of that at the time, but this moog sound is all that matters in the whole world and if it's not right, your whole career up to this point has been bullshit and everything you do after this has been pointless because you've given up on a sound and if you're going to give up on a sound, you're going to give up on your career you're giving up on your life and what's the point of living? Yeah! It's stressful! You're working on a new song, a lot of new songs, and every verse has to be better than any verse you've ever written before in your life, up to this point. Every chorus has to be better than every chorus or I feel like I'm slipping, I've lost my edge, I'm an LCD Soundsystem song, I'm bullshit, I'm passe, I should have never done this, so every time you write a new song and you're really excited and you finally feel fulfilled as an artist, then it's like, ok I have to write another one and you start it all over again

LW: So it's this vicious cycle!

BY: The other guys are well adjusted, they understand the ebbs and flows, but I get locked into a jag where I just want to die all the time but I also love making music.

LW: Whats you're the upcoming plan for you and the band?

BY: We'd like to make a record soon, we're just working on making new songs right now. I want to have my face on the one-dollar bill. I would like to meet Michael Keaton, very much. I'd like him to be in our music video, he's an American Treasure.

LW: It's good that you know how significant Michael Keaton really is, because he has been the best since forever, since Beetlejuice, The Paper, Mr. Mom, come on!

BY: Oh my god I love you. That made me really happy. Yeah so he's going to be in our music video but he doesn't know it yet, I'd like to play with The Muppets band, Dr. teeth and The Electric Mayhem, I'd like Randy Newman to acknowledge us on some level, even if he says I don't know who The Kickback is

LW: Have you tweeted at him?

BY: He doesn't have a twitter account! Michael Keaton does and I've been tweeting at him since 2010 and we're talking probably close to 75 one sided tweets, and we just got to a point now where I act like we have a communicative relationship. I'm like, 'Thanks for the candy box that was really sweet of you!" I want to write two American masterpieces and if I only write one then my life will have been completely meaningless.

LW: Is there something you've been ruminating about that you want to take on, lyrically, sonically?

BY: I wrote one song about a woman who's standing in a grocery store and falls in love with lee Harvey Oswald as she sees him getting shot on the television. I've been reading a lot of Lee Harvey Oswald stuff lately for reasons I don't even want to examine, but I had this idea of a woman in a grocery store who becomes convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald is talking to her while lying dying on the ground which is bizarre, but she has this connection with him and she starts stabbing all these holes in soup cans in some means of protest

LW: That is interesting, when's the next album and how much influence will Lee Harvey Oswald have on it?

BY: We've been on tour since September and working on new songs and hoping to get started on the new LP, but also, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Catch The Kickback at one of their upcoming tour dates below:

the kickback

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