Rapidly rising Los Angeles-based punk act Kills Birds — currently founding members Nina Ljeti (vocals) and Jacob Loeb (guitar) with Fielder Thomas (bass) — was founded back in 2017 as a sort of secret musical side project for the band’s Ljeti and Loeb. The project evolved into a full-fledged band with the addition of Thomas. And since then, the members of Kills Birds have received attention locally and elsewhere for crafting material centered around jagged, post punk-like guitar driven melodies, slow-buying dynamics, and Ljeti’s urgent lyrics and delivery.
Kills Birds’ 2019 self-tiled full-debut, which featured the feral and uneasy “Volcano” was released to praise from the likes of NPR, Nylon, The Fader, The New York Times, Paste Magazine, Chicago Tribune. And they’ve been championed by the likes of Kim Gordon, Paramore’s Hayley Williams and Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, who invited the band to record their forthcoming sophomore album at this Studio 606 — and to join Foo Fighters for their November 10 Mexico City show. (I’m jumping ahead here but the tour also includes a December 14, 2021 stop at Elsewhere’s Zone One. You can check out the rest of those tour dates further below. They’ll also open for Sleigh Bells during their October national tour.)
Since I mentioned it earlier, Kills Birds’ sophomore album Married is slated for a November 12, 2021 release through Royal Mountain Records/KRO Records. Recorded at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606, the album is a brutal, intense and deeply personal account of an abusive romantic relationship fueled by struggles with power dynamics. While being deeply personal and cathartic, the album sonically oscillates between quiet and loud dynamics in a way that’s beautiful, aggressive and devastating.
“Rabbit,” Married’s first single is centered around alternating explosively loud sections featuring chugging power chords and thunderous drumming, Ljeti’s howled vocals and quieter sections centered around Ljeti’s hushed whispers. Sonically and thematically, the song evokes the shock, awe, revulsion and shame of a narrator in the middle of a dysfunctional and abusive relationship that has her questioning herself and self-worth. Plus, the recognition that this particular relationship is a defining moment of her life — one of which, every relationship of her life will compare in some way or another. The entire affair is devastating honest and unsettling.
“Lyrically, ‘Rabbit’ is about the experience of being in an abusive relationship with a powerful person,” Kills Birds’ Nina Ljeti explains. “To be with someone who was praised by the public, but hurt you (and others) in private really eviscerates your self-worth. There’s nowhere to turn for help. Like many people who share this experience, this particular relationship defined the majority of my young adulthood, and I’m still dealing with the emotional consequences of it.”
The band’s Jacob Loeb continues, “‘Rabbit” was the first song written for the new album. Despite being one of the harder-hitting songs on the record, it was originally written on an acoustic guitar at Nina’s house. The goal was for the chorus to have an almost disorienting quiet/loud dynamic which really came to life when we plugged in and all practiced it for the first time. We tried to make the chorus start so quietly that the listener feels like something went wrong with their speaker and has to kind of lean in to hear Nina singing before the repetition of “how could I?” abruptly and violently re-enters, startling them and making the emotion visceral.”
een film crew filming the band during a rehearsal take, which also includes someone oqccaiosnally pulling out a light meter. Intimately shot, the visual captures the band’s feral live energy — with Ljeti being an explosive and furious presence. Lteji, who’s an award-winning filmmaker herself says “It’s interesting to be on the other side of the camera for “Rabbit”, especially since the concept of the video involves an unseen crew doing a rehearsal take of our performance. though i had no problem relinquishing control as a performer for Susie (the director) it’s not something i’m really used to anymore. so it’s an exciting challenge.” The entire band adds “For ‘Rabbit’ we wanted to depart from the lo-fi aesthetic of our first record and come back with something that was super vivid, bold and direct. The idea was to capture the raw energy of our live performance, particularly from Nina, in the sterile and stilted setting of a film set, with the camera itself becoming this kind of ominous force that manipulates and distorts what it captures.”