The Kills x Seagram's 7 National Dive Bar Day

by Jessica Romoff

Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

You can find yourself anywhere in the country: on a tiresome business trip, a week long vacation to the four corners, a shitty college town when you’re so drunk that the world looks like you are opening your eyes underwater. Somehow you stumble into the corner dive bar, with the expected flickering light that hums like a mosquito, with a burgundy booth that wrinkles like chapped lips, and you find yourself at the jukebox, flipping through the names and titles that don’t ring a bell. Suddenly through the catalog haze, you find that one song, the one you busted your car speakers to, listened to your mother sing every morning while stirring tea, lost your virginity to, etc. And suddenly, you are home. That is the magic of the jukebox, I think. 

And I know I am not the only one who truly cherishes this machine; In honor of National Dive Bar Day on July 7th, The Kills have come together with Seagram’s 7 Crown to re-release and remastered the band’s songs “Blue Moon” and “Night Train” exclusively for dive bar jukeboxes across the country, celebrating these beloved gems and hangouts where many bands like The Kills, got their start. 

I got to talk with Alison Mosshart from The Kills about her own history with dive bars, her philosophy of the jukebox, and her multimedia collection “CAR MA.” Check out the Q&A below! 

In honor of National Dive Bar Day, you’re rereleasing Blue Moon and Night Train. You are also celebrating these historic dive bars and gems where The Kills got their start. You’ve said that dive bars have played an instrumental role in your life. Can you go into that a bit? 

Well you know our first shows we played were in dive bars; They have like a tiny little foot corner stage in the back of the room, no dressing room and you go, you play music and hope that one person there might like your music. And that’d be rad. And that’s basically the first tour of any band usually, and we loved it. We did that for three straight months. Our very first American tour. And you know because of that, to me that tour and that kind of time, it’s the memories and the kind of feeling of excitement and the sort of home feeling. It’s still there, so as soon as we go play Chicago now, we’re not going to play the dive bars, but that’s where we are going after the show, because to us that was home and that was the beginning. I want these places to be around, I think they’re important, where musicians get their start, where people meet their boyfriends and girlfriends, you know, I feel like they’re instrumental in our lives, to really bring people together. 

Thats sick. I can imagine it’s so much more intimate, and you really get a feel for your audience. If you remember your first dive bar performance with the band - or your favorite dive bar performance with The Kills - what was that like? 

Well our first show I would say was at a dive bar, somewhere in London that is no longer there, and we played for like 50 people, we played on like a five band riot girl bill, and I would just say that was the greatest night of my life. Because it was the beginning, it was the most exciting thing in the world! There’s a million in America; there’s the Empty Bottle in Chicago, which is one that is so important to us. And it’s still around, and that place has a photo booth in it and you can see all around, and you can notice that on all of our record artwork form the very beginning, it’s photo booth pictures. Most of them are from that place. We would go there, and not only sit around and write all day, but then play and then do our artwork for our albums there. It was like our camp, this is where we hang out.

Photo courtesy of the brand

Photo courtesy of the brand

So your songs are being re-released on these jukeboxes- what is the number one song or artist you choose to play on a Jukebox in a dive bar? 

Man - that’s hard. I don’t know if I have a favorite, I like to read and look through every single thing in the jukebox before I make my decision. And you know that’s part of the fun, just thinking about who put these songs in here, who is behind all of this insane collection, some crazy shit. I don’t know I always think that old blues sounds great in Dive bars, very simple bluesy kind of tracks. I like being surprised. I put a bunch of money in a jukebox trying to make my decision, so I’m there for another three hours, then waiting to hear if any of my songs played. And not one single time has any of my songs played, and it’s just like crazy selection of months of people before me!

Oh totally, and it’s always such a thrill when you catch a favorite on there.

You know what it is, you’re just putting money in and your basically playing a song for somebody for tomorrow. It’s like karma, it will come back to you. 

That’s so true and I never even think about it - like I never end up hearing the songs I spent 5 dollars on, and I’m sure someone is hearing it the next afternoon.

Exactly. You’re giving it as a gift, you’re not gonna hear it, but you are responsible for that cool moment someone is gonna have later [laughs].

I love that mentality. I’m gonna think that the next time I don’t hear my song play on the jukebox. So “Blue Moon” and “Night Train” are songs you first recorded like 8 -10 years ago...

You know it’s funny bc I was listening to songs the other day and it felt like we wrote them yesterday and it kind of has a funny way of doing it for this long. Normally those b sides have a funny way of working where we don’t really play them on stage. So they just sit in a kind of time capsule - so when we hear it again it’s so exciting hearing them, and makes me want to play them on stage, because songs you play on stage- they kind of grow and take on different forms because of the energy of the audience. All of that energy swirling around out there comes in and paints different colors on songs and makes them sound different, makes them feel different, makes them about different things, you know. When a song is released into the world it becomes someone else’s, it’s their experience and I feel that when I’m playing a song live, I feel what you guys are feeling and so songs can grow and change like that. By the time you’re done touring that, the record is a different beast, you know. But these have been in a time capsule, they haven’t been played on stage and if they have, they were ten years ago. So, I am excited for people to hear them!

Do you have a favorite song to perform on stage?  

That changes all the time - usually its the newest song we have because we played it the least, so you’re scared about it and that’s fun for me, you know, the one I’m nervous about fucking up is my favorite. And then there’s a song called “Kissy Kissy” that was on our very first record and it’s like the reset button in any show. So, you can start the show with songs everybody knows, or the hardest ones, or a single that just came out. You can do that - and you play “Kissy Kissy” and it brings me right back to the day we started the band. It’s like my felix; everything could go wrong and then I play that song and I just reset and now a different show can happen where everything can go right. You know what I mean? For some reason that’s a very grounding one for me - the way it sounds, to play it, the lyrics and everything. It’s the only song I feel that way about. It’s like my secret weapon, well it’s not a secret because I’m telling you, but it just - I don’t know, it sets me on a path, its like my small little anchor.

Not only have you been busy with remastering these new songs, but you also are releasing your printed collection of art, photography, poetry, in “CAR MA.” What will appear in this book? And how has it become another creative outlet for you separate from music? 

Yeah it’s something I always wanted to do, and I do art and I write everyday. I’ve always done that and it’s been something that’s a common thread when I’m on tour and when I’m traveling when I’m home - I always wanted to do something like that and I had a moment: We got off tour after three years and I was like, what am I gonna do with myself? I had an art show with a lot of car artwork in it, all of my artwork has cars in it - I’m obsessed with cars, they always find their way in. But I thought it would be fun to gather and collect you know a bound printed thing from a bunch of these paintings, photos and it sort of just exploded. I was going back it was like, okay this is the last five years, and suddenly I’m like 20 years, and i'm finding stuff I did when I was 14 and just missed it. There was writing from 2001 and there is writing from last Tuesday - you know. I don’t know how to describe a book like this because there isn’t a book like this, that’s full of stories and photographs and memories and conversations. It’s like self a portrait and a picture of me and my dad when I was 2, and it’s sort of autobiographical but also it’s an art book. But it’s full of writing? You know, I don’t know somebody else is gonna have to tell me what the hell it is - I just think its cool, its cool! 

And where did this love and passion for cars come from? Where did it originate from do you think? 

Well it comes from my dad, My dad is an east car dealer. He still is. I grew up around cars, seeing a different car everyday in the driveway, just cars cars and more cars. For fun on the weekends he would take me to car dealerships because you know he had to talk to his dudes or whatever, but I would be there just checking out a monster truck and being blown away and getting a free hot dog and standing in the sun while my dad worked. I just don’t know, I’ve grown up loving the smell of cars, the sound of cars, the look of cars, the color paint that they use, old cars, new cars: It’s just sort of in my DNA, you know?