Chris Peck- vocals, guitar
Kevin Chase - bass, vocals
Pete Carr - keyboards
Shaz - drums
Boy Kill Boy are back. Following the gold-selling success of 2006's Civilian, the Essex four-piece return with dazzling new album Stars and the Sea, a new up-and-at-‘em attitude and some new friends and supporters. Ian McCulloch, whose seminal Echo & The Bunnymen the band toured America's East Coast with, for one:
Boy Kill Boy is a curious name. It's a name for the curious. What does it mean? It means something, that much I know. I don't think its murder, and I don't think it's suicide. My interpretation of the name is of a boy struggling to bridge the divide between adolescence and adulthood, that weird place that for some people is where they write their best work. That's what I recognize when I listen to BKB: the same angst that ‘stang" me when I was starting out.
"Me and Ian became good friends," says Boy Kill Boy frontman Chris Peck. "When I saw Echo & The Bunnymen live it blew me away, they were the only band I've stood and watched every single night, from 50 different points. There ended up being an almost psychic connection between Ian and myself, me playing him our new album at 3 in the morning, and him playing me his."
Perhaps it's no surprise; though Boy Kill Boy were capable of producing indie-rock anthems like deathless debut single ‘Suzie', they were equally well-versed in tracks like ‘Civil Sin', those with a brooding, nocturnal side where you could discern the influences of The Cure, Psychedelic Furs and, indeed, Echo & The Bunnymen.
"Stuff that I think is good music, basically," says Chris. "I've always been a massive fan of albums like [The Cure's] 17 Seconds, and a song like [Stars and the Sea's] ‘Kidda Kidda' is directly inspired by those records, and our experiences with Echo & The Bunnymen."
In fact, Boy Kill Boy's dark side - and their refusal to play the same song, over and over - has occasionally bamboozled journalists. "I was doing interviews for the first album where people were calling us an ‘emo band'," tuts Chris. "I don't know where they got that from. It's got fuck all to do with us. Just because I'm not singing about wearing ‘the same jeans' every day..."
Sometimes, that dark stuff is even capable of unsettling the band themselves. With new songs ‘A OK' and ‘Rosie's On Fire' done "in the back of the bus" on their last tour, the band repaired to Cornwall in January 2007 to begin writing the bulk of what would become Stars and the Sea. "The blustery, rainy, windy, cold depths of the middle of nowhere," says Chris, who spent some time alone in the studio, before being joined by Kev, Shaz and Pete. "I went nocturnal completely. I was sleeping during the day, and had all the instruments set up, working on stuff through the night with the trees scratching at the windows. Dark times. It all got very introspective."
"There was a photo of us from that time posted on MySpace," says Kev, "where you can see it in our eyes. We look ready to kill." Eventually, things got a bit much. "We decided," says Chris. "To get the f**k out of there."
Chris is in the throes of discovering the world, the whirled, the weird, the feared, the immeasurable, the treasurable, the highs and the lies of life. That's what Boy Kill Boy seem to sound like - and sound to seem like - to me. Listen to this record and share the voyage, some kind of rites of passage and shedding of skin. That's my take on the name. I hear the sound of a boy killing boy and a man becoming/fulfilling man. In a world of soulless, vacuous fakery it's heart-mending to hear someone who is actually trying to reveal something of themselves, without the usual woe-is-me isms.
The band upped-sticks to Brighton, where in February/March they did more writing, hung out with local bands The Maccabees and The Kooks and partied. "It was the polar opposite [from Cornwall]," says Chris. "We were in a really good place." (Killer first single, the full-of-beans ‘No Conversation' stems from these times.) With a set of songs ready to go, Boy Kill Boy headed for the legendary Sunset Sound studios in LA, where they hooked up with revered Oasis/Wolfmother/Cold War Kids "hardcore super-producer" Dave Sardy. "It started out that he was going to do a few of the tunes," says Chris. "But when he heard what we had, he signed up for the whole album. That really injected us with confidence."
LA was not without its distractions. "As soon as we got there we got a call from some people who'd been to see us at [London venue] The Astoria," says Chris. "We'd been invited to Scarlett Johansson's private birthday party, in a hotel room. We were getting pissed with all these Hollywood faces. A million miles from what we're used to."
The weirdness continued after they repaired to Dave's private studio in the Hollywood Hills: "I think Dave was conscious of keeping up an atmosphere," says Kev. "All the crew were these bearded country men who make guitars out of bits of wood from their local forest. They like to shoot guns and the only film they actually know exists is The Big Lebowski."
With Boy Kill Boy's Cornwall-Brighton-LA voyage complete, Stars and the Sea's mighty 11-tracks prove to be very much the product of their environment. It's a record the band's fans will love, but one that's liable to earn them a whole raft of new supporters, too.
"Sonically it's got a nice depth to it," says Shaz. "I think it will appeal to a much broader range of people than the first album."
"As a body of work it feels like it knows itself a bit more," grins Chris. "Like we do."
From road-tested live favourite ‘Promises' to emotionally-naked closer ‘Two Souls' via the potentially massive ‘Paris', and the song-for-friends-and-family ‘A OK', it's a record that plays to Boy Kill Boy's many strengths.
"We're trying to carry a degree of honesty," says Chris. "People aren't idiots. Especially the kids who are into music now. They're running things, and that's great. The journey we've been on... it's been a wicked time, an amazing journey and an exploration. But there have been dark times and it's important to represent all that faithfully."
"I hate to use the word ‘classic'," he concludes. "But by maybe aspiring to our heroes and doing everything we can do to keep the language of great, ‘important' albums going, hopefully we've made something that isn't disposable, like so much of the industry is today. As long as we feel we've been honest, and true to ourselves, that's going to come across. We've succeeded on our own terms."
I first heard this album in Liverpool sharing secrets and lies with Chris. I was thrilled with the progression of the band, a progression but also a simplification. This is a rawer record than their debut with the sound of a band gelling together, through playing and touring and rehearsing together, and so more real. It's a personal, troubled thing and it hit me. That's all it should do...see me through. Boy Kill Boy have realised that the one crucial things an artist needs is integrity. You will never sell out if you don't ever buy in.