The Kills' singer Alison Mosshart hates heat and, as her chalky complexion suggests, she shuns sunlight. Such preferences can be problematic for a Vero Beach, Fla., native, so she eventually found sanctuary in London's dungeon climate. However, she still holds a special place in her heart for the home state that drove her to subsequent success.
"I wouldn't want to live there, but I like what it did to me," she says in a cell-phone conversation, her voice curling at the end of the statement. After five years in London, Mosshart occasionally punctuates sentences with an inquisitive English uptwist. "I couldn't stand it, so it made me really ambitious because I wanted to get out. I had an overactive imagination because I didn't see what I wanted to see. I spent so much time reading, cutting out pictures and dreaming of the day. What I loved about Florida is that it wasn't for me."
At age 14, Mosshart fronted the emotionally evocative pop-punk band Discount. The group traveled constantly, satisfying Mosshart's wanderlust. But by 1999, she started craving a challenging social scene as well as a more satisfying musical outlet.
"When I started Discount, it was the greatest thing in my life," she recalls. "I was a militant artist, and that's all I wanted to do. I felt like when I was a kid, everyone else was a militant artist, because that's how they talked and behaved. Suddenly, I felt like I didn't know anybody anymore. I felt sad, and I needed to find something else."
Mosshart's epiphany came in the form of experimental noise seeping through the ceiling of the South London apartment in which she was staying during a Discount tour stop. Intrigued, she went upstairs and found guitarist Jamie Hince. The two bonded instantly, and they started exchanging sonic snippets once geographically separated.
In 2000, Mosshart moved in with Hince, and the pair became The Kills. 2003's debut full-length Keep on Your Mean Side turned the duo's songwriting-soul mate sparks into a blues-punk bonfire. The live shows, at which creative chemistry was converted into combustible sexual friction, were even hotter.
With this year's No Wow, The Kills add a throbbing electronic pulse to some songs without sacrificing the intimidatingly stark minimalist feel. Mosshart opens the album by snarling "You're gonna have to step over my dead body before you walk out that door," and her fierce intensity never wavers. She taunts "lost a lot of blood/lost a lot of cool" like a detached observer mocking an accident victim's clumsiness, then she smugly asks, "If I'm so evil, why are you so satisfied?"
Florida spawned a monster.