Kill Hannah to Rock ĎFor Never and Everí
by Randy J. Klodz; Photo by Joseph Cultice
One might assume the name Kill Hannah to moniker a death-metal band with a penchant for onstage debauchery such as the sacrificing of female animals, but Chicagoís own Kill Hannah offer a glam pop-rock product potent enough to pizzazz the pants off of rock fans across the city--and nation.
Sure the band may hold more stock in Maybelline than your typical rock act, but the band doesnít use its appearance as a gimmick: they let the music speak for itself. And a lot of people are talking.
While residing in Chicago and its suburbs, the quintet--Mat Devine on vocals, Jonathan Radtke and Dan Weise on guitars, Garrett Hammond on bass and Greg Corner on drums--has for years found a way to sell out shows at Metro--as well as other venues across the city--and has been actively touring across all points in the nation in support of the bandís major label debut For Never and Ever, which hit stores on Oct. 14.
Soak caught up with Kill Hannahís singer Mat Devine as the band was making its trek from Packerland to play a show in Minneapolis. Though Devine had just tasted what he called ďsome shitty foodĒ in the Wisconsin Dells, he had time to call in from the road to tell Soak what itís like to be called ďthe cutest band in ChicagoĒ by a Chicago pop critic and how life on the road can be, as he sings in the bandís ďFrom Now On,Ē ďcrazy like a teenage dream.Ē
SOAK: With a name like Kill Hannah, do people ever think that you belong to a death- metal band?
Mat Devine: UhÖyes. We encounter that every so often. The minute anybody sees the band or hears them it gets dispelled. Sometimes weíre prejudged because of the name. Itís no big deal though.
SOAK: Youíve put out a lot of work independently, whatís it been like now that youíve gone to Atlantic Records, a major label, to release For Never and Ever?
MD: The stakes are a lot higher now. Thereís a lot more to lose. We had a chance to spend a lot of money and make what we feel is a pretty important record. Believe it or not, weíre working harder now that weíre signed, even though we worked our asses before. Now it has evolved into a 24-hour commitment for everybody on the team, not just in the band. Everything has pretty much been amplified since weíve been signed, but we donít want to be one of those bands that completely abandons their identity the minute they get a deal.
SOAK: When I think of the song title ďKennedy,Ē the first single off of ďFor Never and EverĒ that has been getting rotation on Chicago alternative-rock radio for a while now, I think of the glasses-wearing, longer haired VJ on MTV.
MD: [laughs] Oh, OK. Well, hopefully you are in the total minority.
SOAK: But, in the song you say that you want to be ďtall and handsome,Ē while Sun-Times pop music critic Jim DeRogatis called you guys ďthe cutest band in Chicago,Ē whatís up with that?
MD: That was really flattering. I donít know what he was smoking when he wrote that. It was a really cool thing for him to say, I guess. Thatís not so incredibly vital to the product that we look ďcuteĒ or anything, but it was a nice compliment. It probably made a lot of people hate us for no reason. [laughs]
SOAK: You gather large crowds whenever you play in Chicago or the surrounding suburbs, whatís it like playing other cities throughout the nation?
MD: For the most part weíre fairly unknown in these cities. Itís a good chance to relive the early days of the band in Chicago. Weíre starting to see the hard work come to fruition where weíre seeing at first [visit] 10 kids, then next time we visit 50, then 100. Itís nice to see that there must be some sort of thread that unifies our fans around the country. Itís interesting that we go to North Carolina and see a bunch of kids who look identical to the ones in Chicago. Itís a relief really, because we are like ĎOh, shit, OK, cool, we arenít totally insane,í like itís more than just us that are kind of into it.
SOAK: What is your onstage dress like?
MD: Thatís changed over the years. Back in the day it was a little more glam that it is now. Now itís kind of our own thing. We wear minimal make-up and we pay minimal attention to our hair and stuff. Our style is somewhere between early 80ís post-punk and glam, I guess. I think in the best cases we happen to be wearing designer clothes but weíre also grungy and raw. We just try not to look too pretentious or anything. But at the same time, I donít want to pretend that I just got done fixing car when I get on stage. Itís a delicate line to walk and itís been a challenge for us from the beginning.
SOAK: I read that your bandís Web site, www.killhannah.com, gets 10,000 hits a week; that must show that you have a strong following.
MD: I heard now that it gets 15,000 a day. I think we are being discovered now by a lot of people and thereís a lot of chatter. And the touring that weíre doing is really having an affect on that. Plus, I think that our fans have a lot of free time on their hands. And the Internet for a band on the verge, a band before they are really well known, is really the best resource to learn about us.
SOAK: So youíre in a band and you guys have a legion of female fans, how does that work out for you guys on the road?
MD: We all do have long-term committed relationships, but itís no different than any job where you could be away nine out of every ten days or more. Often we are gone 11 months of the year. And since thereís no hope in sight, either, it seems like all you both want is success, but then the more success you get the less you are around, so itís a real catch-22. Sometimes we all feel that we are minutes away from being dumped by our girlfriends.