K-Holes can creep you out. Their debut album, released by HoZac in 2010, was a dense slab of sinister garage-punk accented with the occasional howl of a saxophone. Dismania, recently released by Hardly Art, takes that same basic sound and expands on it: opener “Child” has enough of a doomy crunch to suggest that K-Holes might well have a metal album in them. And yet they can also keep things energetic, with songs like “Nightshifter” adding an ominous note to your next dance party. I checked in with singer/percussionist Vashti Windish, singer/guitarist Jack Hines, drummer Cameron Michel, and bassist Julie Hines (multi-instrumentalist Sara Villard having recently departed the band) via email. Up for discussion was everything from the group’s sense of identity to Live With Animals, the gallery space Windish and Michel ran until recently.
Looking back at the album on HoZac, there was very little information given about the band on the album itself, whereas with Dismania, there’s more of a sense of the band as a band — photos, credits, etc. What led to this happening?
Cameron Michel: I think we’re evolving. Can’t be a cartoon forever.
Julie Hines: We are on the cover of the first record but we are hidden by masks that we made. I guess we wanted to be more mysterious before. The only thing that’s different about this record is the insert. We had a friend take the pictures and so I guess it comes off as more legit. We also had the room to thank everyone who helped us make the record.
Jack Hines: Uuuhhh, that was us on the cover of the HoZac record. We got reconstructive surgery on our heads.
Vashti Windish: We are on both album covers, just slightly distorted… As far as credits go, we just had more room to write on this one.
The mood that these songs create seems as crucial to their effectiveness as the music itself. How long does it take to get something to feel right? And is that a quality that — at least in terms of the recorded versions of these songs — is created more in the studio, or more in the mix?
Cameron Michel: The feeling quality seems to be natural from the beginning for some reason. Both our records were pretty much recorded live, so you get whatever is going on in the room. Everyone in the band seems to love and hate all kinds of music. Maybe it sounds the way it does ’cause we got good and bad feelings about stuff.
Julie Hines: We come up with the mood of the songs as we are writing them. I think the sound just comes from our style and the instruments we play. It would sound totally different if our gear was changed. In the studio we try to get as close to our live sound as possible. The song and the mood are the same to us.
Jack Hines: The mood is the only thing that matters in a song. If music doesn’t inspire a certain feeling in the listener then it hasn’t done its job. Even the music in commercials is created to give you a shopping feeling. It doesn’t, or it shouldn’t, take any time at all to get something to feel right. If you have a feeling or a mood that brought the song into being, then it’s apparent. As far as the technical stuff, it just serves whatever you started out with when you made up the song.
Vashti Windish: I think our favorite songs have just sort of happened, by feeling whatever mood is in the room, a purely guttural and primal outburst…totally natural. Of course they don’t all magically appear, but they always feel right in the end.
Has your work with Live With Animals had any effect on the music that you’ve made?
Cameron Michel: We’ve made just about all the music there from the start and recorded our first LP there live with Jarvis. It was kinda a dream practice space for us, without all the fancy equipment that a studio has. It was changing every week or month with different artist and shows happening for around 7 years, so it always felt different when making music in there. Lots of buddies were stopping by everyday, so it felt more like hanging out than clocking in.
Julie Hines: Of course! That’s where the band sprang from. We would just hang out and jam together. We practiced there and had studios there. It was a very open creative place for everyone involved. It definitely shaped the band. We recorded our first record there.
Vashti Windish: Yes! We were so lucky to have a place we could go anytime any day (pretty much) and that constantly looked different. And the largeness of it, the sound, the weirdos in the building…lots of cigarette smoke and strange art on the walls. It was our second home, so we always felt very free and open.
Are there plans to re-open the gallery in a new space?
Cameron Michel: I would like to open a new space in the next year or two, but more of a private art/music spot. I liked doing all the public events and shows, but it became a little hard to get my own stuff going. I think having a space that functions privately and has rare special events is ideal.
Vashti Windish: I think eventually I would like to have another space if the right one presents itself. The magic of Live With Animals relied heavily on the building itself, and the price tag. I think next time, I would be a little more selfish and use it more privately with an occasional public show. Its been great to have more time to work on my own projects, and focus on music more, but I do miss Live With Animals way more than I thought I would.
What have you been reading lately?
Cameron Michel: At the moment, The Universe is a Green Dragon and Above Top Secret.
Julie Hines: I have been reading Ada or Ardor but it’s taking forever. Wish I had more time to read.
Jack Hines: I read Savage Love.
Vashti Windish: Chaos Magic.
Photo: King Tuff.