Kerchief has been a staple of Chattanooga, TN’s indie rock scene for the past several years now. I’ve had the privilege of catching them live several times, and they know exactly how to put on a good rock and roll show. With all of the distractions of modern life, it’s sort of miraculous when a band can capture our full attention. Kerchief is one of those bands that can grab an audience’s attention, and hold it for the duration of their set.
Led by songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Britt Hill, the band’s most recent record Fluke is a perfect collection of moody, atmospheric post-punk. Together with bassist Tommy Nicholson and drummer Trevor Nicholson, Kerchief has crafted a record that is vibe-y, technically immaculate, and sonically gorgeous.
I had the privilege of asking Hill a few questions about Fluke, the band’s creative process, and translating the songs live. Read the full interview below! ?
What was the writing process like for this record, both musically and lyrically? There’s a lot of parts on this record – the songs are sort of brimming with cool synth leads and guitar riffs. What was it like to flesh out this record?
Most of the songs on the record have been a long time coming, so there was plenty of time and room for tweaking and rearranging. The typical writing process for Kerchief goes something like this: I come up with a melody or guitar riff. I expound upon it in Ableton or Logic and flesh out a demo with a rough set of lyrics. Then I take it to the practice room and my crew helps me make it better. 5 out of the 8 songs were written over a year before the album was even recorded, so we definitely rearranged and added things over time until we felt like every song was interesting and impactful. The 3 that were written right before we went to the studio were kind of magical in a way that they just poured out of us naturally and vibey enough to where we didn’t want to overthink them. The 2 singles “Evil Parts” and “Til The End” were in that group, so maybe that says something.
The record walks that fine line between “dark and brooding” and “insanely danceable” so well. The second song, “States,” is such a good example of that. Was that a vibe you wanted to curate with these songs?
Definitely. Dark, brooding, and danceable is us, or at least what we aim for, in a nutshell. I’ve always been more drawn to energetic songs, but also have a permanent angst that I will probably always draw from. Most of the songs are loosely based in past bittersweet past experiences, but we try to convey an overall theme of embracing the ugly and scary parts of the human experience.
The current lineup of Kerchief has been around for a few years now. Has having that stability helped with the writing and recording process?
Having permanent band members is definitely huge for morale. They’ve been great with helping me get out of my “demo-itis” and hear the songs in a different way. They’re also a blast to be with on the road and I can’t understate how important that is. They also have standards for Kerchief that are just as high as mine so they are good about pushing me to not settle on anything in the studio.
There’s a lot of synth and awesome drum machine sounds on the record. Is it a challenge to take the production on the record and translate it into a live show?
It is a challenge, but it’s a fun one. To me, it’s kind of like putting a puzzle together. We could run backing tracks so that everything would sound exactly like the record, but instead what we usually do live is recreate those parts with a twist. We make new one-shot samples and pads that are true to the heart of the song and Trevor triggers some on an SPD-SX and I trigger some with pedals. I’ve learned a lot as a musician by doing it this way and I think it keeps it fresh for us.
What’s your favorite song from the record to play live?
It’s a toss-up between “Til The End” and “Tiny Bombs” but I’d have to go with “Tiny Bombs”. It has a dark and sexy vibe that takes me over as a vocalist every time we play it. I always get excited when that one is next up.
Was there a favorite piece of gear that you used on the record? Or, any cool gear that made the recording fun and exciting?
I played most of the keys myself and so we got to use a lot of synths in finding the best sounds. I really loved playing on a Prophet synth for the first time. We also got pretty experimental with the vocal layering this time around and used a plugin called “Alter Boy” that was a lot of fun. We chopped up some vocal stuff to act more like an instrument in some songs that needed a little extra something. You can hear it most in “Bad Math” and “Growing Teeth”.
Were there any challenges faced in the studio? In terms of arrangements, capturing a perfect sound?
I think honestly the biggest challenge for Kerchief in the studio has always been agreeing on the perfect amount of being “produced” versus being “over-produced.” I used to stress a lot more about this until I realized how subjective it is and you can’t please everybody. Although we listen to a lot of garage rock, surf rock, and generally raw sounding bands, we understand that our stuff has commercial appeal and we want to reach as big of an audience as possible, so sometimes our stuff comes out more polished in the studio than what you might think when you see us live. But I think that’s just another reason people should keep coming to our live show. It’s different and ever evolving.
What’s next for Kerchief?
We’re just going to keep doing what we do and working hard. Thankfully we joined a booking agency based in Nashville recently called “Hangar Productions” after doing some tour dates with some of their roster. That was our main goal for this album cycle and this year so now we’re just going to try to be on the road more consistently. We’ve got 3 new songs so far that we’re working on for a new EP. My goal is to write a few more this summer and possibly release more new music before 2020.