Formed in Jackson, MS back in 2016, Kicking is a quite impressive and rather underrated "grungegaze" type of outfit that draws from a much deeper well than most, and with results that can be far more emotionally striking. Whereas many such bands fall into the traps of over-restrained vocals and monotonously slow pacing that's too reliant on shimmery effects rather than actual impact, the opposite is true for Kicking. Here, the vocals totally soar and carry some seriously poignant weight; while the compositions boast real energy and hooks—catchy, but without feeling pop, things are still rather dark.
Kicking's latest EP, Goodbye Party, was released last year in the U.S. by Candlepin Records, but the group is currently prepping a European pressing through Summer Darling Tapes on April 6 (pre-order now), which will include two absolutely stunning bonus tracks—"Cheeks" and "Slower."
I'm beyond psyched to premiere "Cheeks," which just might be my favorite track from the Kicking discography thus far. Hear for yourself below, alongside a quick chat with the band:
Before we dive into the new material, sampling a good portion of the Kicking back catalog, it seems like there's always been somewhat of a "grungegaze" style at the core, though you've definitely peppered that foundation with a number of wider influences that introduce at times darker, noisier, or more textured characteristics. How did you all formulate your approach during the early stages of the band's development?
Bobbie: Having similar influences just made it easy, but we all bring ourselves to the table. Being friends who had all been in other bands made it easy as well. Our approach hasn't really changed, we kind of let whatever happens happen, which keeps it really organic.
Sarah Grace: We went through a while of writing and developing and testing music out. We're always evolving how we play a song, or playing it to how we feel. I came in right before the first recording Kicking did in Vicksburg, so those songs that we still play definitely sound different now. Since Lexie joined as our new drummer, we also adjusted the way we play some things. When writing now, one or more of us usually comes with something and we all listen and feed off each other as we add parts and adjust riffs, so whatever we're all wanting to try can be worked in. It's very much dependent on each other, including Bobbie's lyric style influencing us timing- and parts-wise.
Lacy: Similar to Sarah, I joined Kicking after the recordings on the find another. EP. Growing up in the rust belt with the hardcore scene of the late-'90s/early-'00s, that has likely influenced my tone and attitude. But, I'm a kid that sat too close to the TV on summer mornings before I was in high school (1991 - 1998), watching music videos on VH1 and MTV. My creative brain was molded during the initial cultural waves of grunge and nu-metal.
At least compared to last year's Goodbye Party EP, the two new songs pull back on the heaviness just a touch, which allows a somewhat jangly shimmer to peek through; and that spaciousness really highlights the emotionality of the vocals as well. Was all of that just natural, or were you leaning in particular creative directions when these tracks were coming together?
Bobbie: No, it was natural, we never consciously try to write or play to a particular sound. I think we're very moody—as people and as musicians—so we just allow for that kind of space when writing. If what comes out is something we all feel we can add to, we flesh it out. If not, we don't use it.
Sarah Grace: Very natural, I think. It almost comes in pairs, where we have a couple songs we're working on for a few months and the feeling is one way. Then the next couple of songs start to form and the headspace is different. Or, the feeling on that track is different. Or, Lexie plays it one way fucking off and one of us goes, "Hey, actually, will you do that again?" And then the song changes and all of a sudden it slaps for us.
Lacy: We aren't contrived individuals, and frankly I'd rather stand behind the integrity of something that felt good that comes from an authentic place, than trying to chase a "vibe." I trust my gut and allow for inspiration to hit me from anywhere, whether that's while watching The Virgin Suicides or Type O Negative's 1995 set from the Dynamo Open Air festival.
The song we're premiering is "Cheeks," which really struck me right off the bat with its excellent balance of somber gloom and memorable energy. What can you share more specifically about this tune—be it musically, lyrically, etc.?
Bobbie: Speaking to the lyrics, I decided to have a psych eval last year. There's a lot of relief that comes with a late diagnosis, but there is also a lot of grief. You're trying to learn how to move forward in a world you now understand was never built for you, while mourning a past that didn't have to be so fucking hard. "Cheeks" is really just that reflection.
Sarah Grace: This one I really enjoyed tracking as well as playing live, because of that energy. The big bridge in the middle feels like a flood of emotion in between keeping it together, for me personally. The higher-up backup vocals were bourbon-fueled, humming in my head at Malaco Studios while Bobbie laid her tracks, and I think last-minute I went in to try it out loud. I always want whatever I'm doing on backup to boost Bobbie and not distract from her. We like our Bobert. I think her lyrics help make us who we are, along with everyone else's styles being brought in.
I was honestly kinda surprised when I loaded up the Kicking Bandcamp page and found a string of releases dating back to 2017, in that "Why the hell am I just now hearing this for the first time!?" sense. When that happens, the ceaselessly obsessive music nerd in me tends to want to ask: what are some other bands in your general sphere that listeners might be missing out on, and should be encouraged to pursue?
Lacy: Bands I'd like to gas up include Austin-based Mugger/Lovelorn, Memphis band Cherry Smoke, fellow Mississippi project Funeral Date, and a lot of artists distributed by Sierpien Records—like Morwan or The Violent Youth.
Sarah Grace: Die With Nature, another local Jackson band. And there are so many others, too many to list, and I'm terrible at names.
Pre-order the European edition of Goodbye Party via Summer Darling Tapes. Final copies of the U.S. pressing are still available from Candlepin Records. Hear more from Kicking over at Bandcamp, Spotify, etc. Follow the band on Instagram and Facebook.