Like many residents of Los Angeles, the members of ASCAP rock band Kill the Complex come from all over the place - from Burbank to Minnesota to Beirut, Lebanon. But while the band’s origins may be diverse, Kill the Complex are as focused as a laserbeam on their debut Evolution. The 12 melodic rock songs on the album ignite with huge hooks and blazing energy, exactly the kind of stuff that should be sharing radiowaves with 30 Seconds to Mars and Foo Fighters. After years of globetrotting and pavement-pounding, Kill the Complex are getting the attention they deserve: they recently hit #1 on the “Locals Only” program on L.A. rock station KROQ, which helped them land a management company and booking agent. A week before releasing the video to their first single “Shine,” we talked with ¾ of Kill the Complex about what it’s like being a young band working hard to make it happen.
There's a great lyric in your song "Palm Trees" that goes "The reason why I stay here / Is not the reason why I came." Can you tell me briefly how you all came to Los Angeles from such diverse locales, and why you stay here?
DANN SAXTON (vocals): I grew up in a town of 300 people in southern Minnesota. I came here because I was young and courageous, some would say stupid! Hungry to explore what life had to offer. I stay here now because I still feel that something is around the corner waiting to surprise me. Once that feeling is gone, I'll know it's time to move on.
GABE HEREDIA (guitars): I came back to the States from Buenos Aires, Argentina when I was 20 to push my band from South America. Well, that didn't go over well at all. My dream was to have a studio so I could always work with music. So I opened a place in Burbank, CA. And Dann found a flyer I had posted in a record store. After that I couldn't get rid of him! Ha...then [punk band] Butane came in to record a demo, lost their singer, Dann hopped in, then they lost their bassist, and that's where yours truly came into the picture...the rest is history!
KTC took its band name from an album title by Dann, Gabe and Ted's old band Butane; the title of your new one, Evolution, connects KTC with its past, too. What's important to you about acknowledging where you've come from in such bold ways?
DS: I'm constantly realizing how much I've grown because of past events in my life. We have to trust our past experiences to prepare us for what's to come.
GH: When Butane changed members, we all started changing, personally and musically...we grew. “Evolution” is exactly what that record is to me. Sonic growth.
What led you to choose "Shine" as the single and first video?
DS: I've been told it's a song that can appeal to a few demographics. I'm just happy because the choir gets some love!
GH: I think it was unanimous. It was literally the first song we wrote as KTC...I feel like it best sets up the record and what "our" sound is like.
MIKE ELLING (bass): We actually were torn between four of our songs: “Ambiance,” “Get Away,” “Wonderland” and “Shine.” In the end we decided on “Shine” because we thought that our first single should be one that had the broadest appeal. We pictured it being a song that kids can enjoy as well as our grandparents (and everyone in between!)
There are so many great songs on Evolution, each with its own take on your core sound. Did you take special pains to ensure that the album would hang together, or did that just happen naturally?
DS: If there was a song that started developing in another direction, we would put the brakes on, rethink things and steer it back to our neck of the woods. But all in all, these songs happened naturally.
GH: There were definitely songs that I thought were good that didn’t make the record, mainly because of the flow. But I feel like it was more of a natural process. The hardest thing was getting the songs in a place that we were all happy with. The songs themselves changed a lot once we were in the studio.
Do you guys play music exclusively? Or do you have day gigs that keep you afloat while you're working at your music career?
DS: I'm the Production Manager of The Roxy on Sunset Blvd., which keeps me surrounded by music and music business on the daily. This job is definitely a blessing. I was recently asked by David Lee Roth to be his road manager on the current Van Halen tour, but turned it down because of opportunities for my own music.
GH: I used to be a sound engineer, working with musicians as well as mixing TV shows and feature films. This last year though I transitioned into editing TV. I had to give my ears a break!
ME: Ohhhh, we all have jobs unfortunately. The goal is that one day we can turn to KTC for that weekly paycheck, but for now, funny enough, three of us are editors in the reality television world.
Rock music doesn't dominate radio like it used to, but you guys managed to do just fine for yourselves on KROQ. What sort of doors have opened for the band thanks to your #1 spot on KROQ Locals Only for "Shine?"
DS: There's a credibility that has come with the fact that a KROQ logo on our Facebook actually means something. Our fanbase has grown, CAA took notice, and GRIND Artist Management courted us and we ended up signing with them.
GH: It’s been great to see our Facebook, Youtube, iTunes, etc. spike in views or hits. Seeing that an impact is being made makes you feel good about what you're doing...it can be pretty tough out there for musicians. So anything that shows gratification is hugely rewarding.
Young bands ask us all the time how to find a manager or booking agent. A lot of times the truth is something like "You don't find them - they find you!" What was Kill the Complex's approach to finding its "team?"
DS: Our approach has always been to find people who understand the vision, and can bring something to the table that we can't already cook up. Our team has grown organically; our management found us from our KROQ exposure, CAA found us through word of mouth and set up a CAA showcase at the Viper Room.
GH: We're fortunate enough that Ryan [Hagen of GRIND Management] came to us. Mainly because of Mike's strikingly good looks and Dann’s flowing locks. I feel like Ryan understands us and where we want to go. It’s like we all want to grow as one.
Your music sounds like it'd be totally combustible in a live setting. How important has playing live been for you? And what's your strategy for when, where and how often to play?
DS: Playing live is very important to us. My biggest pet peeve is seeing a band live and not believing their authenticity. We get in a zone and give the crowd everything we have. We're constantly trying to create a show that evokes a feeling, through sound and visuals.
GH: I honestly feel that sometimes it’s best to be as selective as possible when playing shows. Unless you're touring. But even then, knowing when to tour is crucial. Keeping ourselves a little mysterious is a good thing in my eyes, that way when we do come out of the woodwork, people are excited to see us again.
ME: We try to play about once every two months to keep our shows fresh and new...speaking of which, we just finished a brand new live projection video that we're going to have playing behind us on all of our upcoming shows, which we're so excited about. It's something we've talked about forever, and now we finally have it done! Hey you reading this! Come check it out!
What has ASCAP meant to your careers thus far?
DS: I actually wrote a jingle called "ASCAP Day," and I used to email it to the guys every time I got a check! ASCAP has always been very accessible when we've had questions, and that in itself makes a musician feel better in an industry that can sometimes make you feel invisible!
What's in store for KTC in the near future?
DS: June 1st, Rock of Ages Movie Premiere Party at The Roxy...KROQ LobsterFest...residency at Silverlake Lounge in September...and some festivals and one-offs we are awaiting confirmation on. We have also been working on video and radio promotions and we are actively pursuing finding a record label to call home.
GH: A whole lot of awesomeness...hopefully :)
ME: Our video is coming out next week, which we are hoping leads us to more exciting opportunities. Something we've dreamed about is playing some shows in Europe, hitting the festival circuit (I'd drop dead if I ever stepped foot on the Coachella Stage) and collaborating with other great artists for our next album. And who knows, maybe getting signed? Is that even something bands wanna do anymore? Ahh f**k it, we'll try. I've always wanted to say "My band just got signed," just for the hell of it.
Find out more about Kill the Complex at www.killthecomplex.com