If you scrape together bits and pieces of Soft Kill’s history you will most likely find a sordid story of adversity, addiction, nomad-ism, fatherhood and, ultimately, some sort of redemption. I wouldn’t even begin to know where to start here (so I won’t try), But the sum of these elements is some of the most interesting modern post punk available anywhere today.
Yes, they are the real thing. Their debut LP (2011’s “An Open Door”) absolutely ruined me. I was forever cursed with a fruitless search to find anything that even approximated the spirit they captured on this album.
Eight years on and the curse still grips me. Snatches of bands that come close (Soviet Soviet, Motorama, etc.) and a virtual sea of fucking pretenders have resulted in my acceptance of the fact that darkness cannot be forced. By darkness, I mean sleek, razor’s-edge, fashionable, unaffected darkness. Darkness that comes from lived experience, not a synthesizer and an “Unknown Pleaures” tee. Darkness that speaks of hope and beauty.
At the time of “An Open Door”, Soft Kill had literally no internet presence. It seems like there was maybe one picture of them to be found on google. You couldn’t just look them up and imbibe their entire bio in one sitting while idly glancing up at “Orange is the New Black” or whatever. There was no tour info. No roster of members anywhere.
Could ghosts have made this record?
I was intrigued, to say the least. Living in an age where it seems like my favorite artists just can’t seem to shut the fuck up for a few seconds and try being mysterious, it was refreshing. I’ll admit (and you would too, if you were honest) I’ve had more than a few great bands ruin themselves for me by constantly posting what they are eating or taking one too many selfies. As a kid, I thirsted for knowledge about bands. The evil genie fuck must have heard my prayers and granted my wish. Now I know the look on their pet’s faces when they eat their own shit. The magician made his own magic disappear.
This wasn’t the case with Soft Kill. When they finally did emerge on Facebook and other places it was still hard to discern what was going on. Sometimes they were from Chicago. Other times, Portland. The lead singer’s name changed with each article. This further intrigued me.
But what was going on during this blackout? That, I don’t know a lot about. I can speculate that vocalist/composer Tobias Graves (Or Toby Sinclair?) was probably undergoing some serious self-reflection. I believe, and could be wrong, that it was a pretty dark (actual darkness, not mall darkness) time for him. I further believe that upon his return he channeled this darkness into his art and has used it to invent a new persona. Soft Kill is now the seminal front-runner in the North American independent post punk revival. Ask anyone that’s familiar with their work. They are serious. They aren’t carbon-copies of their fore-bearers; They are separate extensions of them.
The Ghost has found its vessel
I sat down to write about their new 7” single, on which they collaborated with Choir Boy, of Utah.
Anyone who reads me often knows that a review is never going to be just a review. We, at Wired Wrong, write about life; not music. Music is terrible.
But a stark exception to that would be Soft Kill/Choir Boy’s “Saint”:
Here Soft Kill steps out of their more traditional means to a musical end with a tune that is far more electronic than we are used to. Synthesizers swirl over a driving beat that is, in a world oversaturated with such things, extremely cool and exciting. The swapped vocals are unintelligle, for the most part, but come through well as their own, isolated instruments. The contrast between Choir Boy’s Adam Klopp on the verses and Tobias Graves’ choruses paint a lovely soundscape, as both are accomplished singers of opposing ranges. The overall feel is of danceable, indulgent ominousness.
You can pick up the 7” over at Soft Kill’s big cartel (https://softkillsoftkill.bigcartel.com/) or stream it at any of the usual places.
I, for one, am glad that Soft Kill continues to make music. At one time, I almost questioned their very existence. They have come back and far exceeded my wildest expectations. They are a great story. They are a phenomenal band.