Barely a year after setting the dirty, hellish blues of Horehound loose on the listening audience, The Dead Weather has quickly returned with the follow-up, Sea of Cowards. Released this week, Sea of Cowards may still owe plenty to Jack White’s everlasting infatuation with blues-rock, but the band bristles with odes to Zeppelin and Sabbath (“Blue Blood Blues”) and surprises by drawing inspiration from Lady Gaga (“The Difference Between Us”).
White's Dead Weather counterpart Alison Mosshart, meanwhile, seems more comfortable sharing the spotlight with the prolific songsmith, bringing added snarl to tracks like "Huss and Cuss" while engaging in sinister interplay with her colleague on "Die by the Drop," resulting in an effort that confirms Dead Weather is now more of a real band than some Jack White vanity project. We talked with the super-busy Mosshart for a few minutes in between her prepping for the band's Sea to Shining Sea tour and reconvening with her Kills cohort Jamie Hince.
You said last year that Dead Weather was initially just a group of friends who wanted to make a 7-inch. Did you ever think that the collaboration would spawn such a wealth of material?
No, I definitely didn’t think about it or think of it. It’s been surprising since day one, really. Every time we play a show, we think it’s incredible to come this far and record another record.
Since Horehound and Sea of Cowards came out in pretty quick succession, did the songwriting process change at all, or was it still pretty collaborative?
It’s definitely still collaborative. A lot of songs this time were written on the road during soundcheck. You want to play something new that night and the record just kind of goes from there. Being on the road and playing shows every night, you’re creatively in a different place. So when you’re in the studio and not around people to play, we definitely still that audience and loudness in mind, so the sound is a bit darker. But my mind is a little bit blown and a little bit blurred, as these songs just started falling out of nowhere.
Are you and Jack White ever at odds over who should step up to the mic, when you should share the mic, or is it all dictated by the song itself?
Certain things make sense, but it’s never been confusing as to who should sing what. I sing the songs I wrote lyrics for, and Jack sings the songs he writes lyrics for. It all comes pretty naturally, and it all makes a lot of sense at the time as to what to do, really.
Judging by the upcoming tour dates and venues, despite the couple of festival appearances, you guys are sticking to mid-size clubs. Is this where the band feels most comfortable performing?
Both are equally as challenging for different reasons. I personally like playing in that [club] size where it’s still intimate where everyone can see you and you can see them. It felt like the correct sort of progression because when we started doing Horehound, we started playing in front of 150 people. None of us in any of our bands did that at the time and in a really short time, we got to grow as a band in a way. Those shows were incredible, being face-to-face with an audience like that.
So with all the touring and album press, what’s the status of the Kills?
Actually, I’m in the studio in Michigan with the Kills right now, and I’ve been here in between Dead Weather tours. The next record’s getting finished in the next month or so. The Kills record will probably be out by the end of the year or beginning of next year. Everything’s happening at once, and it’s pretty exciting.