Amidst an endless stream of spontaneous mixtapes and remixes, Alison Mosshart kicks it old school. Doing double duty with her beloved indie outfit The Kills and rock supergroup The Dead Weather, this musician knows that good things take time. Armed with a leather jacket and a “no fucks given” attitude, one of the last authentic rocker chicks makes a powerful case for the slow burn.
Photography Ellen von Unwerth — Words Justin Moran
Flannel shirt & leather jeans R13 —Camouflage t-shirt Alison’s own
Alison Mosshart “doesn’t know what the hell is going on.” In an era where everyone’s moved online and culture has begun turning over at a hasty pace, she’s the rare breed who prefers offline living — a slow-burning approach that favors reflection over the pressure to perpetually update and stay plugged in. “I feel like there’s this vast world of stuff inside my head that I’ve got to get to first, so this whole internet culture, I can’t say I’m too into it. I’m not online looking shit up all day because I’m too busy making stuff. It’s nice to not be swayed a thousand different directions — it’s nice to be focused.”
This strong sense of self is vital for a musician whose career is split between two major projects: rock supergroup The Dead Weather and experimental punk duo The Kills. Though she ends her ravenous vocals and lyrical genius to both, she said the two couldn’t be more unalike, making the experience of simultaneously working on new albums for each an unusual undertaking.
“They’re such different bands with such different processes. The way we think about the music — the way it’s formed and sung, and even the sounds we use are so different for each.”
Apart from sonic distinction, the sheer difference in manpower plays a role in differentiating the two. There’s The Dead Weather (Mosshart, Jack White, Dean Fertita and Jack Lawrence), whose third studio album Dodge and Burn was written and recorded in less than 15 days, and there’s The Kills (Mosshart and Jamie Hince), whose forthcoming album took five years on-and-off to finally come to fruition. “It takes forever because there’s only two of us. We can’t sit around and jam — we don’t do that at all. I write songs on acoustic guitar and Jamie will take them, rip them to shreds, make drum beats and program things. That alone takes weeks. We start with an idea and it grows like a sculpture.”
Leather trench coat Burberry Prorsum — Denim & T-shirt Alison’s own
“This whole internet culture, I can’t say I’m too into it. I’m not online looking shit up all day because I’m too busy making stuff. It’s nice to not be swayed a thousand different directions— it’s nice to be focused.”
There’s a more systematic sound to The Kills’ four-album repertoire; the staccato timbre of 2011’s Blood Pressures cut, Heart Is A Beating Drum, sounds sparse and mechanic next to The Dead Weather’s grizzly, grueling Buzzkill(er). Perhaps this is a result of the “magical” fluidity that Mosshart describes when she joins her Dead Weather bandmates in the studio. “There’s an energy between us that’s hard to describe; there’s a feel, a vibe and that’s how everything happens so quick. I don’t have a lot of time to dwell because if I do, three songs later, I’ll still be looking at my notebook. I just ride the wave and things form naturally, never intentionally.”
Though The Kills have been slyly minimal in the past, Mosshart assured that what’s coming next will be a much fuller sound. “It’s definitely bigger. We had drums in the studio this time to drum different loops live. After 15 years together, making music with Jamie gets harder because we have to keep getting better. We’re sticklers about not writing the same song twice, but it’s difficult to do something that doesn’t make sense to you and trust it. That’s the process: making music you don’t understand and reeling it back in a bit.”
Mosshart and Hince have been recording this project between the pair’s Los Angeles house, where they built a temporary studio, and New York’s iconic Electric Lady Studios, originally constructed in 1970 by Jimi Hendrix. Mosshart relishes in this restless bicoastal lifestyle, as her personal life is also split between her “polar opposite” London and Nashville homes. She doesn’t stay anywhere for more than three weeks. “I feel slightly homeless, but not in the negative sense of the word. I love London for all its culture; if I’m only there for four days, I’ll go to four exhibitions — I want to see all that art. Nashville, for me, is a place where I’m in the studio all the time working on music. Here, I can focus completely because there aren’t a million things I might be missing like in London, but I can still get in my car and drive across the country if I want. I feel an incredible amount of freedom in Nashville.”
Her innate thirst for adventure is a recklessness that translates on stage, where Mosshart violently thrashes her mane with an untouchable indifference only rock stars can successfully pull off. “If you’ve ever seen my bands play, there’s a limit to what kinds of things I can wear because I’ll break everything. Nothing can be dangling off me or it’ll just fly away.” This is why the self-proclaimed “jeans and t-shirts girl” has developed a wardrobe rooted in long-lasting staples, never fleeting trends.
Gold embroided coat Burberry Prorsum — Half blue denim half leopard jeans R13 — Leopard shirt Saint Laurent
“If something catches my eye and I love it, then I live in it for years. I don’t have 50 pairs of shoes, but I definitely have 50 leather jackets.”
Though she admittedly ignores fashion magazines, Mosshart is a diehard fan of her longtime friend, Saint Laurent Creative Director Hedi Slimane, whose signature grunge-bohemian aesthetic looks as if it were pulled straight from her own closet. “Hedi’s clothes look like everything I grew up loving — my heroes in movies or in punk bands. Having been raised in Florida and now being able to wear clothes like his, it’s pretty dreamy.” Her effortlessly cool style is echoed in Los Angeles’ Chateau Marmont — a quintessential rockstar haunt — where Mosshart’s nostalgic sensibility shines through, even in the context of our glossy Vs. photoshoot.
Words Justin Moran — Photography ELLEN VON UNWERTH — Styling JILL LINCOLN & JORDAN JOHNSON — Photo Assistant John Ciamillo — Fashion Assistant Dawn Gregory — Location Chateau Marmont — Thanks to Ken Weinstein / Big Hassle Media & Andrew Friedman / Monotone