On the one hand, there's the introspective, self-effacing Kill Creek, polite to a fault and adept at shunning attention. This is the group that gave away hundreds of copies of 2000's Long Story Short, its de facto greatest hits collection, which marked its first release on Second Nature Recordings. These are the mild-mannered chaps who promise that they will stay sober when I come home this October.
But then there's this noisy, obnoxious, brutally honest rock band that was founded in high school and sings of friends who are all working on dying, the type of proud musicians who can talk about their music for half an hour when you finally get them on the phone. That mix of insecurity and braggadocio is exactly what drives Kill Creek's music, often within the course of one song. "We could never decide if we were this quiet pop band or this loud punk rock band, which is our roots," says cofounding guitarist Ron Hayes, "but I guess that's what makes the songs the way they are."
This appealing blend is what inspires teens (who were barely out of diapers when the band started) to flock to Kill Creek's infrequent performances and clamor to participate in the group's sing-along choruses. Hayes isn't so much surprised by his fans' youth as he is by the fact that Kill Creek still has such a loyal following, regardless of age.
"What's really amazing to me is that anyone shows up," he marvels. "We always think it's going to be like a VH-1 Where Are They Now? sort of thing." Actually, Kill Creek's story -- band founded in high school gets signed to a mid-major label (Mammoth), garners critical acclaim and then encounters obstacles along its path to greater success -- seems to make it eligible for Behind the Music. Still, the fact that Kill Creek's members remain on good terms with staffers from the band's former label (in fact, the group has no known beef with anyone in the industry) might diminish its luster in the eyes of conflict-seeking producers. "A lot of bands who don't 'make it' like to blame the label, and the truth is it's probably about 80 percent our fault and 20 percent theirs, if it's their fault at all," confides Hayes, maintaining the band's policy of honesty.
"The fact is that we didn't tour enough," he continues. "We had our well-documented problems with that: Scott being ill, losing drummers (currently on number six -- insert Spinal Tap joke here). The Get Up Kids, they just went out on the road for a few years, and that's what you're supposed to do. I think a lot of bands were more driven for success than we were; that was kind of our fatal flaw. We were always just looking for a shortcut around that because we were lazy about it, and it turns out that doesn't work."
Well, it sort of works, as long as your band isn't harboring any grand expectations of opening for Green Day in arenas, and Hayes confirms such goals were never on Kill Creek's horizon. "I'm not talking about getting on a tour bus," he says. "It's more or less not playing for eight people in Virginia every night. I don't think any of us regret anything at all."
With no label-imposed deadlines to meet, whatever pressure that once existed has vanished, and the group's only stated goal at the moment is to help Second Nature Recordings head honcho Dan Askew recoup the money he invested in its upcoming record, Colors of Home.
"Don't get me wrong -- I hope people like the record, but we like what we do now, and we do it more or less for fun," Hayes says. "Sitting around and talking about record sales and distribution and stuff is horrible. It's like going to the proctologist. But going to practice and working out songs, that's the reason you do it. That hasn't changed since we were in high school, and that's the reason that we're still all playing together."
And that is what keeps Kill Creek, an influential band to a lot of local bands that have in turn become influential, from being obsolete. It's devotion that keeps the kids coming out in droves to see Kill Creek, not a macabre fascination with aging musicians.
"We don't want to be the old guys who don't know when to hang it up," admits Hayes. "Ed Rose called it the Golden Cockroach award, for the band that refuses to quit, but I think the way we do it, every once in a while, here and there, it's all right." Kill Creek's shows are destined to be more here than there -- bassist Patrick Grassy has a kid and Born has a condition that makes performing physically painful. Still, Kill Creek doesn't plan to dry up anytime soon. "As long as people think it's fun, we'll do it," Hayes confirms.
Judging by the response to Kill Creek's performance with Reflector last July 1, the group's enthusiastic young fans are living up to their part of the aforementioned bargain. Hayes attributes this rejuvenated teenage fascination with Kill Creek to the love that new local heavyweights have shown to his band -- a far cry from the dog-eat-dog mentality he encountered during the gilded age of Lawrence rock.
"The Get Up Kids and the Casket Lottery have been so nice about our band, and they tell their fans about us, and there's this resurgence of interest in our music because of those guys," Hayes says. "That's sort of funny to me because this used to be a cutthroat scene. Now it seems to me that all these great bands around here have attitudes that are so completely different. These bands all genuinely want each other to succeed as opposed to the lip-service from back when we were more involved."
And that's probably all you need to know about why they're still involved.