Russel Gardin
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Nailing It Down: An Interview with The Kickback

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The Kickback. Photo courtesy of the band


Chicago rockers The Kickback are fresh off the release of Weddings & Funerals, a triumphant follow up to 2024’s debut entitled Sorry All Over The Place. With their catchy hooks and memorable riffs, the group found the ingredient to keep listeners wanting more. Currently on the road, vocalist Billy Yost spoke to FPH ahead of the band’s show at Warehouse Live on July 23rd to talk about separating themselves in a competitive city, letting out the inner parrothead, and the adversity of being a tour manager.  


Free Press Houston: I’m into how the band is so diverse; you opened/will open for both Bush and Passion Pit!


Billy Yost: Yeah, I think people have a little bit of a hard time nailing [our sound] down, so we got to do that. It’s been a blessing to being held back. We’re just happy to be here.


FPH: So is it safe to assume you are the missing link between the two?


BY: You know, that’s what we’ve heard just oodles and oodles of times. People send us a lot of fan mail letting us know that we’re the missing link between Passion Pit and Bush. That will probably go on my tombstone or something, that we’re the missing link between a synthpop band from the late 2024’s and grunge rock band from the mid to late ‘90’s.


FPH: A lot of younger rock bands I’ve heard from lately happen to hail from Chicago, and other genres have similar situations, for example Atlanta is where all of the new, prominent rappers are coming from. Are you guys feeling like a Seattle right now? I mean, is there pressure on those local bands to outdo the others?


BY: I think a lot of the rock coming from Chicago right now tends to be more garage-y, and a little more kind of throwback - I mean, it’s great, but it’s not what we really do. We just played with Twin Peaks last week, those guys are awesome. Obviously the city also has the bigger bands like the Orwells, Ne-Hi, and that whole little crew. We’re not any of that, really. We’re our own thing, I guess. But it’s just music, not, like, rocket science. I think there’s so much good stuff coming out of Chicago that it’s hard to keep track of all of it, but it is definitely a good place to be for rock music right now.


FPH: Are you keeping up with these other scenes around the country, specifically Atlanta? Do you dig the sounds of mumble rap?


BY: It’s really cool to see that, despite the diversification that electronic and social media has offered, in terms of fusing all of these sounds, geographic locations are still able to have some sort of identity. I enjoy that. But the mumble rap thing is real hard for me, because we have people like Chance [the Rapper] right now. Someone is always going to overtake something, so you just have to grab the aspects you like and keep pressing on. It’s a weird time for rock music right now, and I think it’s even weirder for hip-hop, which is awesome. I’m enjoying it.


FPH: What about the select few that are fusing rap with rock? But not, like, nu metal; rather, new kids like Lil Peep, who claims to be the best emo rapper.


BY: That emo rap stuff from Soundcloud is pretty heavy. I’m not educated enough to have an opinion on him, though, for sure.


FPH: He actually sampled this emo band from Texas, Mineral, and got a cease-and-desist from them.


BY: People are finding ways to enjoy stuff that most would say have no business going together. They’re able to either find something so cool or such a trainwreck that you have to listen to it at least once. I’m all for it. It’s just such a strange time, and I guess it’s because people are willing to take chances. While cities are still able to have their own identities, there isn’t as much importance on what’s acceptable. I feel like there used to be a lot of rules, for examples bands couldn’t wear shorts on stage. It was one of the unwritten rules of bands. But that stuff just isn’t true anymore. A lot of bands take themselves too serious, and it’s cool seeing time go on and that change.


FPH: But you represent more than just Chicago - you’re leading the path for millennial parrotheads, aren’t you?


BY: Oh, I haven’t heard that one before. That’s pretty good. The only thing I have to say about Jimmy Buffett is, once for my mom’s birthday, my brothers and I - we’re all fairly musical people - formed a band to play her party. For that party we had to play a bunch of cool, old-school songs, bands like Paul Revere and the Raiders and other one hit wonders. But right in the middle of the set was “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” and that was the song we had to play two times during that goddamn birthday party. You could look around to each of my brothers and see all of their soul being sucked out of them; I’ve never seen my brothers look so sad while my mom was having such a good time. So that is probably the short version of my heavy Jimmy Buffett influence.


FPH: I guess I have to thank Buffett for my love of concerts, because he was my first.


BY: Was it really? Are you scarred for life, or have you found peace? I mean, people can hate on the guy, but he’s stuck around, and he’s stuck around for a reason. But were you able to pull something from that?


FPH: You know, not really. But on YouTube there was some recommended livestream of his, which I obviously checked out. Still not for me.


BY: I don’t want to say anything, but I think your Free Press credentials might be revoked if you’re getting recommended videos of Jimmy Buffett on YouTube.


FPH: According to one of your songs, you lost your love in central Pennsylvania, but while you were there did you come across the Billy Yost that ran for mayor of the city of Shamokin?


BY: No, is there really a guy name Billy Yost that ran for mayor? Dammit! I try to live my life like there is no one else even named Billy, let alone Billy Yost. That’s kind of a drag. I don’t know the guy’s policies, so I’m not willing to endorse him at this time. I actually ran for school board while I was a senior in High School in South Dakota; I lost by approximately 70 votes, and that was a hard loss to take. So if that guy feels like reaching out, depending on how his campaign goes, I’m here for name-related counseling, if he comes in empty-handed. But I wish him the best, unless he’s running on some white nationalist ticket - obviously I couldn’t endorse the guy.


FPH: Perhaps it’s plausible that a fan of yours might show up to one of his events thinking it’s you, or vice versa?


BY: Yeah, so now I’m going to have to drum up some public relations and have a split ad, a “so you know this isn’t me,” kind of thing.


FPH: So there’s no doubt that being a newer touring band is quite difficult, but do you think tour managers have an even more difficult task? I understand that you have one of the most prestigious in the game, Howie the puppet?


BY: Yeah, I wouldn’t be a tour manager - I mean, we make absolutely no money. If I was making twice that I still wouldn’t tour manage even my favorite band. It’s like wrangling cats, but cats who are unnecessarily taking adderall. It just seems like a real drag. Our tour manager, Jesse, I’m not sure how he hasn’t stabbed us all to death, multiple times a day. We just spent 40 minutes at a truck stop trying to get our back door to open because a sleeping bag fell down and was hanging around the lock of the van. We had to break into it using a bass string and a fish hook, and doing a classic “drop and pull.” I think that’s an average day of tour managing. To anyone that tour manages bands, number 1: why? Number 2: there’s a special circle in heaven for you.


Howie has been in an extended stay at rehab. He’s coming back soon, though. Like I said, being TM is a hard job, and I think Howie got real burnt out after the first record. I’ve seen a lot of outrage from people about him not being on the road, so I think he will be with us on the second leg of the tour.


FPH: Oh, I imagine. But in a way, he got you guys further in your careers than ever imagined, yeah?


BY: Yeah, for having no legs he’s done a lot of movement for us. A lot of successful public relations, too. Especially for not having blood or a pulse either.


The Kickback performs at Warehouse Live on Sunday, July 23rd.