In the latter part of the 20th century, Florida was one the most prominent homes of punk rock in the world. Throughout the 80s and 90s, the state which once gave birth to Tom Petty, most of The Heartbreakers and Matchbox Twenty now saw names like The Roidz, F-Boyz and New Found Glory emerge from its underbelly. In 1995, added to this list of pre-post-hardcore pioneers was Discount, fronted by Floridian Alison Mosshart.
Discount enjoyed some success in the post-hardcore era, releasing three albums between 95 and 99 before a split in 2000. During Discount’s final tours, Mosshart heard her future bandmate Jamie Hince playing music in an upstairs bedroom of an apartment where the band were staying. The two met up and starting to explore ideas for new music before Alison returned to Florida. Later, the pair sent music back and forth between Mosshart’s home in Florida, and Hince’s in London.
This would be the basis of their songwriting relationship, before Mosshart eventually saved enough money to move over to London, and solidify the band. Using minimal equipment, they put together a demo tape, which they avoiding getting into the hands of most major labels at the time, opting eventually for indie label Domino Records with whom they released their debut EP Black Rooster, in March 2002.
Mosshart and Hince, now renamed ‘VV’ and ‘Hotel’ respectively, first made a modest start in London’s indie scene, with a gritty rock sound that combined Hince’s chilling guitar riffs with VV’s haunting vocals. The sound was worlds apart from those they had both travelled through with their previous bands, and the media was quick to compare The Kills sound to that of The White Stripes.
In 2009, Mosshart teamed up with Jack White in what was the biggest of his projects since the disbanding of the White Stripes. Along with White’s Raconteurs bandmate Jack Lawrence, and Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age, The Dead Weather was formed, and in 2010 the band released the album HoreHound, which debuted at No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard 200 Album Charts. Alongside the semi-supergroup Dead Weather project and The Kills discography, Mosshart’s signature vocals have been employed on tracks by Primal Scream, Placebo and Cage the Elephant.
As well as a prolific musician, Mosshart has been a keen artist since childhood, with painting as her primary medium – some keen fans know that she created most of the artwork featured across the Kills discography. In 2014, she debuted her solo work in an exhibition called FirePower, hosted by ArtNowNY, in which Mosshart and 20 other New York-based artists of various mediums were featured.
Mosshart describes her approach to her artwork as ‘quick and passionate’, which is almost reminiscent of her music. In an interview for Elle, she describes how she “got into music because of art and because of skateboarding: All those graphics and punk bands and fanzines—they were glued together in my brain.” The stew of these influences is strikingly apparent in her artwork.
Adding another medium to her range, as something of an icon for the edgy young woman, Mosshart has been sought by some of the world’s leading fashion brands to represent a look on their print pages and web pages. She appeared in Vogue’s ‘Today I’m Wearing’ feature and has designed a leather jacket for French boutique label Surface to Air.
Mosshart and Hince returned to the studio in full force in 2014, and in March 2016 the duo released the single ‘Doing it to Death‘. Between a rented house in Los Angeles and at Electric Lady Studios, they had recorded their fifth album Ash and Ice, which was released on June 3, 2016. The album sees the band breather deeper into the same sound they have occupied since the beginning, with themes that fans will be all too familiar with: stripped back blues saddled up next to a modern indie rock sound, where the band have always been comfortable. ‘Hard habit to break‘ goes to show just how reserved Hince’s riffs can be whilst still demanding attention, always embracing the naturally occurring scrapes and echoes of a guitar rather than letting them escape in post editing. The album currently stands at no. 45 on the Billboard top 200.
By teaming up with some of the most influential talents in music this century, and giving an equal drive to her independent projects, at 39 years of age Alison Mosshart‘s vocal signature is already present across a phenomenal range of productions that demand respect. In the course of her still relatively young career, she has made her unique mark on several classic and contemporary mediums.
Dan Cody is Editor-in-Chief at No Majesty.