The name Deathline conjures a number of familiar images: the ominous wrinkle our astrologist found in our palm, that final obstacle course challenge over the gorge at the company picnic, the phone number of that mortician we used to date… but of particular note, that of one of the most darkly brilliant bands operating today. The London-based duo (Kaoru on guitar and vocals, Jennie on bass and vocals) has already drawn glowing comparisons to some of the heaviest hitters afield, from the Velvet Underground to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and with one album (2008’s SixtyNine) under their belt and another on the way, Deathline continues to brew an intoxicating blend of electronica, garage, and new wave to proffer its own ravishing brand of rock noir to the night. GUTFIRE! caught up with the band near its top-secret lair in Camden, London.
GUTFIRE!: From our extensive pre-interview research, we discovered that “Deathline” is the title of a 1970’s British horror film about cannibalism. Is this the inspiration for your name, and if so, what is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Kaoru: Yes, that is the inspiration. We were struggling to find a name, we were in a pub somewhere, we had a gig coming up, no name, and there was that classic moment of looking around trying to find one, and there was just Thai food – and we couldn’t call ourselves Pad Thai. So we started to talk about movies we both liked, and agreed on “Deathline.”
GUTFIRE!: And the strangest food?
Kaoru: I was with an uncle in Japan, and we went to the best Sushi bar in Yokohama, which is where all the fish is landed. And he said that they were going to serve a delicacy. It was called “Odori,” which is the Japanese word for “dancing.” And the reason is because it was live shrimp. When they came out, they were grey, raw, alive, jumping around. They were “dancing.” It was quite terrible.
Jennie: I don’t think I’ve eaten anything that unusual.
GUTFIRE!: No rotten, Scandinavian fish?
Jennie: There is something like that where I’m from, it’s horrible. It’s fish that’s let sit, for I don’t know how long. Years? I don’t know. I don’t like it, I tried it when I was little, I tried it when I was older. It’s served in tins, and when you open it, the smell is horrible . . . terrible. That’s probably the most horrible thing I’ve ever eaten.
GUTFIRE!: So how is it you two came to make music together?
Kaoru: We met at the first rehearsal, this was back in 2002, a long time ago, and even then we were like a little gang inside the band. So when the band broke up, the other three went to form their own band, and we formed Deathline. It was quite good.
GUTFIRE!: In terms of influences, are there bands you both like? Do you have similar musical tastes?
Kaoru: Yes, I think that’s one of the reasons we got on so well. We both like the Fall, David Bowie, The Velvet Underground . . .
Jennie: I like sort of electronic, industrial, it was always a big thing for me when I was little, proper German industrial music.
GUTFIRE!: We noticed that you have a song named “Tesko Disko.” My friend told me there’s a little club in London they go to beneath a Tesco store that they call “Tesco Disco.” Is that where the song title comes from?
GUTFIRE!: I don’t know. But we were wondering about the name.
Jennie: Well, no, actually, I don’t know how we came up with it.
Kaoru: I think we just starting going “Tesko Disko, Tesko Disko.”
GUTFIRE!: Well, would you be interested in going to Tesko Disco?
Kaoru: Yes, let’s go to Tesco Disco now.
GUTFIRE!: We don’t actually know where it is, though. But the name is merely coincidence.
Kaoru: A lot of our lyrics are just sort of nonsense, because we throw words between us – Jennie and her friend Johanna just have these insane conversations. But somehow meaning arrives.
GUTFIRE!: Speaking of which, we also noticed in your song “69,” from your first album titled “69,” you sample Ted Kennedy’s infamous Chappaquiddick speech. What’s the story? Is there any meaning behind that?
Kaoru: Again, it started off as a nonsense thing, I was mixing the song, we’d recorded it, we were happy with it, but the end seemed to be missing something. And Jennie said maybe it needs a sample on the end of it. So I just started Googling things that happened in 1969, which is when it happened. And it fits. So it added meaning to the song.
GUTFIRE!: Do you have a favorite from among your songs?
Jennie: Mine is . . . what’s it called, our new song? “Ten of Clubs.” That’s my favorite.
Kaoru: I think currently my favorite – and again, it’s a new one – the instrumental from our new album, called “Black Money.” We’re the band, we have to love the new stuff.
GUTFIRE!: Speaking of the new album, do you have a name for it yet, and when can we expect to hear tracks?
Kaoru: We have no idea what it’s going to be called . . .
Jennie: I did have a text, we came up with a great name, just on some drunken night . . . but I deleted it.
Kaoru: Was it good?
Jennie: I can’t remember what it was.
GUTFIRE!: We’ll have our lawyers subpoena the phone company and get the records. To continue, you have toured in the U.S. as well, and we’d be curious to know what the biggest difference is between playing in the U.S. versus playing in the U.K.?
Jennie: Sound. The sound in the U.S. is a lot better. Every gig sounded amazing.
Kaoru: Every single sound engineer we came across was fantastic – this is probably going to go down really badly, and the sound engineers in the U.K. are going to hate us, but the American guys really knew what they were doing. And in America, people just seemed more appreciative, I thought.
Jennie: But we were an English band traveling through America. I’m sure it’s the same when an American band comes to England. I love it there, though.
GUTFIRE!: Well, we were watching the video on YouTube of “C’mon, C’mon” and there’s a really cool vintage American car featured.
Jennie: It’s my mom’s friend’s car, back in Sweden.
GUTFIRE!: So someone in Sweden has a really cool car.
Jennie: A lot of people in Sweden have amazing cars.
GUTFIRE!: I guess there’s no way we could get a ride in that car?
Jennie: Well, you can come to where I’m from in Sweden.
GUTFIRE!: So that’s an invitation. Riding in cool cars with tins of rotten fish. Maybe some dancing shrimp.
Kaoru: I’ll bring some over from Japan.