In some circles, Jamie Hince is perhaps best known as the man engaged to Kate Moss. To fans of the Kills, there is only one woman in his life: Alison Mosshart, his musical other half. But much to those fans’ dismay, Mosshart left Hince in early 2009—not long after the band released their third album, Midnight Boom—for another indie rocker, Jack White. It’s not what you’re probably thinking: White had only professional designs on Mosshart, whom he borrowed to front their deranged version of a jam band, the Dead Weather. Yet to Hince, it was like losing a part of himself. “I don’t want half of my band that means life and death to me to be away for a year and a half,” he says now. “It felt weird watching her share the mike with Jack, because that’s our thing. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience.”
While Hince, 42, and Mosshart, 32, have always maintained that their bond is platonic, their taut sexual chemistry is key to their appeal. Therefore, the inevitable gossip was that Moss had broken up the band. But over black-bean soup and Rioja at El Quijote, the restaurant adjunct to the Chelsea Hotel, Hince makes it clear that that was not the case. And “in the end,” he says, any insecurity he felt over his partner’s Dead Weather defection “was eclipsed by the confidence it gave her.” As for distressed Kills fans, Mosshart says, “They’ve been rattled a bit, and that’s good.”
The pair met in a London apartment building in 2000, when Mosshart—the Florida-born daughter of a used-car salesman and an artist—was on a visit and heard the British Hince practicing guitar in the flat above her own. They’d both been in bands before, but their partnership immediately felt different—more like a two-person religion than an artistic collaboration. “There’s something about us,” Mosshart says. “We need each other. I love what we are.” “We’re competitive,” Hince adds. “On a good day, that comes across as, ‘I really want to impress Alison with my song.’ But it’s also, ‘She wrote a song that’s absolutely brilliant; I’m going to stay up all night trying to top it.’ ”
Mosshart eventually moved to London, where she and Hince bought a house (Mosshart is still there; Hince now lives with Moss and her daughter, Lila). Their first release, theBlack Rooster EP, came out in 2002, and the brooding, lo-fi sound fit right into the garage-rock revival. Two critically praised albums followed—2003’s Keep on Your Mean Side and 2005’s No Wow—but the Kills couldn’t escape the shadow of another cool girl-boy duo, the White Stripes (ironically enough). The sneer and swagger of 2008’s Midnight Boom changed that, and the reclusive indie stars became Gossip Girl–endorsed reps for an underground sound and a fashionably sleazy aesthetic.
In November 2009, Hince and Mosshart reformed to work on their fourth album, Blood Pressures (out April 5). The two approached recording as they always have, locating a studio with rare analog recording equipment in Benton Harbor, Michigan, and holing up for a good part of a year—well, at least Hince did. Mosshart was still touring with the Dead Weather. “There were times when she was away and I’d be working, which was very odd,” he says. “We have worked separately before, but you realize that it’s all those bits of me walking past her while I’m going to get my cup of tea and saying, ‘Hey, should we go for a walk?’ or ‘How are you doing? How is the songwriting going? Got any lyrics?’ It’s those little things that are really important, and those are the things we worked without this time.”
There’s plenty of classic Kills on Blood Pressures (particularly the grimy “Nail in My Coffin” and “DNA”) but also some atypical softness, including Hince’s wistful ballad “Wild Charms” and Mosshart’s almost schmaltzy crooning on the effects-laden “The Last Goodbye.” Mosshart believes those sorts of musical detours are exactly what Kills fans expect. “The reason people like our records and like to see us play is that we make them uncomfortable. I’m not trying to be a safety band. We’re doing something that’s a little dangerous, and I’m sorry if anyone gets upset.” She grins. “I’m not really that sorry.”