It’s been three years since Philadelphia-based rock band Kississippi, led by singer and guitarist Zoe Reynolds, released their acclaimed 2015 EP No Future, We’re All Doomed, but that doesn’t mean they’ve been quiet. In that time, they’ve toured the country, including last week’s SXSW Festival; released a new, defiant break-up anthem, December’s “Cut Yr Teeth”; and nabbed an opening slot on Dashboard Confessional’s U.S. tour, which kicks off Tuesday night in Houston. And today, Kississippi announces that it will release its first full-length album, Sunset Blush, out digitally on April 6. “I’m feeling so good,” said Reynolds, two weeks before the album’s release. “So excited. So ready.”
Sunset Blush delivers all of the best elements from the band’s 2015 EP, driven by Reynolds’ supremely strong yet vulnerable vocals, while doubling down on catchy guitar riffs and sharp, often-heartbreaking lyrics. You can hear all of the above on the album’s first single, “Easier to Love,” which was also the first song Reynolds wrote for the album. Listen to the track exclusively, here.
Ahead of the album release, Reynolds talks her early beginnings in music, the album-making process, and how the Spiderman 2 soundtrack changed her life.
When did you start your first real band? I played in a band for a little bit in high school where basically we just played this one battle of the bands, and then we were like, “Nevermind.” When I was a junior in high school, I joined this 13-piece indie, folk-punk band that was very much in the vein of a mix between Nana Grizol, Defiance, Ohio, and Arcade Fire but, like, bad because we were in high school. It wasn’t bad, it was actually pretty good for high school. But that’s kind of where it came from.
Were you going to shows in Philadelphia at this time? Yes. My mom was very chill about it. She used to do that when she was younger, so when I was 15 I started taking the train into the city and going to see shows. It was such a variation of bands then. The first show I went to without parents was when I was 14 and it was for my best friend’s birthday, and we went to go see Hellogoodbye, Ace Enders, Never Shout Never, and Play Radio Play. But a few years later, I started hanging with a bunch of metal and thrash kids, so I went to a bunch of house shows that were filled with crusty old metal dudes, too. I was all over the place. I really was kind of into everything. But when I was 16, I started getting into all the stuff I am now, like Title Fight and Joyce Manor.
I started Kississippi in 2014. It was a solo project at first, and I did some demos, but I wasn’t really happy with my guitar playing skills, so I had someone else play guitar and it was a duo. And then, we became a three-piece and it kept growing from there and cycling through band members. The lineup we have now we’ve had for about a year.
What did you want the music to sound like when you started the project? I didn’t know. When I first started, I was in this band when I was 18 or 19 that was a very short-lived thing and I was the token girl member. I did very in the background keyboard parts and harmonies, and it kind of sucked. I quit that band and felt this courage for awhile. I was like, “F— that, I’m going to do what I want.” I spewed out some demos of songs I’d been working on for awhile that I didn’t put as much love into as I wanted to. I also didn’t really understand how to record stuff. It was all GarageBand. With that, I just wanted to put some feelings out there rather than be concerned about the sound.
How was the process of making this album? It’s been some time. After we released the EP, I was writing some stuff and just wasn’t happy with it and kept being like, “I have to put something out.” But I didn’t want to put out something I wasn’t happy with. I started recording demos for the record in the summer of 2016. It’s almost been two years in the making. “Easier To Love” was the first song that I wrote that I actually wanted to put on the record and was like, “Okay, this is what I want this to sound like.”
What was your jumping off point for writing that song? I wanted to write more poppy stuff really badly, and I didn’t really know how to do it. I had this keyboard that I was just goofing around with. I spent a few hours on this demo and showed my bandmates and tried to flesh it out as a full band, but we didn’t have a keyboard player at that point and the whole thing was keys. We tried to make it an indie song, and it sounded like garbage. We recorded a demo version of it, and at the end of the day my friend Kyle, who recorded the record, was like, “Uh, this doesn’t sound good.” And I was like, “I don’t think it sounds good either, but I have this demo version on my laptop.” So I showed him the synth-y version of it, and we ended up using a lot of the stems from those keyboard parts on the actual version of the song. There’s still stuff from when I first wrote it in the song, which is why it’s really important for me to have it as the first single. It’s been through a lot.
How long did the entire album take to make? So long. Over 2016 and 2017, and even 2018, I was just touring a whole bunch, so I kept going to record stuff and then going on tour. We took our time with it, fleshed things out 100 percent, and knew exactly what we wanted it to sound like when we went into record. And it still went through so many changes once we were in the studio.
What was the overarching theme or inspiration behind the album that tied it all together for you? I’m going to sound like such a Taurus right now, but I really think the theme is just straight up finding power within myself and moving forward from hard times.
And tonight you kick off your tour with Dashboard Confessional. Are you excited? We’re extremely excited. We’ve never gotten to play to that big of rooms before. Dashboard Confessional is one of the first bands I really got into on my own, from that Spiderman 2 soundtrack, which was my stuff. “Vindicated” is such a jam. That soundtrack helped me find so much music. I really don’t think I’d be where I am now if it weren’t for the Spiderman 2 soundtrack. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.