In Conversation: Kim Gordon and Bill Nace

  • TextDean Mayo Davies

From movie-watching pals to an alchemic duo, Kim Gordon and Bill Nace return with their second Body/Head studio album, The Switch. Here the pair open up to Another Man about synchronicity, living in the moment and… coloured eyebrows

For all the intensity of the Body/Head experience, make a phone call to Kim Gordon (CKM, Sonic Youth, Free Kitten) and Bill Nace (X.O.4, Vampire Belt, Ceylon Mange) and you’ll find they couldn’t be any cooler. Their record might be full of rumble, lightning and the deft weaving of the two, but today, dialling in from different sides of the US – Gordon is in Los Angeles, Nace in Philadelphia – they’re full of laughter. It’s easy to forget that the two had a longstanding friendship before they started playing in 2011, forged when they both lived in Northampton, Massachusetts, where they would hang out and discuss films. If you’ve witnessed them perform, you’ll know the experience is a beguiling seance – they stroll in, each pick up a guitar and contort the moment to an extreme, wrangling the huge and indescribable. Their new album The Switch marks a departure from 2013’s Coming Apart by yielding further to what they’ve created – there are no discrete songs here. It’s all or nothing. The heaviest band around? Yes. The most pleasant with it? Makes sense. Duality is their currency, and they’ve been to the bank.

Does Body/Head control you or do you control Body/Head?

Bill Nace: [Laughs]. I try to let it control me.

Kim Gordon: [Laughs]. I think it’s probably controlling us now. You know, we can be the head, the audience can be the body or vice versa. It’s a really loose metaphor that we took from a book about the films of Catherine Breillat – a lot of them have to do with control, submission/domination. We thought that’d be a really cool name for a band.

Have you forged a psychic connection when performing?

KG: Yes.

BN: It’s intuitive, definitely.

Do you have moments of synchronicity when you’re back home?

BN: I actually think stepping away sometimes helps strengthen the connection. I mean, this is a fairly new thing that we don’t live in the same town – it was years of us living in the same town and hanging out and all of that. So the groundwork is there, so to speak.

“It’s a really loose metaphor that we took from a book about the films of Catherine Breillat – a lot of them have to do with control, submission/domination. We thought that’d be a really cool name for a band” – Kim Gordon

Capturing improv in the studio is quite heroic an idea. Was recording The Switch a different experience to Coming Apart?

KG: Yes. It was made after I moved down here and Bill came out for a few months. It just seems like it’s more settled, more relaxed just in what it is. Like, kind of accepting. We went a few days making this record seeing what happens.

BN: Our first record, there was so much energy, we were just throwing everything out – I love that about that record but this one seems a little more... I don’t want to say focused, like the other one’s unfocused, but more kind of focused on…

KG: It’s more mature. This record was more, like, no one listens, no one cares (Laughs).

When I first played The Switch, I didn’t realise I’d had it on loop for two hours. It’s almost like it’s alive.

KG: In a weird way it’s like conventional music that people listen to. I don’t mean pop songs or rock songs but the way people listen to music on Spotify or something. People aren’t so active the way they listen to music, they’re listening and they’re working, they’re online or whatever, then it goes into your consciousness. It kind of weaves and bobs, or at least that’s how I listen to music.

Sell us the joy of living in the moment…

KG: I mean, it’s a struggle to be present, you know. People live in the moment of their Instagram. One thing I like about LA is looking at the signs, the different houses and things. I mean, people don’t actually look what’s around them – it’s like your Instagram is becoming your landscape, in a way.

In an age of mindfulness apps could Body/Head be the new pop music?

KG: Definitely! [Laughs]. We just need some cool-coloured eyebrows.

Watching films is a big part of your friendship. Can you tell us about that?

BN: We’ll watch everything.

KG: I watch a lot of TV – I feel like that’s a medium that’s really interesting now, and the people who go to film school just talk about content, they don’t actually want to make movies, they just make content. Recently I’ve been into going back and watching movies about LA, like The Long Goodbye and The Player.

BN: Did you see the new Lynne Ramsay [You Were Never Really Here]?

KG: Yes. I liked it a lot. The soundtrack is absolutely amazing and it’s really loud – intensely loud, even the sound effects. And then there’s hardly any dialogue or talking. It’s quite interesting.  

I saw Body/Head play back in 2012 and you had a projection from The Driver playing over you; a slowed down clip of the car park ‘wrecking’ scene…

“I think people are really open to have an experience with films and images and we’re just trying to have a similar thing happen with the music” – Bill Nace

BN: That was the first tour we did in Europe before we had recorded or really done anything.

It was such a strong image.

KG: It’s a great movie.

BN: I think people are really open to have an experience with films and images and we’re just trying to have a similar thing happen with the music. We’re finding these scenes and slowing them down so much it becomes its own weird narrative texture, dislodged from what it means in the movie. The ideal is to have a really big screen. We did a show at the Getty in LA and the screen was enormous, it looks like we’re just disappearing into the image. When we can get that combo together that’s the best.  

What about pre-performance? Do you have any rituals?

KG: We giggle.

You don’t have a drummer. Is Body/Head a drummer’s bête noir?

KG: I like to think we’re a drummer’s fantasy!

The Switch is out July 13 via Matador Records