The Kickback are a Chicago band composed of Billy Yost (vocals, guitar), Eamonn Donnelly (bass), Jonny Ifergan (guitar), and Ryan Farnham (drums). They're influenced by a broad array of irreverent and sometimes outlandish, cultural references; Hunter S. Thompson, David Foster Wallace, David Lynch, Michael Keaton, and The Wire.

In 2009, Billy - a recent college graduate - left rural South Dakota and moved to Chicago. Although he loved where he grew up and had spent a lot of time there writing songs for this album, he wanted to be around more musicians who he had things in common with.

After arriving in Chicago he assembled the lineup through Craigslist ads and after some transitions they solidified with the current lineup. Although Billy is the primary songwriter, the band is built around each member's artistic vision.

Aside from making music together the members also have their own podcast, DISASTOUR, in which they peel back the shiny veneer of the rock n' roll life, revealing the humour and struggles of what it means to be a contemporary musician. Since the start of the podcast in 2010, they've aired over 100 episodes.

Together they've released EPs and singles and have arrived at their debut LP. Sorry All Over The Place came out on September 18th and was produced by Spoon's Jim Eno. They previously had sent out their demos to Jim Eno, with humour and bravado, for a chance to record with him (with him being one of Billy's primary modern artistic inspirations).

After Billy learned about Jim Eno's favourable response, he called him back and was talking about all of the songs he's worked on for ten minutes, letting Billy finish before asking about The Kickback's music. They proceeded to spend three weeks down in Jim Eno's Public Hi-Fi studio in Austin, TX recording.

We decided to catch up with the band to find out more.


I want to start from the beginning. What was your childhood like? Was creativity a part of your childhood?

It was really good. My parents were the greatest. All of my brothers played in bands at some point. But there weren't like these Partridge Family jam sessions. Everyone seemed mildly embarrassed to talk about it. I liked that.

How does where you grew up / where you live impact your creativity?

I'm not sure. I grew up in South Dakota. I didn't get a lot of access to "cool" music, despite my brothers, because I was content listening to oldies radio for a long time. My mom was sort of the principal on that one. I think being a mama's boy had more of an impact on me than probably my geography. But I love where I'm from.

Describe your path to becoming involved in the music industry. How long have you been focusing on music full-time? How did you know you wanted to be a musician?

I always wanted to play music. My brothers just made it seem like something that you could do and do most of the time. I went into college with the assumption that I would get a degree that would allow me to build a life around music. I've had the same idea about how I wanted my life to function since I was 16 or 17, and I think a lot of people would see that as naive and immature.

Does your art expose, protect or heal you?

I've expected music to fix everything, and that's not right. I think I read that Dave Grohl said something like if you expect anything from music, you're expecting too much. I've tried to make it do everything, and that doesn't work very well. Sort of like expecting your model train set to manage your hedge fund and patch things up with your Pa.

Can you identify the moment that made you realize your whole life had changed? A sort of aha moment.

Beresford, SD street dance circa 1998? Two of my brothers were in a band and they let me play bongos on a song. People got behind it because I was a little kid and they were drunk beyond taste. It's the best feeling I've ever had.

How did the band come together? Would you say it was an organic union, or were you all looking to start a band?

I found these guys on Craigslist. Highly specific ads about tone and availability. "If you have ear gauges, this probably won't be your thing." Really kind of pig-headed stuff. But we found each other.

What's the writing process like? Is it an individual thing that comes together over time, or is it a group effort?

Typically, I will bring in parts of something I think will be most of a full thing. The guys make sense of it, often desperately-needed sense. Things get added and subtracted. That's a boring answer. Dead presidents visit me in a dream and as long as I can remember who their V.P. was, we get a song.

Where do the lyrics come from? Where were you at physically, mentally when you wrote them? Was there an event or a specific timeframe where a large chunk of the lyricism came out?

I keep a running note list on my iPhone of things I hear or phrases I like. They sit there for years, usually. I try and come back to them after the context is gone to make sure they can hang on their own. "You were right to fear me" was what I saw when I looked at my phone now and I'm not really sure what that was about or if it's going to work. Lately, I've been writing more in the moment. I'm not sure what works better yet.

Are you ever intentional when you sit down to write? Is there ever a "I'm going to write a song now" moment or is it more ephemeral, like you've been kicking something around in your head for days, weeks, months, and then suddenly it comes spilling out?

The best capital-W Writers I look up to would (or do) set aside time to work, even just to stare at some paper. I don't really know how the musicians I look up to manage or if they just wait. I am rarely excited to work on a song. There's an idea that's perfect in theory and playing with it out loud seems to be the fastest way to lose the magic. That's usually where I become desperately reliant on the guys to bring something back to it.

Did the writing process change since the last time you sat down to write for a recording? Is that process something that's shifted for you over time? Is it something you've gotten better at?

I've been trying to chase ideas down a little bit more as opposed to waiting for stuff to just show up. You can get a great chorus in the bathtub, but I've been trying to get out and link it up with something, more recently. I'm haunted by the thought that this might be the last decent idea. It seems to happen to a lot of people at some point. The last good idea, I mean. Overall, not doing it is far worse than whatever crap you have to go through to get it down. One way sucks, the other is unlivable.

What was your favorite part about the writing / album creation process?

Thinking about starting it and then talking about it when it was finished. Bar none. At the beginning, there is nothing to mess up. At the end, you've decided to put out something that was apparently not messed-up enough not to put out. The rest is not your fantasy and making due with that being the case.

With your artwork, how did you interact with the artist/designer? Did you contribute ideas or remain hands-off? Was there a revision process?

Eamonn, our bassist, did everything which is great for us and absolute hell on earth for him. He's an illustrator, and with most of his commissioned work, he does it and it's done. We nitpick everything, die a million deaths, and he still hasn't usually shown us anything yet. So it's four maniacs arguing over a blank screen. It's awesome.

How important is it to you for the art that accompanies your music to represent the sound and the lyrics? Do you aim for a conversation between the two, or are you more interested in an aesthetically cool package?

It's very important, I think, to all of us. I would like to think the artwork is informed by the songs, but I also think Eamonn just made something very pretty. There is a lot of buried B.S. in all of it, we the fountainhead of Overthinkers Anonymous, and you can think about that if you want and have that much time that you want to murder. But it also just looks like something I would like to look at.

What is your perspective on how you want to be represented throughout your band's press photographs?

"Boy, those guys sure look like they've got the weight of the world on them. I wonder if they realize nobody has any idea who they are."

Have you had any mentors along the way?

My brother Danny is the most musical person I know. He's brilliant. He eats drummers alive for breakfast and his breakfast is normally Camel Blues. He also taught me the highs and lows of perpetual dissatisfaction. A real family hallmark.

Has your vision of music changed at all since you first began? If so, how?

I just wanted to be Julian Casablancas. High school. College. I think I know what I want now. It took a while.

What/who do you think changed the music industry? Why?

My brother Matt showed me how to use Napster in 1999. He changed my whole idea of music. I've grown up with the expectations of not making a dime off of records or songs or whatever. I'm not sure what that means, but I know it's a much different set of expectations than like some dude from Whitesnake probably had in 1987, mid-photoshoot and wearing an actual snake as a belt.

Track-by-Track Guide: - Sorry All Over the Place LP

Written by Billy Yost.

'Sting's Teacher Year'
Sting was a teacher. So was Bob Pollard from Guided By Voices. This is about being scared all the time.

'When I Die'
This is about someone so scared of dying that they try and micromanage their own death. They plan on coming back just to spite their enemies. Like it's still a major concern after death.

Sometimes you talk to people who either have been to one too many seminars or are actually currently self-administering anabolic steroids.

'Scorched Earth Brouhaha'
My parents got divorced when I was 24. It sucked but you feel weird about letting it affect you.

Begging for sex. Begging for love. Begging for attention. Wishing all three weren't so intermixed.

I take multiple baths a day and engage in circular thinking that is paralyzing. This is about fear turning into anger and letting it strip you away.

'White Lodge'
The title's a reference to the show Twin Peaks. I saw it at a time I really needed it and briefly tried to model my life after the main character.

'Little Teach'
Nothing makes you feel less relevant more quickly than spending your day with perpetual 16-year-olds.

Leo was a friend of my Dad's and was my high school math teacher. He coached the bowling team, was my Catholic confirmation sponsor, and was just a good guy. The song's about killing him because we don't have room for people without agendas.

'Please Hurt'
"I want you to hurt like I do" is from a Randy Newman song and the greatest human sentiment ever expressed and I wanted to give a few more people a chance to hear it in a song.