Killmama's Drummer, Sophie Sputnik, Says She's Grateful for the "Opportunity to Bang on Things"
Fidgeting in her seat outside of Brew Coffee House in Fort Lauderdale, Sophie Sputnik
checks her text messages with one hand and holds a Camel light in the other. Her dog Astro, a terrier mix of some kind, paces beneath the table and mimics her energy. Meanwhile, her Killmama band mate, Rob Kingsley sits perfectly still, except that he's swirling the straw of his iced coffee.
The sky is heavy with the threat of rain, when finally Sputnik looks up, waving the mobile device in her hand with disbelief, "I thought this guy was gay, but I guess he's not?" Kingsley laughs, and this seems to be the dynamic of the pair. Sputnik is the more outspoken of the two, while Kingsley seems more than happy to let her take the spotlight. As if for him, she is the finest form of entertainment.
The Deerfield Beach duo met early in 2012 while working for a well known computer store in Fort Lauderdale, and have been nearly inseparable ever since.
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"When I moved back to Florida after spending some time up in Pennsylvania, I drafted a fictional resume to help me get a job. Robbie and I just got along from the start," Sputnik divulges. Kingsley is right behind her to finish the thought, "I was a quiet loner type and she was kind of the loner type too, so we got along, though we never really talked much."
She continues, "Yeah, then I got fired, fell off the deep end and we went a bit without seeing each other. Then somehow we managed to reconnect, and when we did, Robbie would just show up at my apartment and share music with me. While he was jamming out these songs, I would hear these beats in my head."
Obviously a woman with the nervous energy to power a small city, Sputnik says she's always been a "tapper," always tapping her fingers or feet, slapping her thighs in moments of uncomfortable silences, which has pretty much been the key to her success in the bold musician she's become.
"I only started playing drums so that Robbie and I could make music together. When we decided to go check out a drum kit, I realized that maybe they weren't as hard to play as I originally thought. Once I got going, it only took us about three days until we were putting songs together."
Both band members share a fearlessness and sense of adventure, and it drives Killmama.
"We didn't have a place to practice, so we started playing out almost immediately," Kingsley explains. "Not that it was any good. Honestly, it's only been until recently that we feel like the sound is coming together, but we used those shows to practice, and at some point our audience must have thought we were charming enough to sit tight and listen, even when we were struggling."
With Sputnik's influences in blues and soul and Kingsley's spanning alternative and classic rock, it's no wonder that their soulful grunge sound comes easily to them.
When asked what piece of gear or equipment most aids in the simple stripped down sound they provide, Sputnik is without hesitation, "the Orange Fuzz, whatever... The amp he uses. Because it is just the two of us, it is important to have the right amp to shine through." Meanwhile, Kingsley sees things differently. "Well, I was going to say the kick drum, because it's just the heartbeat, the backbone of Killmama."
"It's different from a lot of other music. I used to play a lot of solo folk stuff with my guitar, but that sort of energy is hard to maintain. It becomes so contained and motionless. I have always felt like I had more inside of me. And being able to play the drums while Robbie tackles the guitar, allows me to explore those things," Sputnik adjusts in her chair and motions toward her partner in music.
Sputnik and Kingsley seem to be able to communicate without much effort and mostly without actual words. There are false starts. The word "like" followed by hand motions or facial expressions seemingly have more conversational meaning to them than the rest of us.
Kingsley follows up, "It's not like we are trying to preserve a certain sound or aesthetic. The music we make is really just what comes out of us. It really is just, what comes out."
What comes out, though, is exactly what is working for them. Their stripped down, distorted sound flirts with multiple genres, noise rock, blues, rock and roll -- and with an EP in the bag, Killmama hopes that "what comes out" translates to the rest of the world.
"The Kickstarter page just went up today," Sputnik starts on the subject of a tour they're planning for July and in true Killmama fashion, Kingsley tells about their tactic for gaining the remainder of the funds to support their travels. "We are trying to be really humble about it. Not blasting our friends with the site too much because we know everyone gets updates on our shows all the time. We don't want to overrun their social media pages with our stuff. We are trying to be tactful about it."
The Kickstarter account displays a video in which Sputnik and Astro explain how donations are reciprocated. For every level of donation you make to the band, Killmama will give the donate something to show for it whether it be a T-shirt, a CD or even your own private Killmama set, wherever, whenever.
They will be setting out for New Orleans, Indiana, New York, and some parts of Canada, but Sputnik seems to be most excited about her return to Scranton, Pennsylvania.
"Not that it's going to be the career move that makes us, but I played in a few bands when I was up there, and I am really excited to bring this music to the people I care about in Pennsylvania."
At first guess, Sputnik seems easily excitable (who gets pumped about Scranton?), but considering what she and Killmama have to look forward to, the energy she so consistently expresses is warranted, and would get a block of concrete psyched.
Case in point? Plan B, a concert hosted by TomTom -- the magazine which tells the tales of female drummers -- taking place at Churchill's Pub on Wednesday.
"I never really feel like a drummer. Mostly because it wasn't the first instrument I learned to play. Also because I haven't been playing the drums for very long. This event brings all of these female drummers together, and so I finally get a chance to be in the graces of all these talented women," Sputnik says of the validation that comes with such an event.
The lady drummer is a strong force all on her own, though, as one of the few lady musicians active in the South Florida music scene, Sputnik describes how honored she feels to be considered a viable influence on the scene itself. With a natural sense of confidence, she claims, "I don't feel any pressure, so to speak, I am just so psyched to be able to stand out as a female doing something forceful. I am so grateful that Killmama gives me the opportunity to bang on things, and I want that for other people, too. If women in the scene out there take something from me, that's incredible."
Kingsley chimes in, "I told her she was going to have people coming up to her and saying 'That's awesome! I want to do that' which is like the coolest feeling in the world."
Sputnik and Kingsley are visionaries who, if they hadn't ratted themselves out, would seem to have known each other their whole lives. While they express their visions at different volumes and word count, they agree that the goal of their music is to remain accessible.
"(We) want everyone to know that it's all going to be OK," Sputnik says.
A simple composition of phrase that carries a lot of weight. Kind of like the band itself.
Tom Tom Magazine's Plan B with Killmama,Testokra, Estonian Couch Surfer, Quarter Horses, and the Violet West, 9 p.m., Wednesday, May 22, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Street, Miami.
Killmama with Suede Dudes and Gravel Kings, 11 p.m., Saturday, June 1, at PoorHouse, 110 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Visit their Facebook for full tour dates.
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