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'Until There's Nothing Left Of Us:' Remembering Kill Hannah

By Justin Freeman in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 21, 2015 6:12PM

photo credit - instagram

It's a bitterly cold December evening, yet the ever growing line of people outside the Metro doesn't particularly care. From across the city to across the country, they've come to witness the end—for now, at least, of Kill Hannah. Dressed in all black, wearing past tour shirts and adorned with tattoos of the band, they've come to pay respects. They trade stories of what this band meant to them after opener Shiny Toy Guns performs. As Kill Hannah appeared on stage to the wordless "(Life in the Arctic)," a palpable sense of expectation was felt throughout the club.

Kill Hannah's "final" show was a more victorious affair of good times remembered rather than a solemn funeral pyre. At the end of their set, a torrent of white confetti rained down on the crowd while the band played "Welcome to Chicago, Motherfucker." At some point singer Mat Devine paused for a brief moment, to seemingly take in the audience’s appreciation and reflect on the band’s trajectory over 20 years. Amid the confetti, the lights and the hundreds of fervent followers, he wondered aloud to the audience, "How the hell did we get here?"

Kill Hannah formed in the mid '90s as a music project of Devine while he was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Over the next several years, the rest of the band fell into place as they recorded an assortment of singles and albums. Kerry Finerty was the original lead guitarist of the band, and was largely responsible for the first few albums. Unfortunately, Finerty has Beh├žet's disease—a rare disorder that causes inflammation in blood vessels throughout your body—and has been dealing with the fallout of that condition for the past several years. A GoFundMe page has been launched to help pay for her treatment.

Kill Hannah's early lineup, photo via Facebook

According to a 2006 interview, current guitarist Jonny Radtke joined the band after Devine met him at a Nine Inch Nails event, while bassist Greg Corner joined after being approached at the bar where he worked. With that lineup in place, the band recorded “Kennedy,” which is probably their best known single, and became darlings on Q101’s local music show, Local 101.

Kill Hannah was signed to Atlantic Records and released the album For Never and Ever in 2003 and Until There’s Nothing Left Of Us in 2006. These two albums contained some the band’s best work; songs like “Believer” and “Lips Like Morphine” were well crafted pop gems with a strong sense of urgency. “Kennedy” critiqued society’s obsession with fame and glamour while “New Heart For Christmas” focused on the alienation a person may feel during what is supposed to be a joyous occasion. “New Heart For Christmas” subsequently became the name of the band’s series of annual holiday shows in Chicago.

Kill Hannah toured extensively around the world, sharing the stage with the likes of AFI, The Prodigy, Shiny Toy Guns and The Smashing Pumpkins. In 2008, Kill Hannah’s tour bus burst into flames while driving through the Swiss Alps in the middle of their European tour. No one was harmed, but the band lost gear, merch and personal belongings to the fire. After taking a brief moment to assess and regroup, the band continued the tour.

Photo via Facebook

Over the last few years, the band has toured less and less. The members of Kill Hannah all have their hands full with various side projects and some have decamped from Chicago. Elias Mallin has been Kesha’s touring drummer since 2010. Greg Corner is a party promoter who DJ’s around town, both solo and as part of Dark Wave Disco. He also DJ’ed President Barack Obama’s birthday party at the Aragon a few years ago. Jonny Radtke was the guitarist for Filter but recently left. He currently plays guitar for Krewella as well as an assortment of other bands. Matt Devine released a solo album in 2014 under the alias Wrongchilde. Devine also had a part in the Broadway musical (that unfortunately seemed doomed from the start), Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.

When it was announced the band was calling it a day, it simply seemed inevitable. Throughout the process of doing these final farewell shows, the band has often said that it’d be Riot Fest to get them to reunite. During their Saturday farewell show Greg Corner even commented “See you at Riot Fest 2020.” It’s clear this isn’t goodbye forever from the band, but more of a goodbye for now.