Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical – Crew Spotlight – Lyricist, David Backshell

How did you get involved in KSK?
I had been friends with Drac for a couple of years; I was a a regular in his bar and I worked in a cafe down the street from where he lived. So when I released an EP earlier this year (called Halfsleeper), I played it for him, he dug the lyrics and asked me to help out. I had a meeting with his brother and director Jamieson and brought along some lyrics surrounding some general themes (some of which eventually got used in the show’s opener ‘Fuck This City!’). He liked the direction of them and I was pretty much hired.

What’s the creative process like for the lyrics like?
Typically it starts with a production meeting where the creative crew talk about content, structure, themes, what voices we are going to hear and character arcs that should be present in the songs. I go away and overwrite and essentially create a brain dump. I bring it back to Drac and Jameison  and they talk about what they like, dislike, what fits and what elements we should play up or play down. At this point the refining process begins until we are happy with the end product. I take it to Mike (the composer) and see how it works together with the music and we tweak things until it fits.

What’s the most challenging aspect of writing the lyrics for KSK?
Probably trying to incorporate all these distinct voices into a clear narrative. Trying to make each character’s voice well rounded but balanced to serve the story without making them cliched.

As a result I feel that Dagger and Kitty both have strong personalities but act very much as catalysts to the story. The repercussions of their actions often fall upon their respective siblings who find themselves picking up the pieces.

Who is the most exciting character to write for?
Ronnie, he’s arguably the most tragic character in the musical. Certainly the one that audience will be most sympathetic too. His voice also mirrors fairly closely the kind of lyrics I naturally write. I had a great time writing Ronnie’s lament, I feel it cuts to the core of his character and you see both his naivety, idealism also his weakness. He is a man that is lost in the world.

Who has been the most difficult character to write for?
Probably Lily, as she is a very schizophrenic character. In the first act she comes across as almost a Mother Theresa type character, doing her best to help those around her. In the second act, after the attack it’s hard to know where she is coming from. She’s incredibly violent and we are left wondering whether this is some kind of PTSD reaction, or is she really doing God’s work? Balancing this Old Testament style judgement against someone who has gone through traumatic events, while keeping them human is a hard act to get right.
Check out David’s own work on his website. Want to help support our show? Visit the show page to make a donation.
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