Monday, June 6, 2016

Pluck a Heartstring, Duck for Cover

IT HURTS - Bad Bad Hats

I don't think anyone can deny that it's a challenge to keep up with the amount of new music being produced. The democratization of production and distribution that the digital revolution created means there is more music than ever, which is a good thing. But separating the wheat from the chaff has never been harder.

I first heard of Bad Bad Hats last fall, when I read about them in Minneapolis' City Pages, which named the band the "2015 Pick to Click."  Old fashioned press sometimes still pays dividends in this day of social media.


Being a good Minnesotan, I liked Bad Bad Hats before I'd heard the first note of "It Hurts" because I could see that it was shot on a hockey rink. Then, once the drums, bass and guitar laid down a simple but catchy jangle, I was intrigued. And, upon hearing Kerry Alexander's voice (and background vocals), I was hooked.


That's Chris Hoge on drums and Noah Boswell on bass.

You can learn more about the band and their music (as well as find all their social media links at Afternoon Records or at badbadhats.com.  And here's something from their Bandcamp page: 



"It Hurts" is the title track of a 2013 EP; last year BBH released an album, "Psychic Reader." 

Ian Anderson of Afternoon Records kindly took my questions to the band.  Here's what they had to say...

1 - IH is available as a free download (thank you). What is the thinking behind giving away your music?

BBH:  Our friend and label guy, Ian, convinced us that free was the way to go. I was skeptical, because I think music as an art form is painfully undervalued and we put a lot of time and energy and creativity into our work. But ultimately, it's about being heard. We hope to remove any obstacles between the listener and our music.  And we've found the people who really connect with us end up purchasing a CD or vinyl at the shows anyway. 

2 - What was the hardest part about shooting the video for IH? I was impressed that you three are directly on the ice, with no carpet or other material beneath your feet. No broomball shoes, though Kerry and Noah seem to have matching footwear.

BBH:  It was definitely a chilly experience. And I remember being somewhat concerned about slipping and breaking something. Occasionally, I'd have to take myself and my guitar to a warm place to defrost. But the shoot didn't take very long. And it was very fun to be in that space. And we got cheeseburgers after.

3 - Kerry is the band's primary songwriter.  Was that the case for "It Hurts" and what inspired it?

BBH:  I wrote "It Hurts" when I was studying abroad in Paris. One night, I was up really late working on a paper for one of my classes. I texted my friend to see if she was still up and working on our stupid paper. She was as behind on it as me, so I texted her "well, the night is young." And she responded "it's so young, it hurts." I don't know why that resonated with me so much, but I jotted it down immediately and wrote the song the next day. Haha!

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4 - What was the most amusing/wonderful/rage-inducing thing a reviewer or fan said about IH?

BBH:  Huh! Specific comments aren't really coming to mind. I guess I'll just say that one of the most rewarding things has been seeing young people cover "It Hurts." I'm happy that it's a song that people want to sing along to. 


5 - What inspired the kazoo solo?

BBH:  When I was working on songs in Paris, I only had my guitar and kazoo. It was just something portable that I could be creative with. I'm not sure that I expected it to be on the final version, but I think it fits. 

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6 - Listening to IH now, is there anything you would change (and/or do so when playing it live)?

BBH:  If I did it all again today, I'm sure there are things I would do differently. Different vocal inflections. Maybe electric guitar. But I'm happy with how it sounds and I think it speaks to that era of our band. 


7 - Bob Mould started Husker Du at Macalester College when I was a student there.  Information Society, who had a #3 hit in 1988 with "Pure Energy," formed in Dupre hall.  Will Sheff of Okkervil River is another alum.  You guys met at Macalester.  Randomness or is there something magical in the dining hall water?

BBH:  Haha! There might be something in the chocolate milk. It is a very cool place that attracts very cool people. When I was growing up in the South, I didn't know that many people who were making music or in bands. But when I got to Macalester, I instantly met all kinds of creative people. And when a few bands started to see glimmers of success (a spot on The Current's Local Show or a cool opening slot at 7th Street Entry), it inspired the rest of us. I knew it was possible to break into the greater scene if I just kept writing and playing and working hard.