Bad Bad Hats make good good music
While their hats might be bad, the Bad Bad Hats’ punky pop music – based on their sold-out Rochester show alone – is anything but. Sharing a bill with indie blues garage-rockers The Shakletons and the dreamy, atmospheric sounds of Author, the show marks the fifth sold-out event in 2018 for local music promoters My Town My Music (MTMM).
Add that to the praise their first full-length release, Psychic Reader, received from places like the The New Yorker, NPR, Pitchfork, and Paste, and their touring in support of artists like Hippo Campus and Third Eye Blind – yeah, they make good good music.
Ahead of their Black Box show Saturday, band members Kerry Alexander, Chris Hoge, and Connor Davison took time to answer a few questions for 507 Mag readers. If you missed your chance to snag tickets to this wicked concert – you can still get your Bad Bad Hats fix here:
Your sophomore album Lightning Round came out this past August. What’s the significance of its title?
Kerry Alexander: I really like trivia and game shows, but when we decided to use it for this album, I liked that it reflected my feelings towards a sophomore release. The lightning round is fast-paced, kind of a chance to prove yourself in a game show. And the second album can feel like that too.
For Lightning Round, it sounds like you used a more live approach to your recording. what did that do for your music?
Chris Hoge: Our producer, Brett Bullion, encouraged us to try recording a few songs live in a room together, and a few songs came together quickly with that approach. “Absolute Worst” is a great example – Kerry, Con, and I sat and played drums, bass, and guitar together and got the basic song down. We still layered a few things on top of that after the fact, but it was a fun, fast way to work that challenged us. Working that way pushes you to elevate your playing and pushes you to let go of small imperfections that might happen during a take.
You’ve been touring a lot this fall supporting Lightning Round. What have been some of your favorite experiences on tour?
KA: I think we maybe hit every major city in America in the past six months. There are still cities we want to play that we haven’t, but we covered some serious ground. We’ve gotten some beach time in the Pacific and the Atlantic. We’ve eaten so much good food across the country. We have strong opinions now about the best sandwiches and best breakfasts in America.
Your tour this fall hasn’t included Noah Boswell, who left the band to pursue his education. What was that transition like?
KA: Noah’s last show was our album release show at First Avenue in August. He just started grad school this fall. We miss having Noah in the band for many reasons. He’s been our friend for a long time, so we just miss him living in the Twin Cities and miss spending time with him. And he was in the band from the start, so it’s sad to end that chapter. I’m really nostalgic about things like that. But Connor Davison, our drummer, has been with us for about two years. So Con and Chris and I are very comfortable together and have been through many tours together.
When you played Rochester last time, you performed at Kathy’s pub. For your appearance this time around, you’re headlining at a theatre. What are some pros and cons of playing smaller clubs and larger theatres?
KA: Well, because of some factors like the sweatiness and packed-ness of a small venue, those shows can feel very classic rock-and-roll. There is a certain energy to them that makes you feel cool. But I like a theater show, too. They can feel grander. Every once and a while I’ve taken the opportunity to see if anyone has any questions in a space like that. There’s a different kind of intimacy and connection in that kind of space that can make one-on-one communication a little easier.
The last time I interviewed you, you said, “I do feel like half the point of releasing art into the world is so that it can take on a new life.” Are there any examples of songs from Lightning Round that have “taken on a new life” with listeners suggesting different interpretations than the one you initially originally intended?
KA: Well, my mom thought the chorus of “Girl” was “go to hell!” – so that’s one interpretation. But, yeah, in some ways I think they take on a new life the moment someone listens and relates to the song. Because they’ll always be bringing their own experience to it. And there’s something special when two different people can find solace in each other’s experience. That’s what music does, I think.
Can you tease any details about your Rochester show?
KA: We’ll be playing old songs, we’ll be playing new songs. I might be playing bass on a song or two! Which is a treat for me. Lots of surprises.