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An interview with Minneapolis band Bad Bad Hats | The Triangle

An interview with Minneapolis band Bad Bad Hats

The Bad Bad Hats is an alternative pop-rock foursome with a unique sound and energy. It takes some influences from punk and indie sounds but still feels upbeat and happy. The Minneapolis band just announced the release date of their upcoming album, “Lightning Round,” and released their new single, “Write It on Your Heart,” which is the first music they have released since 2015. The Triangle had the opportunity to chat with front-woman Kerry Alexander to discuss the band and their upcoming tour and music.

The Triangle: So how’s it going?

Kerry Alexander: Going pretty well, sitting in the van with the band right now.

TT: Very nice.

KA: (laughing) Yes, cruisin’.

TT: Where are you guys at right now?

KA: So we are in Wisconsin on our way to Chicago.

TT: So you’re on tour right now?

KA: We are. So we have a few shows this weekend, then we have a few days off, then we start the kinda longer run. We’re kinda getting into our June tour mode today.

TT: How’s it going so far?

KA: It’s going well! Yeah it’s always a little, the first day’s always a little hectic because I gotta like — I never pack in time. Once in the van and we’re going I feel better. We got some pretzels so we’re doing well.

TT: Do you enjoy touring? Like do you prefer live performances or more the songwriting process?

KA: I feel like I do really enjoy the songwriting process and that is my … my craft. There is a lot of joy for me in that. But also, sometimes I think about how when I was younger and I was writing songs, it was my dream to be a songwriter. I never really thought about touring like as a thing. But yeah, I really do enjoy touring. It is definitely a different mental experience than songwriting or recording, which feels a little bit more — it’s more creative and more the artistic, spontaneous, collaborative thing.

But that said there is something really rewarding about touring and just sort of seeing that real-time connection with fans. That’s my favorite part. You play the songs and play your instrument and have fun with your friends on stage and then right after I can go talk to people. Yeah, just to say “Hi” to people who have supported us and our music. So that’s really rewarding for me. I do like tour even though sometimes we’re tired and hungry, but that’s not so bad.

TT: And y’all are from Minneapolis right?

KA: That is where the band started and where we all live now, yes.

TT: Gotcha. So how is the indie music scene in Minneapolis?

KA: It is great, honestly. I think it’s not a scene that people outside of the Midwest would maybe think about but it honestly was the perfect place to be a young, like, up-and-coming band, or a band that was pretty new to a scene. There’s several really good indie radio stations, venues of different sizes, so you can almost always find a place to play that suits where you are and there’s just a lot of really talented nice people playing in the scene who’ve been there forever, or are new to the scene. I feel like I always feel like I’ve met everyone and then there are more people. There are a lot of resources for bands so that it doesn’t feel so huge and overwhelming like maybe a New York or an L.A. You can be heard and be seen. So yeah it’s a nice balance, and it’s affordable.

TT: True that’s a big problem with a lot of these cities

KA: (laughing) And I can park my car, that sort of thing.

TT: I wish I could park my car here.

KA: (laughing) Right?

TT: So how did y’all meet and how did the band come to be?

KA: So Noah, who plays Bass, Chris, who formerly played drums when the band first started but now plays guitar, and myself all met at Macalester College in St. Paul Minnesota. We were all making music in some capacity, and Chris and I started exchanging demos and working on songs together and wound up wanting to put a band together to perform these songs we had written. We met Noah, who had recently bought a new bass, and we lured him to practice and yeah we just started playing, putting together a set. I really wanted to perform at the Macalester Battle of the Bands our senior year, which we did, that was our second show ever, and we lost. But Ian Anderson was one of the judges, and he runs Afternoon Records, which is the record label we are on now. So we met Ian via the Battle of the Bands so really we won something in the end.

TT: It all worked out!

KA: It all worked out, exactly. So yeah, the three of us had been playing for about six years and then we met Connor, who plays drums with us now, about a year and a half ago, when we starting to think about recording our second album, “Lightning Round.” Brett Bullion, who produced our first record suggested that we hire a drummer to play on that record and so we found Connor through him, so we started practicing with him and playing shows with him and lo and behold he’s in it for the long haul with us now. So we lured him too! (laughing)

TT: Again, it all works out!

KA: Yes exactly!

TT: So what is your songwriting process?

KA: I am the primary songwriter, and generally how it goes is I come up with a guitar and vocal, and it kinda depends on the song which one comes first, but I usually have a basic arrangement of the song, the lyrics, the melody and the basic parts, but just with guitar. Every once in a while I’ll put together a Garageband demo with more parts, but then Chris and Connor and Noah help me fill out the rest of the arrangement at that point.

TT: What would you say influences your style?

KA: I don’t know, it’s a lot of stuff and it’s interesting because I am the primary songwriter but obviously having played with Chris and Connor and Noah for so long, we do all rub off on each other, not only just like playing in the band but riding around in the van and listening to each others’ playlists. Everyone’s influences are kind of coming together but I know that that music is definitely inspired by what I grew up listening to, which is a lot of singer-songwriters from the ’90s and a lot of pop-punk, but then in my teens Feist and Regina Spektor and Metric were pretty influential to me. It is some sort of combination of all those things.

But I think when I write songs I just try to write something that feels sincere with my lyrics and I want the songs musically to be both familiar and at the same time like something you haven’t heard before. So like poppy and something that catches you easily but maybe the arrangement is presented in a way you’re not used to hearing in a catchy song like that.

TT: Okay, yeah. Do you feel like you could point to any of your songs that highlight that?

KA: Yeah I think in some ways our new single “Write It on Your Heart” is a nice example of that. It is a very simple arrangement, I think the melody is pretty easy to enjoy but the parts in it, and a lot of this does come from collaborating with Brett, but the second verse has these weird tape loops and synths that I think you would maybe not expect to hear as you’re listening to the song. So like my sort of straight-ahead songwriting plus my band and Brett’s arrangement contributions get us to an interesting point.

TT: Do you have any favorite tracks of your own? I know that’s like asking to pick your favorite child.

KA: (laughing) Yeah! You know, everyone in the band has their own relationship with the songs. And there have been some songs that have been more difficult to put together live so we don’t like them as much because they give us pains. But we have a different experience with all our songs than our fans do, which I like. I like hearing from the fans what songs speak to them.

I’m really proud of a song like “Midway” and a song like “Things You Never Say” that have really seemed to capture people’s attention and that they have seemed to connect with on an honest emotional level. That’s what I’m trying to do when I write songs so it’s nice to see that happen. From the new album there’s a song called “1-800” that I think is my favorite on the album. That was one of the first songs we recorded in the studio and I just really liked the way it came together with some spontaneous live moments in the studio so I had a really good experience recording that one.

TT: You just dropped a single like a week ago, right?

KA: Yeah, we’re excited to have new music to share! We have played a few new songs on tour but it’s nice to be able to finally tell people this is when the album’s coming out.

TT: Yeah because you announced the album, it’s called “Lightning Round.”

KA: Yes that’s the name, Aug. 3!

TT: Mark your calendars! What do you think fans should expect from the album?

KA: I think they should expect similar songs, I am still writing the songs, but musically it does feel, because we did record live some of the parts for the first time as a band, so I do think there is something more organic and spontaneous in some of the songs. Not only with our playing but with some of the sounds too. It feels kind of, like, classic in that way. It’s also perhaps a little moodier overall but still with a thread of joy and hope.

TT: So when you make your music what is it that you’re trying to express?

KA: I think for me, I just really want to tell stories that people relate to. I really love, like I’m a sucker for romantic comedy. I love how excited I get when I watch a really good romantic comedy and you’re like “No, they’re meant to be together! No don’t go! No they need you!” So I think when I write songs I want to create that kind of investment in the stories I’m telling when you listen to the songs. And some of the songs are more true to my own experience and sometimes it’s a friend’s story or sometimes it’s more just a general feeling that I kind of want to capture. I just want to tell, yeah, stories that people relate to basically.

TT: I get that. So you’re coming to Philly on June 20?

KA: Yes I think so, to Milkboy. We’re excited to be back at Milkboy, we’ve played there a few times before. Really enjoy the chicken caesar salad there so we’re excited about that. (laughing) We’ll probably get our annual late night cheesesteak as we always do, so we’re excited to continue our Philadelphia traditions.