If you’ve been listening to indie music for the past couple of years, chances are you’ve heard the name Bad Bad Hats. Their music is that of indie legends and they have a stage presence that makes you feel as if you’re just one of the gang, creating the perfect space for just about anyone to enjoy their music. While the band had a pretty busy SXSW schedule, I got the chance to sit and talk with lead singer Kerry Alexander about all things Bad Bad Hats.
GMAT: So, I want to welcome you to SXSW! I know you’ve been here for a little while so how are you enjoying the craziness?
Kerry: I am enjoying it! It’s honestly been crazy - there’s a lot of people around - but amongst all those people I keep finding friends of mine! It really has been a wonderful reminder of what the community that we’ve made over the years, like playing music in the twin cities and playing music around the country, so it’s just nice running into familiar faces!
GMAT: A bunch of people who love music all in one place, you couldn’t get any better! So, this is only one of the many stops on this most recent tour, which has many sold out dates, so how does it feel to sell out big rooms like that and know that those people are your fans there to see you guys?
Kerry: You know, that feels nice. I have to say, we’ve been touring with The Beths and we know The Beths bring some people as well, so I think that’s been a really great team to tour with. I think we do have a lot of crossover fans, which has been great to hear people say they had never heard of us before and they came for The Beths but everybody loved us or vice versa, so it’s been really nice! It does feel amazing, I feel like when we played Lincoln Hall - that was our first Chicago show - so to go back there and play a sold out show was really special. We played in Cleveland at a venue that had a tavern side, which has a small stage, and a ballroom side with a huge stage, and it had always been my dream to play the ballroom and on this tour we finally got to play it!
GMAT: Well that’s great! So, for a beloved song off the album, ‘Girl’, y’all filmed a pretty interesting video which involved some very unique dance moves. How was the process of recording that video?
Kerry: I had had an idea for a long time because, as you may or may not have been able to tell from the video, I am not a professional dancer. I had this idea for a long time that I could just come up with dance moves as a non dancer and have an actual dancer come and put the moves together at the end. Then we were trying to think of a video, and I always like those tour videos where it’s like a little behind the scenes vibe. I was like, what if we did the tour video plus my dance idea. I challenged the guys and I said “Ok, everyday I want someone to come up with a dance”, and that was fun to see what they came up with and it was really fun to be like “oh this backdrop is really cool, someone needs to come up with a dance” and then to put it all together. I was really happy that they all agreed to that because, I wasn’t sure if they were going to be into that, but it was really fun to do the choreography.
GMAT: Well it was really fun to watch! So this tour has been largely in support of your newest album Lightning Round, which I know a lot of people are calling it the bands most mature and heartfelt album yet. What was the process of writing and recording that like?
Kerry: The writing process was pretty similar to all the other albums, I mostly write by myself on a classical guitar, then I’ll share it with Chris and Connor and they’ll help me kind of flush out the details for the recording. For this album the main difference was, Conner was playing drums which I think added a lot to the songs, just a lot more nuance from that alone. Also, we played a lot of the songs together in the room all at once, which doesn’t seem like it would change that much but you get a little more of a human flow to the songs, and I think that actually really suited the songs as well. Kind of something a little more organic sounding. Our producer said he thought it sounded like wood. I was like, I guess we do kind of sound like wood.
GMAT: Good wood though! Like fine polished wood! So back in February you guys released an alternate version of the song ‘Automatic’, which I thought was a really cool, refreshing way to renew a more upbeat, pop song. I just wanted to know, if you had to do that to any other song on your album, which one would it be?
Kerry: This is a great question! I honestly was encouraged - we didn’t really think to do that for automatic - our label guy Ian, he really loved ‘Automatic’ and he really wanted to hear a version of it that was a little more stripped back, and I was like “oh that’s kind of cool, yeah let’s try it” and I was really happy with the results! I’ve often felt like I’ve really enjoyed playing ‘Psychic Reader’ by myself with just my guitar. I’ve tried a version of that just as a solo, so I’ve always found something kind of nice about that one. That might be a nice one to approach with minimal drums and all that!
GMAT: Awesome! So, you talked a little bit about this on stage but, your writing process is unique in the sense that you go to the radio for inspiration. If you were to write a song off the songs on the radio right now, what song would you use for inspiration?
Kerry: There are a lot that are really inspiring to me right now, I mean walking around SXSW I’m just surrounded by music at every corner - which can be a little overwhelming - but it’s very inspiring to see so many bands. We just played a show with our friends in a band called Disq so we had played a few shows with them over the years, and we hadn’t see them in a while but we just got to see them play on Tuesday. It was very refreshing to hear them play again because, I’ve always loved how they wrote songs, they write really nice melodies. I just really like the way they do things, so I’ve been thinking about Disq a lot. I’ve been thinking a lot about Kacey Musgraves, we’re big Golden Hour fans. We just listened to that album on our big drive from Florida to Austin and that was nice to revisit that album, and it’s also a really nice approach to pop music in a country style and what song writing can be. I like thinking of songwriting as a craft.
GMAT: Well it is and you excel at it! So, you’ve been at SXSW for quite some time now, so I want to know, besides the music stuff that’s going on, what is your favorite part about SXSW?
Kerry: Wow! I mean I think it’s what I said before, just running into friends and realizing how many people we’ve met traveling so much. That’s been really great. I really like Austin, loving the food, loving the weather, I’m feeling really happy to be here. It’s really cool too because Connor, our drummer, is from here. There’s always something fun about being on tour and being in someone’s hometown so they can see their family and see their friends. I think where we just played actually - when he was in a metal band when he was a pre-teen - he played there. It’s cool to have those moments where you can see how you’ve grown as a musician and where music has taken you. It’s cool to see Connor’s journey, it’s kind of been like a Connor musical tour.
GMAT: And you get a free tour guide of the city! So finally, if you can give me any insight into the future of Bad Bad Hats, whether it be music or touring or anything in between, can you tell anything to the readers of Give Me A Try Magazine?
Kerry: I mean we always have stuff happening! We got a new EP coming out at the end of March, we are hard at work on album 3. We like to stay busy, we got some demos coming. We’re pretty inspired by The Beths too, who we’ve been on tour with, they’re just so much fun and we love the harmonies and the attitude of their music, so I think a lot of those songs will have some Beths inspiration. Definitely more shows, we’re always touring. I think that’s it!
GMAT: Well I’m super excited to see what comes of all of this! Well thank you for sitting down with me and once again congrats on your amazing set!
There’s so much that Bad Bad Hats already has to offer, so with the promise of much more on the horizon it’s like the gift that keeps on giving! Be sure to check out the bands newest EP Wide Right and keep your eye out for new tours.