Bad Bad Hats
photo + words by Erica tello
Bad Bad Hats, the three-piece band, from Minneapolis, Minnesota includes Kerry Alexander, Chris Hoge, and Connor Davison. Named after a trouble-making character in the children’s book series, Madeline, their band is a perfect blend of 90’s nostalgia rock and indie-pop. Their sophomore album titled ‘Lightning Round’ was recorded live in the studio allowing them to have honest, natural creative expression. Before their Austin, Texas set at Stubb’s Jr, I was able to get to know the band’s roots, musical background and stories from their tour.
ET: Bad Bad Hats is named after a trouble-making character from Madeline series of children’s books. Can you tell us more about that?
Kerry: I read those books when I was young. I also watched the VHS cartoon series quite a bit. The ‘Bad Hat’ is a troublemaker in the book. When I was causing trouble when I was younger my mom used to ask ‘are you being a bad hat, Kerry?’ and I was like ‘no.’ I don’t know why that came up or stuck, but here we are.
ET: I’ve read that Lightning round is more mature and confident. What does that meant to you and what do you hope the album really conveys? What would you say the theme is?
Kerry: For me personally, this was my first band. I used to just play acoustic guitar in my bedroom. Then I started playing open mic nights then when we started the band, I got my first electric guitar. So this band has felt like a long, wonderful journey to me. Kind of a coming into my own as a guitarist and songwriter. I have always been a confident songwriter, but being a performer wasn’t as second nature to me. All the touring we’ve done and going into Lightning Round, I feel more confident as a guitar player especially. I never thought I’d be able to record an album starting the track and playing all the way through. It’s really cool to have those moments on the album.
ET: What do you each love most about being a musician?
Connor: For me, I write songs. I often get tongue-tied when trying to explain myself or I say too many things. Music has always been such a concise way to put an emotional standpoint out in front of me to see what’s going on. That’s my favorite thing about being a musician is understanding how I am feeling.
Kerry: I’d say the free food (laughing). Just kidding. Being able to say ‘thank you’ to the fans that make this possible. Performing the songs and seeing reactions is really amazing. Also like Con, the process of songwriting is a really special thing to me. It doesn’t feel like a hobby. It is a craft that I like doing and passing the time with writing songs. Growing up, I loved music and artists. I was the person who always read and opened up the CD reading the lyrics along. It’s cool to me to have people engage in a similar way to how I did when I was younger.
Chris: I’d say being part of a project that affects people’s lives in a positive way. People come up to us and say ‘your songs got me through a breakup or a hard time in my life.’ Traveling all around and shaking their hand or talking to them face to face is amazing.
ET: How did you guys learn you had a musical talent?
Connor: My brother started playing guitar long before me. He would go to a friend’s house or something, and I’d sneak in his room and learn to play Green Day songs without anyone knowing. I stumbled into it.
Kerry: I used to take violin and piano lessons. My instructors were never like ‘Kerry, you’re a prodigy.’ They were like ‘keep it up, Kerry.’ I bombed every single recital. I never made it through successfully. I really loved acting and being in school plays. That’s where my passion was and I realized I had a knack for performing, but maybe not music. It’s funny now to realize that. Around the same time when I was loving music and lyrics so much, Michelle Branch was everything to me. I loved pop music, and Michelle Branch was the first person I could see myself being like. All of those things came together, and I was captivated.
ET: I briefly listened to your ‘Be Cool’ playlist on Spotify. I saw a wide array of artists - Kacey Musgraves, Ratboys, The Beths, etc. Can you tell me more about your music taste individually or even as a group?
Kerry: There’s like a venn diagram for the three of us. It all comes to a point. Our core interests are different which is good. Our favorite albums of all time are not the same and don’t overlap. It’s cool because I’ve been hoping to put another playlist up, because when we’re touring we walk through venues and we’re wondering ‘what’s that song.’ I discover a new pile of music on tour.
We’re all listening to Kacey Musgraves quite a lot.
ET: How have your experiences been touring with Hippo Campus, Margaret Glaspy, and Third Eye Blind? Any fun stories?
Kerry: We have been lucky to play with only nice and fun bands. They’re all super different. If we put a playlist together of all the bands we’ve played with, it would be very confusing and random. I kinda like that we adapt to different groups. The thread though is they are all generous to us.
Connor: I got a Margaret Glaspy story! At the end of our tour with her, someone took some nice polaroids of her and her band during the show. The fan gave them to her. Unfortunately, when they were cleaning out the green room the polaroids got thrown away. Margaret was so upset about this, and she was looking in all of the trash cans. Collectively, we all went out in the rain to dumpster dive unsuccessfully. I stuck my hand in a gross bag of something. We all bonded in that moment though.
Kerry: We really wanted to find them! It was also our last night of tour, so we were like ‘why not?’ Anything for Margaret.
ET: Any potential collaborations that you dream about or would love to make happen?
All: Kacey Musgraves.
Kerry: Sheryl Crow would be a dream. Kacey Musgraves. Letters to Cleo just started to play again. Margaret Glaspy. We discovered Margaret’s song, ‘Emotions and Math’ and ate kolaches listening to it over a hundred times when we were in Park City.
ET: How do you hope your listeners feel when they listen to your second album, ‘Lightning Round’?
Kerry: Joy. I always say joy, even though some of the songs are a little sad. People say they were in a sad place. It taps into sad, but I hope joy is what we bring to people. ‘Lightning Round’ is a little moodier than ‘Psychic Reader’. I want their to be a glimmer of hope.
Connor: Hope. This record is hope. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.
ET: When you’re on tour? What are your must-do’s or see’s of a city? Any places you haven’t been?
Kerry: My favorite song is ‘1-800’. The process we went through in the studio was an inspiring thing. ‘Nothing Gets Me High’ is my favorite to perform.
Connor: ‘1-800’ is my favorite. ‘Makes Me Nervous’ or ‘Get What I Want.’ We change them a little for the show. They’re pretty rockin’ and modulated slightly to have a new energy level.
Chris: ‘Nothing Gets Me High’ is my favorite to perform. My favorite on the album is ‘Absolute Worst.’ It’s pretty special.
Keep up with Bad Bad Hats on Instagram.
Give their Spotify playlist a listen here too.