Interview: Rockin’ Out with Bad Bad Hats’ Kerry Alexander

Bad Bad Hats © Zoe Prinds
Bad Bad Hats © Zoe Prinds
Frontwoman Kerry Alexander of Bad Bad Hats sat down with Atwood Magazine in Austin, Texas to chat about music and the band’s upcoming self-titled album and tour.
“My Heart Your Heart” – Bad Bad Hats

Sometimes when I’m onstage I take a second and take it in and try to be in the moment, and just enjoy the experience.

Doused in red lighting and tucked into the corner of the bar, indie rock riffs spill into the crowd for a short, intimate set.

Bad Bad Hats’ frontwoman Kerry Alexander gently pulls you in as guitarist/partner Chris Hoge softly sings along. The accompanying drums, basslines and eventual (and entirely necessary) kazoo component bring their sound together fully.

Bad Bad Hats album art
Bad Bad Hats’ self-titled fifth album

Peering directly into me and without ever breaking her gaze, Alexander swiftly answers each question without hesitation. The Minnesotan has a distinct aura to her – it may be cliché to say that one lights up a room but with Alexander it rings true – there’s a sense of joy that comes just from sharing the same space as her. That same blissful feeling weaves its way into their music, which is propelled further in their live performance.

Luring listeners in with recently released singles “TPA” and “My Heart Your Heart,” Bad Bad Hats’ upcoming self-titled album is set for release April 12. Following the release, expect to find the band on tour in the U.S. as well as Europe as they play their first overseas shows.

Atwood Magazine sat down with frontwoman Kerry Alexander following the band’s unofficial SXSW set to chat about music, tour, and their new record!

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:: stream/purchase Bad Bad Hats here ::
:: connect with Bad Bad Hats here ::
Stream: “TPA” – Bad Bad Hats


Bad Bad Hats

Atwood Magazine: When did music first come into your life?

Kerry Alexander: I grew up in a household with a lot of music. My mom had a five-disc CD changer so there was always different CDs rotating on shuffle all the time. I remember in like third grade we had to do a biography project… we had to pick a biography from the library, read it, and then do a report on it. I was kind of a slow reader so I basically just chose the smallest book I could find, which happened to be a John Lennon biography. I learned about The Beatles and became really interested in songwriting and songwriters, so that felt like the beginning of my songwriting.

Was there a moment where you decided music is what you were going to follow, or did it happen more gradually?

Alexander: I do kind of feel like early on I was like, “I love this and I would love to do it.” But I think hearing Michelle Branch’s album The Spirit Room, that’s the album that made me be like, “I can see myself in that” or “I see the path forward.” I feel like it’s always something I knew I always wanted to do but I didn’t actually always know I wanted to be in a band. I just knew I wanted to write songs. It was later that I was like, “Okay, I guess I’m gonna be the singer and I’m gonna be the frontperson.”

How would you describe your own sound? How has this changed since you first started making music?

Alexander: When I first started I was really influenced by a lot of the singer-songwriters of the 2010s. People like Feist, Ingrid Michaelson, and Regina Spektor, so a little more folky and just generally softer tones. But when I was young I loved ’90s rock groups like the Breeders and Brit rock from the ’90s like Letters to Cleo. As I got older, I wanted to incorporate more and more electric guitar and rockin’ out a little bit more.

Bad Bad Hats © Zoe Prinds
Bad Bad Hats © Zoe Prinds

How do you expect your sound to evolve in the future?

Alexander: That’s a good question… I don’t know! Who knows what the future holds? I mean, even on this fourth album I feel like it’s gotten a little dancier, a little more sample-y sounds. That’s kind of a new thing for us. We always learn new stuff and you hear more music that inspires you so who knows where it’ll take us.

Do you find yourself being more of a lyrics or a sound person?

Alexander: I always used to be lyrics first, that’s what I would always try first. But I think as I’ve developed I’ve become more melody focused. I will just sit on my couch with the TV on and just sorta hum to myself and start forming words and then something will appear. In “Walkman,” I think I started saying “heavy metal / rock and roll.” That’s all I had, and I just would repeat that over and over. Then it’s like, “Alright, well what does that lead you to next if you go off of that path?” It’s a fun way to do it.

Sonically, do you have a favorite song or part you’re really proud to have created?

Alexander: Songs surprise you sometimes, which is cool. Our song “Year of the Crab” started out as kind of a country thing. But our friend Con, we were playing it in soundcheck and he was kind of the one who was like “Kerry, that’s cool. You gotta do something with that.” And we were in the studio working on it and it just didn’t feel right. It just felt kind of odd, the verses I had written just didn’t feel like Bad Bad Hats.

But we started playing more and trying different stuff and then all of a sudden it’s like, “Ooh, that guitar part’s cool.” And then I just came up with a new verse in the moment. That’s what’s great about collaborating ‘cause I probably would never have come up with that without Chris and Con playing different stuff to inspire me.

Do you have a favorite lyric you’ve written that’s made it onto an album?

Alexander: I really enjoy “Only Static.” “When I feel you slipping away / Can’t stand the thought of myself / Not taking up enough space / Nobody’s books on my shelf.” It’s thinking about when you break up with someone and they take all their stuff away. Their absence and also the absence of other things is just a very visual reminder that they’ve been removed from your life and your space.

When I feel you slipping away
Can’t stand the thought of myself
Not taking up enough space
Nobody’s books on my shelf
But I want to feel something more
Nobody’s hands on myself
I laughed til I fell on the floor
The night I was free from the way I felt for you
What do I do when I want you
You’re calling my name and I’m turning around, yeah
What do I do when I want you, what do I do

Do you have any past demos that didn’t make it onto a previous project that you re-worked and have now made it onto your upcoming album?

Alexander: The fourth song on our upcoming album, it’s called “Back to My Body.” It’s a little moody, it’s got some synth bass. We recorded that song with all the Walkman songs, actually. It just didn’t feel like it fit Walkman but it felt more aligned with LP4. That’s one that sort of has been resurrected.

What do you hope people can take out of your music?

Alexander: Happiness… and joy. I know we write a lot about heartbreak and people tell us all the time the songs helped them through breakups and stuff, so I know often people are listening during sad times, but it makes me happy to know it seems to be a comfort, so that’s really nice.

Bad Bad Hats © Zoe Prinds
Bad Bad Hats © Zoe Prinds

I have a question here from a fellow SXSW artist named Miranda Joan: What is one of the best lessons you’ve learned in your artist career?

Alexander: Sometimes it’s so cool to be a musician, but sometimes you’re on tour and you’re tired, you’re getting into the next city, and it can feel kinda hard. Also, it’s tough because so many musicians now are running everything of their businesses. Like we’re doing all our social media, we’re doing all the accounting and everything. So sometimes it can feel hard to remember, “Oh yeah, I’m in a rock band. That’s so cool.”

Sometimes when I’m onstage I take a second and take it in and try to be in the moment. And just enjoy the experience because sometimes it’s, especially in the middle of tour, you played so many nights in a row it can be easy to be like, “Wait, what’s going on?” [laughs]

Do you have any questions you would like to ask a fellow artist?

Alexander: For the next person you talk to… if they usually write the chorus or the hook of the song first, or if they find they usually write the beginning of the song first and work their way down?

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:: stream/purchase Bad Bad Hats here ::
:: connect with Bad Bad Hats here ::
“My Heart Your Heart” – Bad Bad Hats

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Bad Bad Hats album art

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