Music

'It Hurts' so good: Bad Bad Hats release 10th anniversary edition of first EP

Woman and man sit closely in front of camera
Kerry Alexander and Chris Hogue of Bad Bad Hats spoke with the Current's Diane Miller about the tenth anniversary of "It Hurts."
Zoe Prinds-Flash

By Diane Miller | The Current

Bad Bad Hats are not shy to embrace the nostalgia of their early recordings. So much so that the “It Hurts (10th Anniversary Edition)” EP includes demo tracks laced with kazoos, happy-go-lucky whistling, never-heard-before verses and ultra-scratchy guitar tracks.

Any long-time fan of this beloved indie-pop group would more than likely squeal with joy at the DIY sounds of this now very polished Minnesota crew. So, not to mention, the newly released anniversary EP also includes remastered versions of its five original songs. Oh yeah, and “It Hurts” has never been physically pressed — until now!

The band will celebrate with fans at two shows on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. The night will be bittersweet as they send off drummer Con Davison, who has moved to Austin, Texas, to pursue his own musical endeavors.

At this time, singer/guitarist Kerry Alexander and bassist Chris Hogue are booking house shows and continuing to promote “It Hurts” as a stripped-down duo before their next big record releases.

I spoke with Alexander and Hogue, who are married, to learn more. We discussed old memories, early influences, music videos, the definition of “twee,” how they align on the Chinese Zodiac, cooking and more.

Listen to the conversation in the audio player or read the full transcript below.

This is Diane, host of The Local Show. Across from me is Bad Bad Hats. I have Kerry Alexander and Chris Hogue. So great to have you in the studio with me today. Thanks for being here.

Kerry Alexander: Thank you, Diane.

I feel all giddy inside. I'm like, it's Bad Bad Hats! Y'all have such a strong connection with our station ... I just think of Bad Bad Hats and I think of the lineup on The Current and the music that y'all play that just is so pleasant and wonderful. And again, I just want to say thanks. And how you guys doing today? 

KA: Well, that makes us feel good. We do like to instill giddiness. And we love The Current. So the feeling is mutual.

Sweet. And the reason why we're sitting here today is y'all are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the EP, “It Hurts.” Let's dive into that. What made you want to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of this EP specifically?

KA: Well, honestly, I will say we've been kind of bad about anniversaries in the past. I'll be like, oh, no, our album turned five last month and we totally missed it. So in some ways, I think I was like, I'm not gonna miss this one. Because you only get so many anniversaries for a release. So I didn't want to miss this one. And it was kind of special because “It Hurts” has never been available in a physical form ever in its 10 years. And it was asked about a lot.

Chris Hogue: Every night. 

KA: Every night at the merch table — "Where's ‘It Hurts?’" And we say, “Oh, it's never been printed on anything.” So we also knew it could be really special. Because for the first time you could have “It Hurts” to have and to hold. It just felt nice too because “It Hurts” was our first release. So not only can we celebrate “It Hurts,” but also reflect on a decade of this band and making music and all the music and people and adventures along the way.

Yeah. Take me back to that mindset of when you were 10 years younger. Is this the second EP that y'all ever released?

KA: So yes, technically we had an EP called “Grow Up.” That was our first unofficial release. So we just did it in a basement and put it up on Bandcamp. 

CH: Oh, The Local Show played it though.

KA: They did.

Mid West Music Fest 2022
Bad Bad Hats performed on April 29, at Mid West Music Fest in Winona, Minn.
Darin Kamnetz for MPR

All right! We were on the ball.

CH: Yeah, I remember listening. 

KA: Yes, I was on the airplane. And I was like, Go! Go!

Dave Campbell was the host at the time?

KA: Yes. So, “It Hurts” was our first official release. We were on a label called Afternoon Records, a local label. And yet 2013 we had been playing for about one year at that point, just playing around town. We played a lot of Mondays at the Fine Line, which is way too big for us on a Monday.

No kidding. Fine Line. What is that, like an 800-cap venue?

KA: Like, 600? And it would be like a five-band bill with all of our friends from college. 

Macalester, right? 

KA: Yes. And so all of us would bring the same small group of friends. 

CH: 20 people.

KA: But that's a good — you got to ease into it somehow. So we got playing around town. We were practicing in the back room of a comic book store kind of figuring it out. We only knew how to play like, seven songs. And they're all like three minutes long. So get in, get out. I do think fondly of those times. We'd have band practice every Monday and Wednesday, usually. It was Chris and I, and our friend Noah was playing bass at the time. And the three of us, we'd have dinner together, Mondays and Wednesdays and then we would have band practice. And at that time, you don't really have anything to practice for. So you really are just like, jamming and playing songs, hanging out, just enjoying making music. 

I'm curious to know about — I have comparisons that come to my brain … just especially when you're a journalist, you always think of comparisons and stuff like that. And I'm like, Bad Bad Hats ... Obviously, y'all have this indie-pop sound. I'm sure that's a label that gets put on you a lot. I think of Peter Bjorn and John. 

KA: Oh cool! 

CH: Nice.

I think of The Unicorns a little bit, and then I think of She & Him or Zooey Deschanel. But I'm curious, even back then or to now, who was influencing you?

CH: Yeah, I remember at that time we played a Best Coast cover, partly because we needed more time. But I remember being way into one of those first records. What else?

KA: Darwin Deez was one of my favorite acts in those days. And Jessica Lea Mayfield was an early influence, I seem to remember. But it's funny, cuz at the time, this word doesn't really get used anymore, but we were described as twee.

Bad Bad Hats band members pose for a photo
Bad Bad Hats, from left: Chris Hoge, Kerry Alexander and Connor Davison. Davison is moving to Texas to pursue other opportunities.
Zoe Prinds-Flash

Twee, I can't say I've heard that label. Enlighten me, I want to know.

CH: It's like, cute. But also not serious, or had the other side of like, "You're twee.” It's whatever.

KA: Yeah, I do think She & Him would maybe have been described as twee. 

Quirky. 

KA: Yes, which I think was accurate. Even though I think at the time I felt it as a negative thing. Like Chris was saying, sort of like, it's just cute. I mean, it is cute, but it's not just cute. But it's funny, that term doesn't seem to be — there aren't as many twee bands out there, I guess. I think, early on, when I was younger, I loved Ingrid Michaelson. And Feist and Regina Spektor.

Oh, yeah. Me too.

KA: Yeah, just like the true singer songwriter –

With unique voices. Regina Spektor, especially, and Feist have this very distinctive voice and I think of yours as well, too. And then you're also from the South and then you're from up here. So I got to imagine that has influenced the way you sing too.

KA: Yes. And I think also because I never thought of myself as a singer when I was young. I think of myself as a songwriter. And especially when I was young, my hope was that I could just write songs and give them to someone else to perform. But that person never arose. So I thought, well, if these songs were gonna get out there, I should probably learn how to perform them myself. But I think because I was just singing, sitting on the floor of my walk-in shower in high school, you just teach yourself to sing like the people that you listen to. So it was sort of like, maybe you're putting on some sort of affectation. To be like, well, what does a cool voice sound like? It's like, well, I guess it sounds like this, and you record yourself and listen back. You're like, yeah, that's not so bad. But I think because of that, now, it's like, I listen back to my old recordings and I'm like, whoa! That voice sounds so different to me. But it's cool too. You're sort of changing and growing every time you make a song. 

Oh, yeah. Evolution. People, obviously, their voices can change. But I want to know a little bit about the show you have planned at …

KA: The Entry

It's already sold out. For people that are lucky enough to go to attend, what's in store?

CH: We’ve got a four piece band, which is new for us at the moment. And we're gonna play the whole EP, which will take about 15 minutes. And lots of other songs. You put out an ask about what people wanted to hear.

KA: I did. I knew we're gonna play the EP. But I wanted to know – what are the hits that the people want to hear? So we tried to compile a good list of just all the heavy hitters. We've done this before, we're gonna do a doubleheader. So there's gonna be an early show that is all ages, which we like to do because we do have fans of all ages; and we like to when whole families come to the show. 

Yeah! Y'all have an accessible family-friendly vibe, even though it isn't intentionally targeted toward a certain audience. 

KA: Yeah, we did not intend to do that. But I love it. Because some of my favorite memories as a child are listening to music with my family on the weekends, doing chores, or making dinner. But then you become a teenager and you're like, I don't like any of that music that my mom listens to. But before you get to that point, it's like, oh, that's so great to share in the joy of music. So I love that young kids are sort of being introduced to Bad Bad Hats. So, we're gonna do an all-ages show first, and then once the adrenaline comes back down, we're gonna do it all again. There's an 18-plus later show. 

CH: A little bit rowdier. 

KA: Yeah, which is cool for us. There are usually a different kind of energy to the crowd.

Bad Bad Hats, 'Walkman' album art
Bad Bad Hats "Walkman" is the third studio album from the band. It came out Sept. 12, 2021.
Don Giovanni Records

Also, second sets always bring a little bit extra looseness to it. So it's nice you'll be all warmed up.

KA: Oh, yeah, we know what we're doing. We can do this. So that'll be great. We're excited to play all the songs. I think at least one of the songs on the EP has never been performed live before. 

CH: I guess it's also kind of a celebration. Our drummer Con (Davison) is leaving the band. He moved to Texas. But these are gonna be his last shows with us. So we're gonna kind of celebrate our time together.

KA: Yeah, it's nice it can be kind of double duty — celebrate the EP and give him a really great send off.

What is he moving to Texas for?

KA: He grew up in Austin, Texas. And so it's nice to be back near family and friends and warm weather. But Con is just a super-talented guy. He's a multi-instrumentalist. He's a producer, a mixer. And has been doing all that stuff simultaneously with the band. But it's gonna take some time to really focus in on his production work, his mixing work and his own songwriting, which is amazing as well.

Yes, I've heard some of his stuff. It's excellent.

HA: Yes, it's excellent. So we're really excited for him. We're really gonna miss him in the band, because you spend so much time together. And you're used to the unit ... the synergy that you get with a band when you've played together a long time. I will really miss that. But it's also going to be awesome for him to be able to spend more time focusing in on this other —

CH: Part of his life. 

KA: Yeah, exactly. 

Y'all are married. Tell me about the dynamic of being in a band together with your partner.

KA: It's good. 

CH: It's fun. It's great. I remember, our first couple of tours kind of figuring that out, because we're in the minivan with one or two other people and one hotel room. And I think at times, you kind of forget that you're married. Like, Kerry is just one of the dudes. You kind of lose that relationship for a second. But we figured that out, I think. We have a better handle on it and when to separate business from just being married and having fun. 

KA: And making a point to be like, maybe just you and I should have dinner this evening. And check in and make sure everyone's doing good.

CH: Yeah, and that's also been a learning process with living together and just thinking about business all the time. It'll be 11 p.m. or something and something comes up and like, oh, we need to do that right now. But, oh, let's just go to bed and deal with it tomorrow. But when you're together you can just get wrapped up in business all the time.

KA: I was thinking about — we were at a restaurant one time, and they had little paper placemats with the Year of the Horse, Year of the Rat. 

Oh, yeah, in Chinese restaurants?

KA: Yes. And on the thing, it showed compatibility. And so we're all like going around the table being like, oh, what's your compatibility? We're both Year of the Horse. 

I'm a Tiger.

KA: Oh! Nice. And it was like, Year of the Horse, Year of the Horse, like two horses together, like a romantic relationship? No. But a business relationship? Amazing. I was like, well, Chris, at least we got one of the two. 

CH: We're making it work.

KA: I was like, well, maybe it works out then that we're running our small business 24/7 together.

Bad Bad Hats
Bad Bad Hats formed in Minneapolis in 2012. They will perform two shows at 7th St Entry on Saturday, Feb. 4.
Zoe Prinds-Flash

Well, you really have to have trust and faith and honesty within that. And I think the success that you have is a testament to the beauty of your relationship. And, of course, we as an audience get to reap the benefits of the beautiful music that y'all make. 

KA: Thank you.

Tell me more about what's coming. Y'all released an amazing LP “Walkman,” and song after song is so good. I know that you're obviously focused on touring and then releasing this album, but is there new stuff in the works? 

KA: Indeed, there is.

CH: Yeah, we have a new album that is getting mastered or is mastered.

KA: Yeah, it's like in the end process. It was sort of cool because during the pandemic, lots of people were looking for ways to stay busy while we were trapped at home. And we started a Patreon page. And as part of it, the theme of the Patreon was that every month we would write an original song around a musical prompt, like, write a pop-punk song, or write a song with a key change, which is really fun. I was a creative writing major in college. And I still love a good prompt, having those barriers to stay within. So it proved to be a very fruitful endeavor. And Chris and Con and I would meet up and record the song and do other things related to it. But from that process, because we've been doing it now for like two years, some songs just emerged that were like — now, wait a minute. This song is actually pretty cool! And that sort of inspired some more songs outside of the Patreon. 

So before we knew it, we had an album in one of the quickest turnarounds we've ever had. But it's cool because it was just for the Patreon and we were just sort of trying stuff at home, the whole album ended up being made in our basement. We're a little bit more hands-on with it, doing a lot more of the recording and production. So in some ways, it's kind of different from any other Bad Bad Hats full-length album. And it does have sort of that scrappy, DIY energy, which I think is kind of fun.

Yeah, Patreon. It's a hot new platform for artists to make extra money, while also continuing their creative endeavors in ways that an audience can get close to and connect with. I feel like it's still a burgeoning platform. Explain a little bit for people that might not be in the know.

CH: So it's like a subscription, basically, where you can subscribe to Bad Bad Hats at different levels per month.

KA: Bad Bad Hats+.

CH: (Laughs) So there's different tiers. And there's the basic tier where it's like, a couple of bucks a month, you just support us. And that's kind of all there is to it. And then higher up, you start to get more perks each month, like posts. Kerry will write about songwriting, or we'll write about recording, or post pictures or videos about us recording and stuff.

KA: Lots of bands do it differently. Some bands are just like, give us $1 a month just because you love us. Which is nice. I think some people, they don't need anything, they just want to support ... I think the biggest draw to Patreon is that it is an easy way for artists to sort of give you a behind the scene look –

More than on an Instagram.

KA: Yeah. And we try to lean into that. Show you how we made the song, and what the early demo of the song sounds like. And how I come up with the lyrics, and what microphones we're using. That kind of thing that maybe some people don't care about. But if you do care about it, you can know it all. 

Bad Bad Hats perform at The Current Day Party during SXSW
Kerry Alexander and Chris Hoge of Bad Bad Hats perform at The Current Day Party at Barracuda in Austin, Texas, on March 15, 2019, during the SXSW music festival.
Mary Mathis | MPR

I want to talk about your music videos. That's what's popping in my brain right now. Because I love your music videos. Going back to “It Hurts,” the music video when you're out in the hockey arena. It's so Minnesotan. I love that. Where did your mindset go to do something in a hockey arena.

CH: The guy who runs Afternoon Records is Ian Anderson. And he is a big hockey guy. Yeah. So I think it was his idea.

KA: I think so too. It's been a long time, but I'm pretty sure he was like, hear me out.

CH: Yeah. And he's the goalie in the video.

KA: I think it was part of our contract that he had to make a cameo in all of our earlier videos. So contractually, he was the goalie. I think he knew of a rink. We have later in life gotten more knowledgeable about hockey, but at the time, we really did not know anything. 

So it's not something you grew up around. 

CH: No, not at all.

KA: We're basically like, yeah, whatever you say, Ian. But then people are like, “Oh, it's amazing! It's so Minnesotan.” And we're like, oh, that was a great idea. Good job, Ian. (Laughs) You knew what to do. And he is a born and bred Minnesotan. He found a rink that we rented at like 11 a.m. on a Tuesday. 

CH: I think it was in Richfield.

KA: Yeah, that sounds right. And got together a few friends from his rec league hockey team to do some skating moves around us. We had to do it in several takes. It was so cold that we could only do so much. And then we'd be like, okay, we gotta go warm up. And the instruments too. I have a 40-year-old guitar that I was like, I don't know if this is a good idea. But no one fell or injured themselves. So that was positive. Yeah, it's really fun. But then I crashed my car when we're leaving, very slowly. No one was in danger, except my car. But I'll always remember that day. And then we ate Five Guys. 

Burgers and Fries! Okay, and then I want to jump forward to the TED Talks. I just loved how y'all incorporated that for “Detroit Basketball.”

KA: That one, I think, will go down as one of my greater video works. I felt good about that one ... I like a good heist movie, where you're building the team. And it's like, go over here, and this is the person who picks the lock. And then over here is the IT person.  

Like Ocean's 11. 

KA: Exactly. Like, Rihanna is gonna hack the mainframe. I love that sequence. It's like a classic heist movie sequence where it's like assembling the squad that's gonna rob the bank. So I love that idea of getting the band back together — where is everyone assembling this power trio? But then I was like, what are funny things that they could be doing that are somewhat related to the pandemic and everyone being stuck inside? So I was like, puzzles. That makes sense. Crafting chips in a bottle. And sleeping. Just being in bed. Bedtime. There we go. 

CH: That was probably the most fun video to make.

You obviously are a creative person and artist and do things that are clever and fun and funny and heartwarming. What's the best way for you to get into that space of wanting to create?

KA: Well, I know that I do often prefer some solitude. 

CH: Even from me. 

KA: I know. Chris is the person who knows me the best. Even then, I like some space to just sort of work out ideas to be a little vulnerable and be like, I'm just gonna try something here. Maybe it won't work, maybe it will. So I do like to be alone. And I think I've been trying to dive into that a little bit more. Recently, I got to do a songwriting retreat last summer at a farm in Wisconsin. And that was really nice. Because then I was really alone and an hour away from Chris. I got as much distance as I could. But when I'm at home, usually we have a little office upstairs. So Chris often hangs out in the office upstairs. I get the TV in the living room. And I do like to just watch TV with my guitar and just sort of play and watch and sort of be semi-distracted. But all my voice memos have really loud television in the background. So it's just like, I'm trying to get an idea down and you just hear Chopped just blaring in the background of almost all of my voice memos.

Bad Bad Hats perform at The Current's 14th Birthday Party
Bad Bad Hats perform at night one of The Current's 14th Birthday Party at First Avenue in Minneapolis, Jan. 18, 2019.
Nate Ryan | MPR

You're into the cooking shows, huh?

KA: Yeah, absolutely.

Nice. So you like to cook then?

KA: Yes, I have gotten more into cooking. We used to have a really tiny apartment in Loring Park. That was just not a lot of counter space. It just made it difficult. But now that we have our house, it has been really nice to get more into cooking. 

What do you like to cook? 

CH: How about Gigi Hadid's Spicy Pasta?

KA: Oh yeah, it's funny because I saw it on Instagram. But we continue to refer to it with its full name, which is Gigi Hadid’s Spicy Tomato Pasta. Chris, would you like Gigi Hadid’s Spicy Tomato Pasta for dinner tonight? Okay. (Laughs) But yeah, I like to see what Instagram has in store for me in terms of people making food. Though, it looks good, but it is funny because you don't really know if they know what they're doing. So you kind of just have to go for it. But I do get a lot of cooking magazines. I like to rip out some recipes and stuff.

Oh so you're really passionate about it. That's cool. 

KA: I like it. Yeah. 

It's another form of creativity. The culinary arts. 

KA: Yes, and I often like to blast music while I'm cooking as well. 

Oh, so it's a good time to absorb music. 

KA: Exactly. I'm moving. I'm cooking, I'm grooving. Yeah, I don't know, Chris. In terms of your, your working creativity. I feel like you're more of a researcher.

CH: Yeah, I'm into the gear and that side of it. So I was way into synths over the pandemic. Bought a few synths and took it upon myself to be that guy in the band for a while. I love recording and collaborating with Kerry's sparks. Starting with Kerry's spark of ideas and then moving from there.

KA: Yeah, it works well, because I'm not interested in the technical side ... I like to direct. I know what I want to hear. But I would prefer to let Chris press the buttons.

Sounds like a good matchup. 

KA: Yes, exactly. So yeah, it is good. So I can just sort of write the song and then sort of hand it over to Chris and Con and our friend Brett who produces our records. And then sort of see what they do with it, and sort of be like, try that. Try that. It's like, okay, perfect.

Tell me about your opener, Beemer ... I looked them up, and I was like, they're really good. And then I played them on The Local Show.

KA: Amazing. It's our friend Hank (Donato), and a lot of our friends are in the band, actually. But it's Hank's songs. And I knew Hank was an amazing musician. He plays keys for a lot of different people. But I had actually never heard his songs before, and him singing. And I was blown away when I heard the first songs. Which, I should have known they would be amazing, because I just know he's a very creative, smart, cool person and an amazing keyboard player. So I'm excited to be at the show and Beemer play.

CH: Yeah, the band has a few people that have played with us. So we know pretty much all of them.

KA: Yes. It'll be a good crew.

They're fairly new project then, right? 

CH: Yeah, brand new. 

Bad Bad Hats perform at the MPR booth at the Minnesota State Fair
Bad Bad Hats perform at the MPR booth at the Minnesota State Fair. They also performed at the Grandstand in 2022.
Nate Ryan | MPR

Anything else we've missed before we wrap? It's been such a pleasure chatting with you all.

KA: Yes. Thank you for talking to us, Diane. Yeah, we're excited for the year. I'm really happy that this vinyl is finally out. And the response to it has been amazing. I kind of knew we had some pent-up desire for the vinyl. But it has been really nice to just sort of feel and be reminded how many people out there have been with us all these years, or even if they're a new fan, that they're still interested in going back to the deep cuts. It makes me feel glad that these songs are still meaningful to people that we made all those years ago. It's been really nice to be able to spend some time and celebrate these 10 years. But we're also really excited for what the year has in store. 

CH: Keep going, yeah.

We're excited too.

KA: We're loose. We're limber. We're ready for another 10 years.

Also, you talked about before we turned on the microphones, that you were doing some house shows. Tell us about what fans might want to know about that?

Well, I will say we really wanted to take the show on the road. And we're really excited to play the hometown show first in February. But we're feeling like the “It Hurts” EP was made in our apartment bedroom in these kind of funny spaces. And just with an acoustic guitar and a bass. So we thought that a living room tour would be the perfect pairing to sort of have an “It Hurts” 10th-anniversary tour. 

So we partnered with a company called Undertow Music that puts on these kinds of tours for, as you know, people like David Bazan, Pedro The Lion. It's kind of funny because we're not used to this. Because normally you just say, here are the dates, buy your tickets. So it's kind of fun to have an extra step to be like, here are the dates that could be if you want to host a show in your living room. So we're at the phase now, where we're seeing if there is interest to host an intimate, cool Bad Bad Hats show. 

But we think it would be really fun, sort of playing an acoustic, stripped-down version of all of our biggest hits. And also to be able to do things like Q&A and tell stories and just sort of interact more with the fans out there more than you could at a venue where there's sort of that distance, and you really can't hear what people are saying. And a drunk person is yelling in the corner, that sort of thing. So, a much easier way to just sort of interact and be closer to the fans in that way. And a chance to bring the “It Hurts” vinyl to them in their city. 

Bad Bad Hats perform two shows at 7th St Entry on Saturday, Feb. 4. Tickets and info

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