Bad Bad Hats
Photos & Words by Sophie Minello
Bad Bad Hats consist of superheroes Kerry, Chris, and Connor. They walked out of the building bundled up as the first cold winds of Ohio blew through, and we stepped into the legendary House of Blues alley to snap some photos. Sunlight Magazine had the privilege to chat with them for a little before their show at the Cleveland House of Blues with the Front Bottoms.
You just began your tour with the Front Bottoms. How’s it going so far?
Kerry: It’s going great, we’re having a lot of fun.
Connor: It’s been cool to play in these big rooms to people who haven’t heard us.
Kerry: Yeah, but the fans are so enthusiastic and open which has been very welcoming.
What dates are you most excited for?
Chris: The last show is in New York City which is sold out. It's in this three level venue that I’ve never been to so I’m pretty excited about that. It’s like 2,800 people or something. [The shows are] all just so cool for us because they’re all so much bigger than the venues we usually play, but that one stands out because I wonder what that’s gonna be like especially since it’s towards the end of the whole run.
Kerry: We’re always excited to play new places so it was really fun to play Sayreville and it’ll be really fun to play Houston and Orlando, those will be our first times in those cities.
Connor: I’m from Texas and we’re playing a show in my hometown in Austin. I haven’t been back to play a show in Austin since I left so I’m excited to get a hometown gig.
Kerry: *sings* the boys are back in town.
Your website bio says you began writing in loneliness of moving to a new place and school.
Could you say that writing and music was like some sort of therapy?
Kerry: Definitely. Not only was it something to fill up the time, but I think I enjoyed songwriting since it was nice to get those feelings down. I’ve always been a journal-er too. I think it was a little therapeutic for me to sort of put things down like, this is what I’m feeling right now.
Did any of these early songs show up on the EP or album?
Kerry: Almost everything I wrote on the It Hurts EP I wrote when I was studying abroad in France in college (It Hurts, 9am, Secrets Are No Fun, About). Nothing from high school has made it onto anything which I think is for the best! Sometime you gotta accept you’re in a different place now. Most things are from college or later.
So what does the writing process usually look like for you?
Kerry: It’s always changing which is kinda cool. When we first started with the It Hurts EP I wrote a lot of songs by myself in Paris and then Chris and I just recorded in the apartment we were living in at the time. So Chris helped me a lot with arrangement and adding a few more parts like drums and bass and stuff. But as the band’s gone on we’ve had more and different people involved, some songs start with a baseline that someone wrote or for Joseph, Chris had written a chord progression in college and I took that and wrote on top of it. That’s been really fun for me as a songwriter to be able to work off Chris and Connor and our friend Noah and just see where those ideas lead me.
Do you ever feel like you have to push yourself to be different from other artists out there or does the unique sound of Bad Bad Hats come naturally?
Kerry: Hmm, I don’t know. What do you guys think?
Chris: I think you have your own style that comes through in the songwriting. And I think our tastes in music are not exactly what’s popular right now. We like guitar stuff so much and I think we naturally make songs that are not that trendy.
Kerry: Yeah, I think we kinda follow our musical hearts and it just kinda happens to be what it is.
Connor: Everyone listens to very different music and we all have our home bases that we agree on, but everyone listens to different stuff so it kinda melds together and you get what you get.
Kerry: It’s cool to be yourself, and that’s what we try to do.
All of your music is for free download through your label. What was your thought process behind this?
Kerry: I was actually pretty resistant to that when our friend Ian (who runs the label we’re on, Afternoon Records) pushed it and I was like heck no, I worked hard on these songs, I’m not doing that. But after talking to Ian and thinking more about it, I’m now really at peace with it. I have a spotify account and I partake in semi free music streaming. But the way I like to do it, and I think all three of us do it, is we will stream stuff and if we really enjoy it we take the time to go to a show or buy a cd or vinyl or something. Even though the music is free online, not only is it a great way for people to hear our music without a barrier, but we really do find people are like ‘hey I listen to you on spotify and now I wanna get a cd’. So that’s been awesome that people sort of take the time to support us. I think we just want as many people as possible to hear it so in that way, it’s nice to be able to say ‘you can have it’.
Chris: You’re gonna get it anyways.
Kerry: You’re gonna find it anyways so might as well have it from us and look at our website.
Are you guys into the music video process?
Chris: Kerry really loves it.
Kerry: I go back and forth because sometimes I don’t often have ideas and when it comes time to have the videos I get really stressed out thinking about what we’re gonna do. But for the Shame music video, for instance, our label guy Ian helped us come up with the idea and once we had the idea it was a ton of fun. Everything made sense and we just ran around with a camera and had a lot of fun. I do really enjoy the editing process too, so I do enjoy the process once I have the ideas, but it’s kinda hard for me to come up with the idea sometimes.
So, if given no budget, what would your dream music video be?
Chris: Pressure’s on, Kerry.
Kerry: Well, I do have this one idea for a music video for if I had no budget and I could actually make it cinematic. The concept is you see these weary soldiers like Braveheart-esque. They’re beat down but someone’s trying to get them riled up saying ‘you gotta do this everyone, we’ve got to fight these people’. Now they’re getting pumped up and they keep looking over to a hill like the enemy’s going to come over the hill. And it’s all these big scruffy guys who are exhausted but they have passion and they get all pumped up. But then all of the sudden you see they’re all getting ready and maybe someone sheds a single tear cause they’re thinking ‘this might be the end for me’ and over the hill it’s just a sea of LARPers [live action roll play], which are just everyday people who fight with toy swords. It’s just all these kids running over the hill with their toy swords and the soldiers go ‘rahhhhh!’ and then there’s an epic battle between them. That could be good. I think it would be really good with a camera that can get aerial shots and to have a really realistic fight scene between those two groups would be pretty cool.
Do you like exploring the cities you’re in when you have time?
Kerry: Oh yeah, a lot.
Connor: It’s mostly food based, because we’re always hungry when we get there. We try to get a nice breakfast or dinner and we try to see something.
Kerry: Yeah, we usually try to get in a stroll around the block. It’s especially really nice when we have a day off so we can take out time. It’s the best and worst part of tour since you get to be in so many cities but you often don’t have as much time as you’d like to do everything. But that’s why we’ve just gotta keep touring, do a little bit each time.
What’s the quirkiest place you’ve ever found?
Kerry: That’s a good question. I’m trying to thing of some weird places we’ve been, cause I know we’ve been to some.
Chris: Some strange places.
Kerry: I can’t think of many right now. One thing that comes to mind, I wouldn’t say it’s quirky, but a very memorable thing was when our friend Noah who usually plays bass is from Las Cruces, New Mexico and we had a day off there on one of our first tours. It’s always really nice being in someone’s hometown because they always show off like ‘this is where I went to high school!’ but we went on a hike in a really beautiful area and we say two tarantulas in the wild -
Chris: In the wild, that’s sick.
Kerry: - Scurrying across the trail. I was like ‘ahhhh’, so I asked if tarantulas were deadly. Turns out, they’re not deadly.
Chris: They just look deadly.
Kerry: They can just make your leg hurt. So that was something I did not think would happen in my life that tour gave me.
What’s in store for the future of Bad Bad Hats?
Kerry: Well we’ve got some new music in the works that’ll hopefully be out next year, we’ll see. That’s the general plan.
Chris: Yup, another album.
Kerry: We’re excited for people to hear those songs and hopefully we’ll have more shows. We like being on the road, we like meeting new people, seeing new places.
Connor: Lots of touring.
Kerry: So don’t worry. Bad Bad Hats is sticking around!