with Cumulus and Cmmnwlth
Bad Bad Hats is an indie rock band from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The band consists of Kerry Alexander, Chris Hoge, and Connor Davison. Named for a trouble-making character from the Madeline children’s books, Bad Bad Hats is defined by a balance of sweet and sour. Their music honors classic pop songwriting, with nods to nineties rock simplicity and pop-punk frivolity. Through it all, Alexander’s unflinchingly sincere lyrics cut to the emotional heart of things.
Alexander and Hoge met while attending Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In 2012, they formed Bad Bad Hats with friend and bassist Noah Boswell, and began performing around the Twin Cities. That same year, they were signed by Minneapolis label Afternoon Records. Their 2015 debut album Psychic Reader caught the attention of outlets including The New Yorker, NPR, Pitchfork, and Paste. Since the release of Psychic Reader, Bad Bad Hats has toured the U.S. extensively, supporting artists including Margaret Glaspy, Hippo Campus, and Third Eye Blind.
Lightning Round, the band’s second full-length album, finds Bad Bad Hats more confident and mature than ever. Producer and collaborator Brett Bullion (who also produced Psychic Reader) encouraged the group to record live in the studio, an approach which pushed the band outside of their comfort zone and lends many songs on the record a loose, organic feel. There is a vulnerability in this (fluttering tape loops, a few wrong notes) and it makes the music on the new album feel as honest and unpredictable as Alexander’s lyrics. In this spontaneous environment, Hoge, who is known to play every instrument in the band, delivers some of his most inspired musical performances yet.
As for Alexander, she’s still writing love songs, ones that recount with cinematic swell the subtle joy and pain of the everyday. Her vocals are supported by open, breathing arrangements that feature lush keyboard sounds and woody guitar tones. Davison was recruited to play drums on the album and became a full-time member in the process. His drumming and melodic contributions give the new songs a level of nuance not heard in previous releases.
Lightning Round marks the final release with contributions from original member Noah Boswell, who will be leaving the group this fall to pursue a master’s degree. Bad Bad Hats continues with Alexander, Hoge, and Davison. They have plans to tour the country this year.
Alex Niedzialkowski, otherwise known as Cumulus, was ‘goddamn sick of it.’Sick of the entitlement. Sick of the unwanted gaze. Sick of the feeling that she could not feel safe, no matter where she turned. Those words were often times hard to convey when it mattered most, but in the form of a song, it came pouring out. Cumulus’sophomore album on Trans Records, Comfort World, is slated for release this coming fall, but life’s realities were weighing heavy on her chest and Niedzialkowski had to release that in the only way she knew how. Made more confident by the writing and recording process of her full length album, “Retreat” was written. Niedzialkowski began to make it a point to play the song at every show, even though it did not yet have a full band arrangement. She spoke about consent on stage, and the feelings that had led up to this song, and immediately women were approaching her with their own stories. “Retreat”, written to have a chorus so catchy that people would be singing along about enthusiastic consent before they could think twice about it, would have to be a separate release. And maybe it was always meant to stand on its own. It was becoming clear that this song was too important to save for a third album. In 3 minutes, Niedzialkowski carves out a pop monument with sharpened hooks and tightly wound guitar, recalling the anthemic joy of ‘90s Sheryl Crow as much as the sweet introspection of Mirah. It is not the song of someone who is giving up on the world, it is a hymn of power and control built on guitars and keys, for people who have had enough of being quiet, who are ready to build a new world.
CMMNWLTH started in the Spring of 2017 when Joe Calvi moved to Boise, ID, and recorded the six-song Commonwealth EP as a DIY solo-project – completely crowd-funded. Shortly after the release of the Kickstarter-backed EP, Joe’s cousin Patrick – just 18 and only recently picking up the drums – suggested that he could be a good fit for the project. Following, the newly-formed two-piece played as many shows as they could in the valley. Garnering attention amongst peers, friends, and strangers alike, the two felt the impending need to round out their sound and push their creative limits, leading to the addition of husband-and-wife Nik and Kristen Verlennich. The final combination of the four has resulted in an original mix of lyrically-driven pop-punk bangers and ballads riddled with unexpected dissonance and bouts of noise rock.