Bad Bad Hats celebrate 'Lightning Round' at First Avenue and in The Current's studio

Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue.
Kerry Alexander of Bad Bad Hats performs at First Avenue. (Maddy Fox for MPR)
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Bad Bad Hats perform in The Current's studio (music + interview)
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  • Bad Bad Hats perform in The Current's studio (music + interview) 24:00
  • Bad Bad Hats - Girl (Live at The Current) 03:15
  • Bad Bad Hats - Nothing Gets Me High (Live at The Current) 03:21
  • Bad Bad Hats - Write It On Your Heart (Live at The Current) 02:40

Bad Bad Hats got their start at Macalester College, when they entered the St. Paul school's battle of the bands — and lost. Despite this initial roadblock, Ian Anderson saw the band perform that night and decided to sign them to his record label, Afternoon Records.

Bad Bad Hats comprises singer/guitarist Kerry Alexander, multi-instrumentalist Chris Hoge, bassist Noah Boswell, and drummer Connor Davison, who joined the band in 2016.

The band released their sophomore album, Lightning Round, earlier this month. They visited The Current's studio to perform three of the songs from the album and chat with Local Show host Andrea Swensson. Bad Bad Hats also celebrated the release of their album with a concert at First Avenue on Saturday night.

Bad Bad Hats songs typically start out as a demo that Kerry Alexander records with herself singing and playing guitar, with songs later getting fleshed out with the full band. However, for their latest album, producer Brett Bullion encouraged the band to consider a more collaborative approach.

Alexander still penned the songs, but this time around, the band entered the studio with less structure, leaving more room for experimentation during the five weeks in which they recorded the album. This new strategy resulted in Lightning Round, an album so filled with catchy hooks and earworm lyrics that Andrea Swensson described it as an "album full of singles."

Saturday night was Bad Bad Hats' first time headlining First Avenue's Mainroom; they shared the bill with local acts Jessica Manning and Scrunchies.

"We will be playing the hits and nothing less," said Alexander after taking the stage at First Avenue. The phrase used to be a running joke in the band's early days, when they barely had enough material to fill an entire set. However, now with two albums and an EP under their belt, Bad Bad Hats delivered on their promise, playing a variety of new and old crowd favorites, including "It Hurts," "Midway," "Joseph," and "Write It on Your Heart."

As the the principal songwriter in the group, Alexander pours a great deal of her personal experience into her songs. Throughout the evening, she shared even more of her personality with the audience through her confident yet nonchalant stage presence and anecdotes of study abroad, high school relationships, and gas station snack runs.

Alexander has written many songs about "being on the outside of the relationship," meaning post-breakup, amid unrequited love, or an awkward crush. Despite Alexander's penchant for writing love-scorn songs, she and bandmate Chris Hoge have been dating since they were students at Macalester College, and married last fall. With this new album, Alexander challenged herself to "write more songs about being in a long-term relationship."

This new source of inspiration led to songs like "Absolute Worst," which Alexander described as being about "sleeping on the couch," and "Automatic," a song about unconditional love.

In addition to relationships, Alexander also takes inspiration from pop songs. She was inspired to write a song using the well-worn pop trope of drugs as a metaphor for love after hearing Tove Lo's "Habits (Stay High)." The result is the song, "Nothing Gets Me High." Alexander told Swensson that "feeling like falling in love when you're older...never quite feels the same magical way as the first time you really fall in love."

Originally, "Nothing Gets Me High" wasn't supposed to make it onto the album. After the band's five weeks in the studio, they emerged with ten completed songs, and felt satisfied that the album was finished. Two weeks before her wedding, Alexander received a call from Bullion, asking her to scratch two of the album's songs and record two new ones. After her honeymoon, Alexander returned to the studio and recorded "Nothing Gets Me High" and "Absolute Worst."

As Bad Bad Hats embark on a new chapter in their career, they also are saying goodbye to one of their longtime members. Bassist Noah Boswell is moving to Denver to pursue a Master's degree in social work, and Saturday night was his last show with Bad Bad Hats. During "Super America," the last song of the band's encore, he and Alexander stood back to back, leaning on each other and sharing a bittersweet smile.

After recording two albums and headlining First Ave, what's next for Bad Bad Hats? "Fame, fortune, all of that," joked Alexander. The band is embarking on a U.S. tour through this November. They also hope to release new music soon; returning to the studio to re-record left the band with a few extra songs that they could package as singles or a new EP.

Colleen Cowie runs the blog Pass The Mic.

Songs Performed


"Girl"
"Nothing Gets Me High"
"Write It On Your Heart"

All songs from Bad Bad Hats' 2018 album Lightning Round, which is available via Afternoon Records.

Hosted by Andrea Swensson
Produced by Jesse Wiza
Engineered by Michael DeMark
Visuals by Nate Ryan
Web feature by Colleen Cowie

External Links

Bad Bad Hats - official site
Bad Bad Hats - Bandcamp
Bad Bad Hats - Facebook
Bad Bad Hats - Twitter

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9 Photos

  • Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue.
    Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue. (Maddy Fox for MPR)
  • Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue.
    Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue. (Maddy Fox for MPR)
  • Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue.
    Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue. (Maddy Fox for MPR)
  • Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue.
    Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue. (Maddy Fox for MPR)
  • Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue.
    Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue. (Maddy Fox for MPR)
  • Fans watch Bad Bad Hats at First Avenue.
    Fans watch Bad Bad Hats at First Avenue. (Maddy Fox for MPR)
  • Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue.
    Kerry Alexander of Bad Bad Hats performs at First Avenue. (Maddy Fox for MPR)
  • Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue.
    Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue. (Maddy Fox for MPR)
  • Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue.
    Bad Bad Hats perform at First Avenue. (Maddy Fox for MPR)

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