Kurt Baker is power pop. After playing in the pop punk band The Leftovers, he ventured out on his own releasing his first solo record, Got It Covered, in 2010. Since then he has released a slew of full-lengths, EPs, singles, and splits including this year’s excellent Play It Cool.
This interview was conducted via email September 24 – 29, 2015.
For more information on Kurt Baker check out his official website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BandCamp, and Wikipedia pages.
Dave: When did you first start playing and writing music?
Kurt Baker: I first started playing in bands when I was 13-14 years old. From the beginning I knew I wanted to play music and play concerts.. so from the get go, my first bands tried to play as much as we could, which at the time in Portland, ME where I grew up..it was pretty easy. There were lots of all ages shows in grange halls and teen centers, so there was a kinda cool young punk rock scene going on at the time.
Dave: You first made a name for yourself playing in the pop punk band The Leftovers. Why did the band call it a day?
Kurt: We had been playing together since our second year in High School.. it had been about 8 years, the last 4 touring almost all the time. We were growing apart musically, all living together and at some point it just combusted. I was offered to do a solo album from the record label that put out the last Leftovers record, and I was itchin' to do something new and with new folks with different and more positive attitudes, so I told the guys that the band was done.. or at least I was done. It was the right decision at the time and i've never looked back, but the Leftovers sometimes talk about maybe getting back together to have some fun at some point down the road... who knows?!
Dave: Your solo career has been spent playing power pop. What has drawn you to that style of music?
Kurt: I've always loved the late 70's and 80's "power pop" sound. It has energy, hooks and is fun.. three aspects of music that are super important to me. But, at the same time "Rock N Roll" has those three aspects, and so much more. Often times I see the "Power Pop" tag as limiting to my music..as at the end of the day it's all rock n' roll. Some normal music fans could be turned off because they don't understand "Power Pop", so I always try to never get pinned in a niche genre.. but yeah, I can't hide it.. the power and pop is in the music!
Dave: You just released Play It Cool, your second proper full-length album on Rum Bar Records. What's the story behind the record?
Kurt: It's the follow up to "Brand New Beat", a record i'm very proud of and which was the first full record I did co-writing with Wyatt Funderburk, who also recorded and produced the record. The only difference with "Play It Cool" was that it was written while i've been living here in Spain. The writing process was a bit different this time around with Wyatt, as he is in Nashville and i'm in Europe, but we did it somehow! This record is pretty straight forward and energetic, more like our live shows. The guys from the KB Band (Geoff Palmer, Kris Rodgers and Adam Cargin), who all played on "Brand New Beat" are back on this record as well and I hope people enjoy it!!
Dave: How did you get hooked up with Rum Bar Records? Why did you decide to work with them on this record instead of Collector's Club Records?
Kurt: Malibu Lou is the head honcho at the Rum Bar. Great guy who is very enthusiastic and willing to work hard to get the music he loves out there. He's always been a friend of ours and has been working in the business for many years now. Collector's Club Records was put together with my band mate and guitarist of the Connection, Geoff Palmer. At the time, about 3-4 years ago, we were without a label and we said "F-it!, let's start our own little label", mostly to get our music and our friends bands out.. mostly on digital and 45 records. Rum Bar came to me with a plan to release my B-sides record, and from that he offered then to release "Play It Cool". Rum Bar also puts out The Connection, Watts, Mono in Stereo and a few others..we're all a happy family.. drinking rum at the RUM BAR! haha.
Dave: Do you have plans to tour in support of the new record? What are some of your favorite places to play?
Kurt: Definitely planning on doing some touring in Europe and the USA. Would love to get over to Japan as well. Madrid, Chicago, Boston, anywhere in Norway! I love playing shows just about anywhere as long as there is a party a-brewin'!
Dave: Do you have any specific type of songwriting process?
Kurt: Usually I always start with the melody line... a lot of times i'll be walking and i'll get a vocal melody in my head and record it onto my cell phone. When I get home i'll try and put the chords under it.. last usually comes the lyrics. Sometimes i'll get a lyrical idea for a song or a concept and the lyrics come easier, but often times the melody is the first part!
Dave: This is a High Fidelity inspired question. What are your top five favorite bands, albums, movies, television programs, books/authors?
Kurt: I'm AWFUL with top 5 lists, although I love High Fidelity. The problem is that it changes from day to day and i'm always listening to so much music or watching new series. I'll throw a few favorite things your way... todays TOP 1 list:
Band - SLADE
Album - Joe King Carrasco and the Crowns "Synapse Gap"
Movie - Captain Ron
Television Program - Newhart
Author - Kurt Vonnegut
Dave: What’s next for you?
Kurt: Right now i'm working on more records with my other projects Bullet Proof Lovers and the KB Combo. Also, i'll be doing some touring with those bands, as well as The Connection and the New Trocaderos, where i'll be playing bass. Looking forward to that!
Dave: Any final thoughts?
Kurt: Check out "Play It Cool"! It'll be out on vinyl soon too from Jolly Ronnie Records / Eccentric Pop Records in the USA and Ghost Highway Recordings in Europe. Rock on!!!