“Track by Track” is written by the Artists giving us all a little insight into the songs on their new album. I want to thank Kurt and Wyatt for taking the time to write this up for us and a big thanks to Lou of Rum Bar Records for helping to make all of this happen…..
“Sends Me To Mars”
Kurt :We kick off “Play It Cool” with a song that was written by my good buddy and “rock n’ roll” mentor, Kip Brown. He’s played in numerous rock n’ roll and punk groups in Portland, ME since the early 70’s. This tune was originally written and recorded (the session produced by Cub Koda!) for his band The Wild Hearts back in 1986. I wasn’t even born yet! Anyway.. one day I was over at Kip’s having a beer and listening to records and he pulled out this demo of “Sends Me To Mars” on a cassette tape and played it for me. I was blown away by the riff, the energy.. it was infectious. I had the idea to record a version because I loved the tune so much and wanted to pay a little tribute to my friend Kip.. who has taught me a lot about rock n’ roll music. The original recording by the Wild Hearts was never released but was played many times up and down the Maine Coast in the 80’s when rock n’ roll was a little less dormant as it is today, so here is our version of an old Portland, ME nugget!
Wyatt: No trip to Maine is complete without stopping by Kip Brown’s house. The guy is an encyclopedia of garage rock and it was only fitting that we kick off our new record with one of his best tunes. Kurt sent me Kip’s demo a couple years ago and it blew me away. I would usually never want to start an album with a cover but it seemed like the most appropriate album opener. It just rocks!
Kurt : Venturing back into more familiar KB BAND waters for the second track on the album is “Enough’s Enough”. Your formula power pop tune! You can easily and maybe not so easily spot the influences on this one, haha! This one was written in my old flat in Madrid (as a handful of these songs were), and during that time I had just got two albums that I was listening to a lot. One of them was a record by MOTT called “Drive On”, and the other was a group from Sweden called the Radio. I guess those two albums were influences on this track, and maybe a little Electric Light Orchestra. Kris “Fingers” Rodgers did a great solo with piano and synth on this one too!
Wyatt :One of Kurt’s Madrid demos that I loved instantly. Kurt is a great hook writer and this really shows that. It has a very familiar sound for a KB song but still has a bit of a ELO vibe on the keyboard solo.
“I Got You”
Kurt: Here’s the most uptempo track of the album! Growing up, a group called The Riverdales was a huge influence on my old group The Leftovers. They’ve broken up and reformed and broken up and reformed again, but a handful of years back they released two great albums.. one thing that made the records so good besides the songs was the drumming! The drums were played by a guy named Adam Cargin, who happens to play drums on “Play It Cool”. He’s a super talented guy and we’ve had a lot of fun in the past recording and touring. When the Riverdales disbanded for the last time we recruited him up to play on “Brand New Beat” and he’s done a bunch of great work with us since. This song was completely written for his drumming style when he played with the Riverdales, as it’s very straight forward Ramones style.. but you can’t beat that, can you? Wyatt wrote a great lyric “We can take a ride to the O.O.B”, which stands for Old Orchard Beach, in Maine. This place is pretty funny… lots of French Canadian men with speedos.
Wyatt: Kurt’s had the music for this one and I wrote the lyrics. Adding to what Kurt already said, we loved having Adam Cargin play drums on this track which is so clearly influenced by the Riverdales and Dan Vapid. Kurt had the music for this one and I wrote the lyrics. Straight forward pop punk. There’s a missing beat near the end of the bridge that was an accident Kurt made on his demo and we decided to keep it because it was kind of cool!
“Just A Little Bit”
Kurt : This would be a good time to explain more about the writing process of “Play It Cool”. As with my last record “Brand New Beat”, this album is very much a 50/50 collaboration with my friend and producer Wyatt Funderburk. The difference with the process of making this album this time around was that I was (and still do) live in Madrid, Spain. Back when we were working on “Brand New Beat”, it was much easier for me to take a flight down to Nashville to write and record demos with Wyatt. But this time the distance was a bit to far, so we began writing songs by sending ideas back and forth. This song began with an idea I had, and Wyatt expanded on it, added a verse and sharpened up the chorus.. then I wrote a bridge. Finally I did a rough demo on my computer and we used that to arrange the songs when we recorded them in the studio. This one is a perfect example of how fun co-writing songs can be. I also really dig the outro, with some nods to Thin Lizzy and great back ups by Fingers and Wyatt.
Wyatt: Kurt sent me a rough demo of this one and I came up with a quick pre-chorus and bridge as well as the lyrics at my studio in Nashville and we have a nice little pop tune with a tiny little reference to one of our favorite bands. I’ll let you figure that one out.
Kurt : This one was written about when I first arrived to Madrid, going to the Wurlitzer Ballroom (almost) every night. The Wurlitzer Ballroom was the first club I had ever played in Madrid, the music is always great and the folks that work there are like family.. so it’s a second home (one with a bar and rock n’ roll music 7 days a week and until 6 AM). The tune is pretty self explanatory, it’s about partying on Monday night! There are lots of songs about the weekend, Thursday.. Hump day, Tuesday.. but not too many about going crazy on a Monday! So I figured that it was time to write one in defense of the most un-party party day in the week. You only live once, ya know? Ven Venom from Second Saturdayplayed a totally bitchin’ guitar solo on this one.
Wyatt: Another KB song that didn’t need much help from me. He wasn’t sure if this one should be on the record but I assured him it would be awesome. We got my good friend and former bandmate Ven Venom to play a ripping solo and kept it super simple. This is our version of a party song!
“Can’t Say No”
Kurt : Another collaboration between Wyatt and me. I think I had the opening riff and verse parts written, and he came up with the lyrics and chorus.. later I threw together a little guitar solo/bridge that reminded me of what the Leftovers used to do. It’s definitely has the feel of a Joe Jackson meets Green Day kind of vibe. We definitely realized we were writing some faster and more uptempo songs on “Play It Cool”, which we were really excited about, since it better represents our live show… and I think this one is gonna be a fun one to play live.
Wyatt: What else can I say about this? We both love the early Green Day records and this ended up going in that direction once we started writing it. I mainly contributed the lyrics to this one. I love the idea of a sour relationship that just won’t end for one reason or another. There’s something spiritual and metaphysical that you never really lose with someone you love. At least in my experiences.
“Play It Cool”
Kurt : The title track! It’s all about “Playing It Cool” in life.. don’t get to worried, enjoy and have fun! Wyatt wrote the bulk of this tune, and I loved the demo, and the lyrics.. and naturally it just worked for a title of the album too. It’s almost got a cool Jackson 5 thing going on at times.. at least that’s what I hear. What do you think?? P.S There is a reference to the great not-so-classic comedy “Mr. Deeds” starring Adam Sandler. Try to spot it!
Wyatt: I wrote this one after listening to lots of .38 Special one day and really loved the way they used rhythm guitars as a melodic counterpoint to the vocal. The chorus was something I had sitting around for a while and the words “Play It Cool” just came out when I started singing it. This guy has decided he wants to give a failed relationship another shot but he has to remember to keep his cool and just be himself when she’s around.
“Talk Is Talk”
Kurt : The twelve string on this one puts a smile on my face every time I hear it. It’s total 60’s pop, kind of in the same vein as “She Can Do It All” on “Brand New Beat”. The Beatles and maybe even The WONDERS have always been HUGE influences on the songwriting that Wyatt and I do together… here’s a good example of those influences coming through. If you listen carefully you’ll hear some smooth electric piano in the background that Fingers played.. it really adds “texture” and “color” to the tune! Two important aspects of song, “texture” and “color”, can also be associated with the works of Engelbert Humperdinck.
Wyatt: I think it’s obvious that we really love the Beatles. This is also very influenced by the songwriting of Joe King of the Queers. I approached the lyric in a very innocent and straight forward way. The bridge gets a little dark but isn’t that what bridges are supposed to do?
“Doin’ It Right”
Kurt : I co-wrote this song with Geoff and Brad of the Connection (and the New Trocaderos) a few years back at Geoff’s old apartment. I think we even did a demo of it his place as well. This tongue-in-cheek song is about somebody who is very hesitant to do anything unless they are doing it 100% perfect. Now, of course you’ve always got to strive for greatness, but it doesn’t come instantly. Michael Jordan’s first 3 pointer probably missed the hoop. Ronald McDonald’s first go at face paint probably resembled Vinny Vincent as the “Ankh Warrior”. To succeed you’re gonna have to hit a few bumps in the road along the way.. it’s all part of the learning experience. In this song we’re talking about making music.. or going for a girl, but really the same concept can applied to the making of a delicious homemade avocado and bacon cheeseburger. I know for a fact that the first Avocado and bacon cheeseburger you’ve ever cooked for yourself wasn’t just simply the most amazing thing on the planet. Or maybe you are Bobby Flay? Anyway, you get what i’m trying to say. Geoff did some great “Mr. Geoff” guitar on this track!
Wyatt : Love this tune. Very garage rock in the vein of the Connection (who also cowrote the track with Kurt) and Geoff lays down a sick guitar lead as always.
Kurt :This tune may be the oldest songs written on the record. I recall the melody for this song popping up in my head back in early 2012 while I was driving down route 16 in New Hampshire to Geoff’s house for a rehearsal once. I’ve always been a big fan of Adventures of Jet, and they were a big influence on the chord structure for this. It’s definitely a bit of a change of pace, a little more “darker” than the other tracks on the record. The synths on this also give it a bit of a futuristic/new wave feel.. let’s go explore space!
Wyatt: Like Kurt said, he brought me a demo of this back in 2012 and I added the synthesizer part and we rocked out pretty hard. Great drumming by Adam again. I was worried that Hop from AOJ/Bobgoblin would be pissed that we ripped them off but he loved the track!
“Back For Good”
Kurt :If there was a “Ballad” on the record, I guess this would be it! The verse melody came when I was sitting around in Madrid.. listening to a lot of the early Brian Wilson/Beach Boys numbers. Tracks like “Warmth of the Sun” and “Good To My Baby”.. he really knew how to write songs, that Brian! Wyatt really took this song in a new direction from my sparse demo..worked out the lyrics, and the bridge as well.. which is a total nod to Huey Lewis and the News. Our buddy “Sparky” was also hanging out when we were trackin’ this one.. he totally SPARKED it up and kept the spirits high in the studio. Thanks homie!
Wyatt: My favorite track on the album. I loved the melodies Kurt had for this one and I really wanted to find a the chords and lyrics to make this one a hit. Nothing new here, just classic Kurt and Wyatt stuff. Powerful pop. And like Kurt already said, we really wanted to go for a Huey Lewis vibe on the bridge. Real proud of this one.
“I Can’t Wait”
Kurt : We wrap up the album with this rock n’ roller… Back when I used to work at the Portland Public Library, i’d get some ideas all the time.. The only way to remember them would be to record a little voice memo on my phone and when I got back to my house try and arrange the chords under the melody of the voice memo. This song started in this way. While recording “Brand New Beat” with Wyatt, we began to work on this tune.. a very Raspberries/Eric Carmen type of song. It wasn’t until a few years later that we got to finish it for this album. Finger’s does a nice little bar room type solo.. like he’s actually hanging out in the bar as depicted in the lyrics of the song!
Wyatt: This was a demo we started back in 2011 for Brand New Beat but ended up not making the final cut. When we were looking for songs for this record I pulled this session up and we both were surprised how much we liked this one after not hearing it for several years. Definite Eric Carmen vibes and we think that’s a good thing. Obviously some really great piano playing by Fingers Rodgers here.
So there you have it.. “Play It Cool”. I hope you dig it! Play it loud, or play it soft… but Play It Cool!
a little more from Rum Bar Records
Power pop fans, rejoice! Play It Cool, the third solo album from Kurt Baker, is the long-anticipated follow-up to 2012’s much-beloved Brand New Beat. It arrives on the heels of last year’s Brand New B-Sides compilation (Baker’s first release on Rum Bar Records). Baker has been one of the hardest-working men in rock n’ roll in recent years – releasing new music with his bands The New Trocaderos & Bullet Proof Lovers, playing bass for Kris Rodgers & The Dirty Gems, and writing the song “He’s A Drag” for The Dahlmanns. Like Brand New Beat, Play It Cool was produced and co-written by Baker’s frequent collaborator Wyatt Funderburk (Second Saturday, Explorers Club). The album was written while Baker was living in the center of Madrid, Spain. He and Funderburk sent ideas back and forth between Madrid and Nashville. Baker then demoed the songs in his flat. Recorded with an all-star cast of supporting players (Geoff Palmer and Kris Rodgers from The Connection, Adam Cargin from Screeching Weasel), Play It Cool has proven well worth the wait…and then some!
Play It Cool is exactly what you’d expect from Kurt Baker – 12 perfect shots of power poppin’ rock n’ roll that would be all over the radio in an ideal world. Think massive hooks and well-crafted songs in the tradition of ’70s/’80s pop-rock. While stylistically similar to Brand New Beat, this album is by no means a copy of its predecessor. The sound is bigger and more “live” – capturing the energy and fun of an actual Kurt Baker concert. And the influences are wider, ranging from DMZ to Huey Lewis to Adventures of Jet to Eric Carmen. Running the gamut from jangly McCartney-esque pop (“Talk Is Talk”) to full-throttle rockers (“Doin’ It Right”) to romantic slow-dance anthems (“Back For Good”) to “classic” K.B. power pop (“I Got You”), this is Baker’s strongest and most varied collection of songs to date. It’s sure to land on the year-end top ten lists of countless power pop fans. CD is due out October 5th on Rum Bar with additional releases on Collectors Club Records (digital, 9/25) and Jolly Ronnie Records (vinyl, November).
releases 27 September 2015
Produced, engineered, and mixed by Wyatt Funderburk at Nebulon II (Nashville, TN)
The Party Animals:
Kurt Baker: Lead Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Keys
Wyatt Funderburk: Guitar, Bass, Keys, Backing Vocals
Kris “Fingers” Rodgers: Keys, Backing Vocals
Geoff Palmer: Guitar
Adam Cargin: Drums
Lead guitar on track 5 by Ven Venom
All songs written by Kurt Baker (ASCAP) and Wyatt Funderburk (BMI)
Except “Sends Me to Mars” by Kip Brown (?) and ‘Doin’ It Right” by Kurt Baker (ASCAP), Brad Marino (?) and Geoff Palmer (?)
Additional recording at:
The Hideout (Portland, ME)
Standish Rock City (Portland, ME)
Friar Park East (Portsmouth, NH)
Estudio VI (Madrid, ES)
Drums recorded and engineered by Landon Arkens at The Blast House (Madison, WI)
Mastered by Justin Perkins at Mystery Room Mastering (Milwaukee, WI)
Photography: Carlota Lobo · Fotógrafa , Lauren MacLean
Art and Design: Rocío Cervera Ceberio
Special Thanks to all our amazing families, friends, fellow rockers, Kip Brown, Josh Malia, Todd Patton, Craig Sala, Will Broadbent, Drew Brown, Malibu Lou, Ryan and Maria Minter, Juancho Lopez, Little Steven, Dennis and everyone at the Underground Garage, and everybody that has helped us out throughout the years. There are many of you and we love you very much!
Rock n Roll!!