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Bad Bad Hats, Good Good Sounds

Photo by Zoe Prinds-Flash

“The other day we were actually trying to remember how many times we have been to Fargo. I think it was just that one time three years ago, but maybe it just feels like more since it’s got that hometown feel to it.” Kerry Alexander, lead singer of Minneapolis-based indie rock group Bad Bad Hats, said when we spoke to her about their upcoming show at The Aquarium this Thursday, Nov. 29.

The doors for the 21+ show open at 8 p.m., and the show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be found here.

Bad Bad Hats’ sophomore album, Lighting Round, was released this summer, and Alexander mentioned being excited to perform a full set with two albums’ worth of songs to pick and choose from, crafting the perfect setlist full of dreamy, pop hits. The last time they performed here in Fargo, she noted that they only had their one album out, so their setlist was basically just that album and that was it. This time will be different.

Here at Fargo Monthly, we get the opportunity to interview a lot of awesome acts from all around the world. Sometimes they are musical acts hailing from Nashville, sometimes New York City, sometimes even from across the pond. Hearing that Bad Bad Hats was Minneapolis-based had me excited to talk about our upper-Midwest culture and ready to ask questions about returning to this region of the country after touring all over.

However, when I called Alexander for our interview, I was not expecting the Southern accent I heard from across the line. “The band was born and grew in the Minneapolis area, so many people assume we are all from there […] but actually I actually grew up in the Birmingham, Alabama, area.”

The ability to deepen your roots somewhere different than from where you were born is something artists benefit from. There is a homesickness and a sense of exploration that comes with doing so, something that allows you to connect with people from all over the nation and from all walks of life.

The band formed while they were students at Macalester College in St. Paul. Anderson joked, “I think I was the only student at Macalester from Alabama.”

While they originally started performing as a trio, Anderson noted that this tour they will be playing as a foursome, including herself (vocals, guitar), Chris Hoge (guitar and bass), Connor Davison (drums) and newcomer to the tour, Cooper Doten (bass). Adding a new person to the line-up helps bridge the gap between recorded sounds and what the live show is like. For instance, Anderson noted that the song “Girl” was recorded with a lot of synth, so they’ve worked on developing it for a live sound that is still as powerful and fun to dance to.

One thing myself, and I’m sure many other listeners, were curious about was this up-and-coming band’s name. When I asked Anderson about the origins of this name “Bad Bad Hats,” she answered, “It came from the children’s book and show Madeline. In the story, the bad guy or troublemaker character was called a ‘bad hat.’ There was a song that went along with it too. Growing up, if I misbehaved my parents would be like, ‘are you being a bad hat?’ I’m not sure how that became the band name, but that’s always a memory from childhood that has stuck with me.”

The referenced French children’s song goes like this:

“You could call him mean, you could call him naughty, you could call him cruel, you could call him haughty, but he is something worse than that. What could be worse? What could be worse? What could be worse? A bad, bad hat!”

It is almost ironic that the band name stems from a mischievous young boy. Bad Bad Hats’ songs remain fresh, pure and honest. But then again, maybe it does make sense that the “bad” behavior is from a children’s book where what constitutes misbehavior is throwing pies or “being unkind of ants,” as the Madeline song references. The band’s lyrics remind listeners of when they were young and when being “bad” might have meant something very different.

The synth sounds that back the tracks are nostalgic while the dreamy lyrics take us back to the modern day and romantic situations we can all relate to, in some way or another. While the words sung in Anderson’s tender, yet certain voice are not overtly mischevious, there is a sense of youthful desire to be free-spirited and the heartbreak that might go along with that.

Lyrics like “I wanna be the best thing that ever happened to you” and “no one picks me up, they only let me go” are sung with a delicate sadness to create a yearning for something lost, even if we don’t actually relate from personal experience. The modern-meets-80’s musical influences beneath the romantic lyrics make for a perfect balance of sweet and sour.

For the hopeless romantic who wants to feel at home in their headphones (or in the crowd at a concert), this band is for you. Be prepared to dance around and be refreshed with the state of where modern music is today.

Check out some of their top tracks on Spotify here:

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Written by Alexandra Martin

Alexandra Martin is the editor of Fargo Monthly. She hails from Huntsville, Alabama, but graduated from Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri with a degree in Fashion Communications. When she's not in the office, she is busy taking care of her small zoo of pets, cooking up vegetables, or listening to true-crime podcasts.

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