Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Kurt. I know you're heading back out on tour in August. Are there any new cities you're playing for the first time?
Kurt Baker: Hey Chris, thanks for having me on here! It’s true! We are heading back on the road for a short tour down to Baltimore for the Insubordination Records Festival. All the shows are going to be with my old pals the Jetty Boys. We’ve toured together in the past and it’s always been a wild time and they are great people (also from the greatest state of WISCONSIN!) so it should be a wonderful time. We’re starting the string of shows on Aug. 6th playing in my hometown of Portland, ME..then Boston and New York City, but the only town we are playing that I’ve never been to is Newark, Delaware. Our friends in the Headies got us a cool show down there.. this will be my second time playing in the illustrious state of Delaware.. I hope they have good drugs!
CM: You released you first solo EP, "Got It Covered" last year. How did you come about doing a covers release?
KB: The whole idea to do “Got It Covered” came about when the Leftovers were still touring a great deal. We had recently worked on “Eager to Please” with producer Linus of Hollywood, and I loved working with Linus so much we started talking about doing a solo release, something fun and different. We both really loved New Wave music, so we hand picked our favorite tunes to cover and I flew out to LA and recorded the record with him. It was a blast and we had some cool people like Kay Hanley from Letters to Cleo, and Adam Marcello (Katy Perry’s live drummer!) play on the record. Honestly, I think that if I had known that the Leftovers were going to end as soon as “Got It Covered” was released I probably would have opted to release some original music first as a solo artist, but as it is, I’m still very happy about how “Got it Covered” came out. It’s a fun party record to listen to when your drinking beers and hanging out with you friends!
CM: I understand you've been in the studio working on some new material. Is there a tentative release date?
KB: The new record is called “Rockin’ For a Living” and should be out no later than October. Last May we went into Atlas Studios in Chicago with Matt Allison to finish up a few tracks. Part of the record was recorded in Maine, the other part recorded in Chicago and a tiny part recorded in Nashville. It’s a smorgasbord of tunes, but I’m glad to finally be releasing a new record of original material. Stardumb Records is planning to release the record on Vinyl with bonus tracks. I’ve always been a huge fan of Stardumb Records, so I’m super excited to be working with them on this release.
CM: You've got a nice mixture of pop punk and Elvis Costello era power pop. Can we expect the same style and sound on the new release?
KB: Totally! Two of the tracks featured on this record have already been released as digital singles on iTunes and Bandcamp.. all that fun downloading stuff, but the rest of the record follows the same kind of sound. The tunes I’ve written for this record would have and could have been Leftovers songs if we were still a band, but now with new musicians in the fold, they’ve taken on a different shape. The approach is the same, but the results are even better in my mind. I got to co-write a tune on this record with Tommy Dunbar of the Rubinoos, one of my top favorite old school power pop groups. They once got to open up for Elvis Costello on the Armed Forces tour in 79’ and I think I talked to Tom more about that then actually writing with him! Ha! The track is called “Can’t Have Her Back”, and the Rubinoos even did their own version on their latest record.. my version is a bit different, a bit more soul/60’s frat rock sounding. I guess the best way to describe this record is “Pop Punk Animal House”. I did a tune called “The Problem” which was a bit of a throwback to the sound the Leftovers had on our record “On the Move”. I hope there is something for everybody on this record.
CM: You were in The Leftovers from 2002 to 2010. Why did you guy's break up?
KB: 2009 was the biggest year for the Leftovers. We were on the road for almost 8 months.. it was a bit straining on the other guys, and myself included, but when it came down to it we were doing what I had wanted to do from the start - playing music full time. It took us a long time and a lot of hard work to get to the point were we could tour so much and start to be recognized on a national and international level, but I began to see that the other guys seemed to be losing interest and were tired of being on the road. When we returned from all the touring in Dec. 2009, our drummer Adam moved to LA, the opposite end of the country.. and the other guys refused to play with any other guys except for Adam. We had so much momentum going but it just dropped instantly. I felt like we need to work even harder than before, play more and improve but the other guys weren’t into it. We played 3 shows in 2010 and they were stressful as fuck.. we didn’t even get in a practice at all. Andrew and Matt went on to finish up school and I decided to take the solo thing on full time.. All I’ve ever wanted to do is play and write music, tour and perform so I had to keep on truckin’! At the end of the day I look at it like this, for a group of kids that started the band as 15 year old's in High School, we took it a long way and had a pretty great run.. but now it’s onwards and upwards despite the few bumps along the way!
CM: Do you still keep in touch with your old band mates?
KB: We definitely don’t keep in touch as much as we used too. I know that Adam is really busy out in LA, and I maybe talk to him once every couple months, and I still sometimes chat with Andrew, who is an old friend of mine. I definitely no longer talk to our guitar player Matt... as soon as I started to do the solo thing he became very hostile and mean towards me for reasons I’ll never know. We all really bonded over being in a band and traveling all over together, but now that they have pursued other interested I don’t seem to have much in common with them anymore.. and they are probably sick of be being a drunken party animal all the time! HA!
CM: Mike Byrne has been playing in your band lately. Is Mike gonna be featured on the new album?
KB: Mike was instrumental in helping us get shows in the Midwest on both short stints we did out there back in December ’10 and last month. He’s played with us on various occasions and also tracked some really killer lead guitar for the new record. The first time I met Mike was at the Abbey Lounge in Boston and we have always shared a huge interest in all things power pop! I was psyched to have him be apart of this project, and we are hoping to share the stage with his new group, Dan Vapid and the Cheats (along with Dan Schafer) really soon!
CM: Will there be more shows later on in the year, or are the August shows all you've got booked for now?
KB: As I mentioned just above, we are planning on doing some more dates with Dan Vapid and the Cheats after Insubordination Fest, but it’s still in the planning stages. We are also going to be touring Europe in late October and into November. Once the record comes out we’ll probably head back to the Midwest and play some release shows around the Northeast. But for right now our string of August dates with the Jetty Boys are the only shows confirmed... we love touring and playing as much as possible, so we definitely have a busy future ahead of us!
CM: Is there a website where fans can get in touch with you? And get news on the new release, tour dates and merch?
KB: I have a couple sites right now.. the internet is a fucking confusing place! I’ve got a really cool official website that is in the works, but for now the best bet is my Facebook homepage HERE or HERE . All my tracks are for sale and for streaming on my Bandcamp site as well!
CM: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Kurt. Best of luck on the tour. And I hope to see you and the band in Chicago again real soon. Thanks again.
KB: Thank you dude! We’ll definitely be in Chicago soon - we’ll grab a beer and a hot dog!! Ciao!