November 1, 2012

Making Noise: Baker's power-pop produces a 'Brand New Beat'

Portland's Kurt Baker likes to listen to his new album, with its 10 songs that "could all be singles."

By Aimsel Ponti aponti@pressherald.com
News Assistant

Kurt Baker and The KB Band have just released the album "Brand New Beat," and Baker couldn't be happier about it.

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Kurt Baker, a fixture in Portland’s music scene, will take The KB Band to Spain in December for eight shows. But first, a CD-release gig in Portland on Nov. 10.

Courtesy photo

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IF YOU GO

KURT BAKER CD-RELEASE SHOW

WHEN: 9 p.m. Nov. 10

WHERE: Empire Dine & Dance, 575 Congress St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $5; 21-plus

INFO: portlandempire.com

WHAT ELSE: The Pontiffs, The New Technicians, The Dee Cracks and Spruce Bringsteen are also on the bill

WHAT'S ON KURT BAKER'S iPOD?

"Help You Ann," The Lyres

"Exposed," The Dictators

"Stay Away From Downtown," Redd Cross

"School Love," Anvil

"Baby, Baby, Baby," Barreracudas

"It's Only Money," Thin Lizzy

"Make Up Your Mind," Stiv Bators

"Catamaran," Allah-Las

"Gamma Ray," Aimee Mann

"Are You Lovin' Me Too," Del Shannon

TURN YOUR RADIO DIAL to 102.9 WBLM every Friday at 8:30 a.m. to hear Aimsel Ponti wax poetic about her top live music picks for the week with the Captain and Celeste.

A decade ago, the Portland resident formed the pop-punk band The Leftovers, which toured all over creation and released several recordings before folding in 2009. His latest incarnation packs a power-pop punch that harkens back to the '80s and acts like Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, two of Baker's biggest influences.

A CD-release show is scheduled for Nov. 10 in Portland, and in December, Baker and company head to Spain for a round of eight shows. For more, find Baker on Facebook under "Kurt Baker Music" or head to kurtbakermusic.com

Who's in your band?

The Kurt Baker Band consists of a variety of great, talented musicians from all over the place. It all depends on the region we are playing in, and also who's available for the gig.

Kris "Fingers" Rodgers has always been on keys. We first started playing together in this group The Goodnight Process, but we both quit that group and went on to other things. Kris is a super-talented piano player and vocalist. Geoff Palmer, one of the notable punx of Portsmouth, N.H., is on rhythm guitar. Wyatt Funderburk has been able to tour with us recently on guitar, though he lives in Nashville. Josh Malia, who pretty much got me into playing local music here in Portland with his group The Taxis, plays guitar occasionally with us as well. On drums, we've got three great drummers who play with us depending on who's around, but we are incredibly lucky to have them: Craig Sala from Paranoid Social Club/Planeside, Zack Sprauge from A Minor Revolution and Adam Cargin, who has played in some legendary punk rock groups. 

Do you have a favorite song on "Brand New Beat"?

It's a tough call. I really enjoy all the songs on this record. The record consists of 10 songs that all could be singles. There is no filler on there. I listen to it a lot. I always find it funny that there is such a stigma against artists listening to their own records. It's like "totally un-cool" to be caught listening to your own stuff. I guess it's kind of just funny, but we all do it. If you don't think your own music is the best thing out there, then it's probably not worth other people hearing. I can honestly say "Brand New Beat" is the best album of my career as a musician, so every song is a favorite. The next album is going to be tough to top. 

Over what period of time did you write the songs for it?

Many of these songs trace back to stuff I was writing back in 2009 when my old band The Leftovers was coming to an end. I was in a really creative period, writing more on the piano and trying out new things. I was trying to branch out and expand my horizons instead of playing the straightforward Ramones-fueled punk-pop stuff in The Leftovers. I felt extremely limited in my writing while playing with The Leftovers, and I think that's one of the main reasons the group disbanded.

Once I released my first solo EP, "Got It Covered," I went down to Nashville to start writing and demo-ing with Wyatt Funderburk. Wyatt and I wrote The Leftovers tune "Telephone Operator" together, and we knew we had something special. "Brand New Beat" was entirely co-written with Wyatt and produced by him over the span of time from February 2011 to June 2012. I'd go down with all these ideas, he'd help me flesh them out and then we'd record the demos. It was an amazing experience recording this record. 

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