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. 

Who are your influences?

Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello for sure. Those guys had the attitude, the style, the sense of melody and lyrical wit. Quite incredible musicians. And I cannot forget Nick Lowe. I got to see Nick Lowe perform twice this year. He's an incredible man.

Besides the pub-rock icons of the late '70s, obviously '60s pop is a big influence on me. Groups like The Hollies, Small Faces, The Sonics, The Turtles and singers like Leslie Gore, Lou Christie and Dusty Springfield. I used to get laughed at for being obsessed with these groups when I was younger. But this kind of stuff was not a phase for me. From the moment I heard it, I knew this was the music for me. Another big influence on "Brand New Beat," though you might not be able to hear it as clearly, are '80s glam-metal acts like Kix and Motley Crue. The first Motley Crue record is amazing. I guess I just like those bands' attitudes when it comes to having fun and partying it up. Grunge rock had its moments, but it certainly killed any emphasis on "fun" in rock 'n' roll music. Sugar Ray kind of brought that back. I love me some Sugar Ray!  

What did you grow up listening to?

I first heard The Beatles when I was 5 years old. I still remember the exact moment when I heard them. It was the "Rubber Soul" album. I pretty much listened to nothing but The Beatles, Beach Boys, Mamas and the Papas and The Turtles from the age of 5 to 12. I did own Shaquille O'Neal's hip-hop tape "Shaq Diesel," but it was mostly because I thought listening to it would improve my skills on the basketball court. This proved to not be true. 

What's one of your favorite all-time albums, and why?

The Beatles' "Rubber Soul," hands down. It was the first album I ever heard, and it was a great place to start. That record has everything. So much has already been written about that record that it makes no sense to reiterate it. All I'll say is, if you don't like The Beatles, don't even bother picking up my new record. 

Where can people get a copy of "Brand New Beat"?

"Brand New Beat" will be available locally at Bull Moose Music. Online, you can buy it from us directly at collectorsclubrecords.bandcamp.com or kurtbaker.bandcamp.com. Vinyl is available on interpunk.com and jollyronnierecords.com, and of course you can grab the album digitally on iTunes (and) Amazon, and hear it on Spotify.

Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:

aponti@pressherald.com

 

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