Bad Bad Hats finished No. 1 overall in our 2015 Picked to Click tally with 75 points. Click here to see profiles on this year's other 11 winning acts.
There's something a little ironic about deeming Bad Bad Hats the next big thing in the Twin Cities.
If Picked to Click is a golden ticket to the "scene darling" phase of one's career, this particular indie-pop trio won't have much need. That's because they've already clicked on a national level in a big, big way, having scored press clippings from Pitchfork, NPR, and Spin in the wake of their debut album, July's Psychic Reader.
With such an early war chest of accolades, it feels like forever ago that the three Minnesota transplants convened on campus to form Bad Bad Hats. St. Paul's Macalester College, the consummate liberal arts school, has produced indie-rock greats such as Hüsker Dü's Bob Mould, Okkervil River frontman Will Sheff, and drums-for-hire ace Joey Waronker.
Possibly the youngest and last band to have bonded over MySpace song clips, Bad Bad Hats first took shape in 2012 when its members, all of whom are in their mid-twenties, were students at Mac. Frontwoman Kerry Alexander, drummer Chris Hoge, and bassist Noah Boswell started with limited musical experience, but even their earliest songs were rooted in strong, distinct songwriting.
"I've always just written about love; love lost, and trying to capture a real portrait of what it's like being young and in love. It's a clichéd formula at this point, but to me, the best romantic comedies, they hook you," says Alexander, who was born in Minnesota but raised in the South. "As a songwriter, I want to hook people in the same way. I feel those feels really intensely, and I know lots of other people do, so I just wanna translate that to a lil' nugget that people can sing along to."
Hoge, also Alexander's long-term boyfriend, sees that innate relatability and lyrical deftness as the group's strongest selling point.
"I think Kerry's lyrics are the brand," he says. "People tweet our lyrics all the time. I don't think we have to work very hard beyond that."
On Psychic Reader, Bad Bad Hats fleshed out the occasionally rinky-dink sound of their 2013 debut EP, It Hurts (no kazoos this time).
The album, glowing with pop sensibilities and spiked with just enough electric guitar, showcases the effortless charm and personality of Alexander, but also boasts a polish and swagger rarely found in groups so young. Promoting Reader, Bad Bad Hats finished their first national tour opening for the Saddle Creek Records band the Mynabirds just last month.
Hoge estimates "80 to 100 percent" of the shows over the five-week span saw audience members singing along. "It's funny that my mom thinks we're all like Iggy Pop and the Rolling Stones," says Alexander, who's "notorious" for not finishing a beer.
Although lacking in rock 'n' roll excess, the touring experience was an overwhelmingly positive one for the Hats, further fuel to cast off their respective day jobs and parlay Alexander's songwriting gift into viable careers in music.
"If we could make a living doing it," Hoge says, "that's the only dream." They're off to a good, good start.