American musician, songwriter, music producer, and multi-instrumentalist Kurt Baker has dropped a vintage 80's-inspired music video for "Over You," the lead single off his upcoming solo album 'After Party' set for release on October 23 via Wicked Cool Records.
'After Party' marks a return to primo Power Pop form under Kurt’s own name, backed by his bangin’ five-piece American band for the first time in five years. The twelve-song sonic boom of hooks and melodies hits on the heels of two acclaimed albums with Kurt Baker Combo, his four-piece group based in Madrid, Spain, where the native of Portland, Maine has resided for some years now.What began as raucous noise in a Maine basement is poised to be the soundtrack to many a socially distanced soiree as Kurt Baker gets back to his roots on the rollicking new album 'After Party.'
“The idea for the Combo was always to be a band that showcased my more Garage/Pub Rock/Punk side, while the U.S. group is firmly rooted in Rock/Pop/Power Pop,” explains Baker. Counting those two albums with the Combo, 'After Party' is the artist’s sixth full-length record, in addition to his previous work with Pop/Punk band The Leftovers.
The Combo’s 2018 album 'Let’s Go Wild!' was “a high-spirited and thoroughly enjoyable Rock ’n’ Roll record” (Faster And Louder). It built on 2016’s In Orbit, which The Big Takeover called “a fast-paced, high-energy ride.” Both LPs saw heavy airplay on Little Steven’s Underground Garage and inspired endless touring in Europe and the U.S. A pair of standalone singles, “Can’t Go Back” and “(I Can’t Help) Failing In Love,” kept the momentum going through 2019.
In the intervening years, the careers of the American band members exploded to the point where this reunion now amounts to a Power Pop supergroup.
Wyatt Funderburk, who produced, engineered and mixed the record, also played guitars and co-wrote all the songs with Kurt during a four-day Maine hang in summer 2019. The pair previously collaborated on songs for many of Kurt’s releases before he relocated to Spain. “The fact that the songs came to us so easily, after such a long time not working together, made me realize how special this collaboration is,” Kurt recalls.
Keyboardist Kris Rodgers is now a successful Wicked Cool recording artist in his own right. The recent single “She Likes To Party” by Kris Rodgers and The Dirty Gems follows up “Every Little Crack,” which Stevie Van Zandt declared the number one Coolest Song Of The Year for 2018. “Kris shines with his vocals on ‘Wandering Eyes’ and piano on ‘A Song And A Drink.’”
Also on guitars is Geoff Palmer, well known to Underground Garage listeners with his band The Connection, who’ve received Coolest Song honors multiple times. “His guitar playing is just so Geoff and he makes sure you know that.”
Craig Sala, who has played with everyone from John Entwistle to Captain Kangaroo, rounds out the group on drums. “He tracked all the songs in a couple hours – a few in just one take.”
Most of the album was recorded in the basement of Kurt’s parents’ house in Portland last year. Funderburk tracked drums and finishing touches in his Nashville studio. “The best thing about these sessions was when we were all together singing into the same microphone, each of us doing our vocal parts, with Wyatt coaching us like Brian Wilson during a Pet Sounds session,” Kurt recalls.
While rooted in ’60s and ’70s aesthetics, 'After Party' does feature ’80s AOR and New Wave sounds on tracks like lead single “Over You.” “If it’s not The Beatles or Beach Boys we’re drawing influences from, then it’s something from the New Wave era. Donnie Iris is huge to us, as well as Boston, Nick Gilder, .38 Special, Tom Petty, New England, Starz, and Cheap Trick.”
Follow-up single “I Like Her A Lot” offers a bit of a grinding ’90s rock sound. “When it comes to ’90s music, Wyatt and I really love the Pop/Punk stuff, especially Lookout Records. So Green Day, The Queers, Screeching Weasel, The Mr. T Experience – we grew up on that.”
“Outta Sight” closes the LP in upbeat romantic fashion. “Wandering Eyes” adds an alluring French spoken-word interlude for which Kurt is coy about providing a translation. “It’s nothing too risqué, I promise!”
While the COVID-19 pandemic makes it unlikely that the full five-piece band can play shows in 2020 as planned, the goal is to tour in both the E.U. and U.S. eventually. A road warrior who has toured with the likes of The Offspring and Tommy Stinson in the past, Baker is always itching to play live.
Kurt rode out the terrifying early months of the pandemic in his Madrid apartment, amidst the epicenter of the first wave in Spain, where restrictions were serious. “Even when I’d go for a five-minute walk to the grocery store, the police would stop me to question what I was doing and what I was going to buy! It was a bit surreal. One thing that saved me during the lockdown was that each day Wyatt would send me a new mix of the record. This kept me positive and excited.”