As they move from weird to “Normal,” the Bad Ideas make good plans
On a chilly Thursday evening, near the corner of Lloyd and 43rd Street, a few tentative guitar chords break the cold silence, the only sounds except for the occasional car crunching down a snow-packed road. Yellow light warms a few plastic-covered windows of the nondescript white house, from which that guitar screech emanates. The Bad Ideas are holding band practice in the garage.
Guitarist Britt Adair, bassist Caitlin Curry and singer Dawn (who provides no last name) have been performing together as the Bad Ideas for a little more than three years. Drummer George Magers, the only dude in the band, joined eight months ago.
“George is family,” Adair says. “We used to be an all-girl band. Our second drummer quit a month before we went on tour last year, and George just volunteered. He learned all the songs within a month, and then, when we got back from tour, we were like, ‘You’re not going anywhere.'”
Wild-haired and wide-eyed, Dawn kneels in front of a microphone stand and arranges a pile of handwritten lyric sheets. She’s the band’s principal songwriter, but Adair acts as the band’s de facto leader. She handles the logistics, and it’s her garage where the group is now sprawled out, still wearing their winter coats despite the space heater. Adair and Curry each lights a cigarette. Magers has yet to arrive, and the women decide that they sound terrible without their drummer.
Magers appears, waves hello to his bandmates and exchanges a few barbs. He sits down at the drums, and the energy in the small, two-car garage changes. Cigarettes are stubbed out. Instruments are gripped. The band launches into “Normal” and burns a two-minute hole in the air.
What’s it like to have everything you want in life? What’s it like? Dawn demands, her petite frame emitting a formidable volume. She practically growls the next lyric: I don’t want to be you.
Adair stands behind her pedals, stoic. She attacks her guitar more than she plays it, but what she coaxes from it is recognizable as a melody (an aggressive one). Curry arches into her instrument, her eyes shut, long blond hair swaying as she pulls some impressive bass faces. In the corner, Magers gleefully pounds away, like an attention-deficit child who never received the proper medication.
If bands were rated in terms of caffeine, the Bad Ideas would be a six-shot Americano. And this is just practice.
Sitting at Twin City Tavern another day, Adair and Curry are drinking away some afternoon downtime. Each wears a jacket adorned with innumerable buttons, patches and pins. I ask them what they get out of their punk band.
“I feel empowered by the music,” Adair says. “I feel a sense of community. All of us are pumped by it. We all share ideas. Punk rock is basically born out of frustration with things and how things are, whether that be with politics, lifestyle, rich and poor, whatever. There’s community in that.”
“It’s like, fuck it, you don’t have to be pretty. You don’t have to be cool,” Curry adds. “You can just be weird.”
The Bad Ideas play mainly in people’s basements, releasing rough cuts and home recordings on tape or online. Yet even musicians who want to keep things as DIY as possible recognize that there could be benefits to branching out. So after three years of playing shows around the country, Adair and Curry are working on a broader vision.
“Everything’s kind of evolved since we first started,” Adair says. “We’re starting to all write some lyrics. I think we’ve moved past the whole ‘Pizza! Basements! Getting drunk! Boyfriends!’ I mean, our newest song is about Detroit falling apart. It’s morphing into a political commentary, and that’s the direction that we’re going.”
“We want to say what really matters instead of just saying some funny shit,” Curry says. “I like it. That makes me happy.”
Now, as the band writes new material and considers its options for recording and releasing, Adair and Curry say they’re more conscious of the effect they could have on a broader audience.
“Sometimes we feel like we have some type of power or something because there aren’t a ton of women in the punk scene,” Adair says. “We have a lot of younger girls coming up to us, and that’s the coolest thing ever. They want a T-shirt. They want to start playing. They see us and they think they can do it. That’s awesome.”
Curry says, “We want to inspire other young women to rock. It gives me chills thinking about it, inspiring younger women to do what we do.”
“We are all the rejects,” Adair says with a small smile. “But when we come to a place to do a show, we’re not rejects anymore. I don’t feel rejected from the scene, I feel embraced and like I can be a part of it.”
Curry: “Going to shows, putting them on, being part of them — that’s when I feel like I’m the most myself.”
Back in the garage, the Bad Ideas tear through a new tune, “I’m Stuck.” Despite the raging sound, the band members’ faces are joyfully aglow. Dawn shakes her arms and snarls into the microphone. Their elation is infectious.
“Do you have time for one more?” Magers asks.