Portland, Maine’s Kris Rodgers & The Dirty Gems have just dropped ‘Still Dirty’ their 10-song Wicked Cool Records debut full-length LP.
Stream “Still Dirty” HERE: https://orcd.co/stilldirty
Watch the video for “I’m Your Man” on Vents Magazine:
Check out this album track by track in Kris’ own words:
1. She Likes To Party
We ended up with a list of things that rhyme with “party,” which is how we chose all the chorus lyrics. That’s how “She loves Charles Barkley” made it on. My original intent with the song after we had the demo was to make it our own version of Ace Frehley’s “New York Groove.”
2. I Can Still Feel It
This was the first song I wrote for the album. It’s really autobiographical, about the excitement of the journey, and getting caught up in it. I worked at a farm and valeted cars for famous people like The Rock and Tom Brady. You pick up on that energy. I miss a lot of events with friends and family because of my music career as well, and there are bits of that in there.
3. Can’t Give It
This is a weird mash-up of David Bowie and The Supremes. Everything I do musically is usually as a reference to something from the past. It’s just how I operate, for some reason. Because of the pandemic, the backing singers never got to track on this one, so all the backups are me doing my best girl-group impression.
4. Don’t Look Back
Tom Hall wrote the music for this one. Maybe my favorite song off the record. Lyrically, it’s about letting go of old tropes and assumptions individuals have either picked up or made over the years. Specifically for me, I was writing about racism and the moment you’re confronted with it. I had an experience in a group of people telling “jokes” where I didn’t speak up when I should have, because I was just too much of a coward, to be honest. It was a weird and humbling experience, and I’m determined to speak up if it happens again. The line “The temptation of past relations getting complicated, never bothered me” is about that. It did bother me, but it won’t again. People upset thinking their rights are being taken away just because other people are finally getting those same rights are reflected in the line “It manifests from the ignorance that embers only burn to bring the Mission down” and also references Elton John’s “Burn Down The Mission.”
5. Across The Galaxy
This song and “See You Again” have a lot to do with my dad passing away. My inspiration for the vibe of the song, though it doesn’t come out that way, is “Life On Mars?” by David Bowie. I think you can hear the influence in the piano on the choruses if you really listen. Tom Hall’s guitar solo is epic.
6. Take Me To The Pilot
Ever since I was a kid and heard it for the first time, I always wanted my band to play it. Then we did and it became this staple of our set. It’s so nice because it happened organically. We played it basically live in the studio. I had to recut the piano and vocals, because technology. We also played without a click track, which was interesting.
7. I’m Your Man
To be honest, I wrote it trying to write a Kurt Baker Band song. I’m pretty terrible at guitar so I have to keep it really basic. I’ve always loved Kurt’s melodies and the way Kurt and Wyatt Funderburk re-harmonize different sections.
8. Don’t Turn Around
We had just been listening to Brian Ray’s version of “One Heartbeat” with Smokey Robinson, and I shot Ryan a message saying we needed a song like “One Heartbeat.” The next day, I had an email from Ryan with pretty much everything but lyrics and vocals for “Don’t Turn Around.” Minus the horns too, but it was almost a complete song.
This is about a turtle who escapes a subway/bus station in Madrid, where the main rail station actually had a real overpopulation problem with turtles a few years ago. He escapes to the beach and goes to a show at La Buleria in Granada, which is a hole-in-the-wall flamenco joint that only locals know about. My partner and I went to this place and we were the only non-Spaniards in the joint. The bartender only tended bar between songs, because he was also the guitar player. And the bar only had rum and Coca-Cola.
10. See You Again
This is about my dad. Something that I had to wrap my head around was I’m never going to see him again. As I’m sure it is for a lot of people, it was a very surreal experience that put at least one of the lights out in my world. We went on tour four or five days after he passed away. I had talked about canceling it and decided I’d still do the tour because my dad wanted me to, and it was probably good for me to be busy. At some point on the tour, as always happens, Tom and I were in this deep dive music theory discussion about major/minor 7th chords and how they should be used, and really nerdy stuff. Anyway, still only a few weeks after my dad passed, I came home and played what are the opening chords to “See You Again,” and couldn’t get through it without sobbing. It was kind of my therapy for a while. Eventually one lyric line would come, and that would get me sobbing again. Rinse and repeat. Really happy with how it turned out, and I like to think my dad would love it. Kind of a funny thing about the song is we realized when we were finished that the chorus is the same chords as the Steve Goodman classic “City Of New Orleans.” Lightens the mood a bit!
About Kris Rodgers and the Dirty Gems:
Known as “rock n’ roll’s secret weapon”, band leader and frontman Kris ‘Fingers’ Rodgers has been a recording & touring sideman in top touring garage rock and power pop acts like The Connection, Scott Sorry, The New Trocaderos, Bullet Proof Lovers, and Kurt Baker Band for years.
Born and raised a half-hour from the band’s home base of Portland, Maine, Kris Rodgers already had one full-length album and several EPs with The Dirty Gems under his belt before beginning work on Still Dirty in 2019. Recording commenced in bassist Ryan Halliburton’s basement, known as The Wreck Room. Along with guitarist Tom Hall and drummer Craig Sala, the four longtime bandmates tracked the bulk of the album right there. Drums and vocals for the nine original songs were re-recorded at two additional studios in Maine, and the energetic cover of Elton John’s “Take Me To The Pilot” was cut live in a pro studio environment.
“Our initial plan was to record at Renegade Studios, NYC with engineer Geoff Sanoff,” explains Rodgers. Sanoff did end up mixing the album. “We were really close to finished before the pandemic – everything but those drums and vocals – so we only needed two days in the studio. It was so frustrating, but I’m glad we were safe and everything’s all done now.”
Unlike previous releases where Rodgers wrote the original material himself, a more collaborative spirit of writing emerged on this batch of songs, with Halliburton and Hall each earning co-writing credits on four of the new tunes. One of the most prominent group writing efforts is “She Likes To Party,” the vocoder-laced groover which opens the album and got heavy satellite radio airplay as a standalone single in 2020 with its non-album B-side cover of Boz Scaggs’ “Lido Shuffle.” Another is the Latin-tinged “Tortuga.”
“We took some chances we wouldn’t normally take on this record, and I think it paid off,” Rodgers shares. “For me, a big thing was to not shy away from trying something because it’s a little leftfield. ‘Tortuga,’ ‘She Likes To Party’ and ‘Don’t Look Back’ all sound like they come from different records,” he notes with a laugh. “I’ve played in almost every type of band you can think of, from country, to reggae, to being the only keyboard player at the punk rock festival.”
Kris Rodgers & The Dirty Gems’ first Wicked Cool release was the 2018 single “Every Little Crack,” a cover of an early-2000s song by Swedish band Diamond Dogs that turned some heads when Stevie Van Zandt selected it as his number one Coolest Song of the year. “We had the huge advantage of bouncing every song on this album off of Little Steven,” says Kris. “He helped the songs get to the next level in a lot of intangible ways.”
Rodgers first crossed paths with Van Zandt while playing in the power-pop band The Connection, who frequently ended up on Little Steven’s Underground Garage playlists. Fellow Maine native and ex-Connection member Kurt Baker has been a staple of the Wicked Cool roster since 2016, and Kris was the keyboardist for Baker’s lauded 2020 Wicked Cool album ‘After Party.’
“I’ve been pretty lucky so far,” Kris reflects. “Performing at Yankee Stadium and the Hard Rock Café in New York City. Playing piano on the official Maine state song, ‘The Ballad Of The 20th Maine’ by folk/bluegrass/rock band The Ghost Of Paul Revere. And I think Drew Carey throwing me a tambourine from across the stage and me actually catching it was huge.”
Kris says Maine has become better served by touring bands and the music world over the last ten years. “More and more acts are coming up this way. The general culture is for the most part very inviting and nurturing, as far as bands and artists supporting each other. It’s got a big city vibe but it’s a small town.”
The Portland musical staple who has both Star Wars and Star Trek tattoos, is a passionate fan of the Boston Celtics, and loves his cats, is itching to get his band out on the road again as soon as touring is safely possible. In the meantime, there are summer shows planned at select Maine venues, and three music videos already poised to promote ‘Still Dirty.’