Kevin and Michael Bacon, in their 17th year as bandmates, talk about their musical process, the experience of being onstage, and weird concert venue requests
By Alexis Tarrazi
Throw together a harmonica, mandolin, electric guitar and an accordion and you get FoRo SoCo. No it’s not the name of a new drink. It’s how celebrity actor Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael describe their band’s, Bacon Brothers, style of music – Folk Rock Southern Country.
Known for dancing across the screen in “Footloose” and more recently as a former FBI agent in the Fox television series “The Following,” Kevin teamed up with his older brother, Michael, 17 years ago to form the Bacon Brothers and have not looked back since.
The Bacon Brothers will be performing at Town Hall on May 2 at 8 p.m.
Tell me how the Bacon Brothers was formed.
Kevin: Michael was nine years older than me, still is as it turns out. (Laughs) And we would get together play music, write songs. He was off on a music career from my earliest kind of memories. Eventually he asked me to do percussion, backing him up. You know we kind of played together there. And then I went off and decided to become an actor. We had a demo of some songs we were trying to get cut by other people and a friend of ours heard it and said, ‘Why don’t you go out and play the songs yourselves?’ And that was really the first show. That was 17 years ago.
How does it feel to be doing it this long?
Michael: Well hopefully we are getting better and I think we are. I think Kevin and I have something similar, that once we decide to do something we sort of feel compelled to make it better work on it and fine tune it and I think as long as we still have that motivation, we are just going to keep going. I mean we certainly never, when we played out first gig, we really didn’t intend it to be… pretty much do for the rest of our lives. So far it’s worked pretty well and we both enjoy it.
Have you learned anything over the years?
Kevin: Oh gosh it’s always a learning experience. My God. That never ends. For me it was a big new kind of mystery place. I played a little bit of music live and I had been writing songs since I was a little kid. But to actually stand in front of people and actually sing and play an instrument and play a song that was based on something personal in my life. It was a large and terrifying landscape. Like any other kind of creative expression. You learn by doing. There is a lot of stuff that can’t be taught in a classroom. So you have to go out there and do it and you have to fail and pick up the pieces.
Kevin, would you say it’s tougher to be on stage versus having the chance to redo a take on camera?
Kevin: Well I had done a lot of stage acting. That’s where I started out when I was really young at 18, 19 years old in New York, Off Broadway and on Broadway. So I think that’s a similar kind of experience with this group of people that there is no take and there is no ability to do it over and there is butterflies and also the exhilaration of having gotten through it and it either being good or being bad. It kind of goes both ways. You can walk away and go man that was just awful or just walk away and feel fantastic about it. I don’t know if I would say more difficult or less difficult, the process of doing films or doing television is also hard. For one thing you work a lot longer, it’s a lot harder. I sometimes laugh at the fact that you hear rock bands say how exhausted they are for playing for an hour and 15 minutes and I kind of think, really?! (Laughs). Our days are like 14 hours, that’s a slow day. But I get it because I have experienced it now. There is a lot of preparation that goes into that. There is a lot of getting there, sound checks, thinking about it and getting yourself ready for the show and the concentration it takes. I don’t think I would categorize it as easier or harder.
Any preshow traditions? Anything to warm up before hitting the stage?
Michael: Well we do, do these vile vocal exercises that if there any people in the room, they immediately leave. It involves us grabbing our jaws and sticking our tongues out and making this horrible sound. Other than that we like to sing Beatle songs and Dave Clark 5 songs and just old stuff for fun and warm up our voices. But no specific rituals.
Why do you do those vocal exercises by pulling out your tongue?
Kevin: Yeah why do we do that Mike? (Laughing)
Michael: Well the idea is it doesn’t do a damn thing. (Laughs). The idea in singing is you are trying to disassociate all of what you think it takes to sing from the actual act of singing. A lot of people tighten up their jaw and tighten up their tongue and their face and their eyes. What you want to do is let all of this stuff go, so if you do your exercises while you are grabbing your jaw that takes it out of the mix and if you are sticking your tongue out that becomes out of the mix. It’s just a way of tricking your body to let go of stuff that it thinks you need to sing.
Excited to be back in the local area?
Kevin: We love it. It’s great. We played the Town Hall, it’s been a few years but we are looking forward to that. We never had a bad gig in New Jersey, we love playing in New Jersey.
What can fans expect to see from the show?
Michael: Well the band is Kevin and I of course. Kevin doing some of the vocal, me doing some of the vocals. Kevin plays acoustic guitar, harmonica and percussion. And I play acoustic guitar, electric guitar and cello. And then we have four guys backing us up – piano, bass drums, electric guitar, but switch off on accordion and mandolin. So there are a lot of harmonies. With the exception of two songs, they are all original songs we have written over the years and released on CDs or we plan to release in the future.
Your latest album was in 2011. Are you working on anything right now?
Michael: Yeah we got about, we have five things in the can that are 90 percent finished. We are waiting to check out a gig we did live to see if we can get a couple tracks from that… And you know we need about 10 songs and I think we are about three quarters of the way there. And our plan is to release something in the summer.
How do you come up with new music?
Kevin: That’s a mystery. You never know where they come from. You hope that they are some place out there in the ether. Sometimes they come easy, sometimes they come hard. It’s just, you pick up your guitar and you hope that there is something living inside there.
Michael: That’s a terrifying thought. (Laughs)
Kevin: It is a terrifying thought. (Laughs)
Do you have anything on your rider, which you need to have before a show?
Michael: We are pretty easy. We have a rider but it’s pretty tame compared to some of other riders I’ve seen.
Kevin: We have wild berries, alcoholic beverages, almonds; I like a lot of almonds, I think they are the perfect kind of food, they travel well.
Michael: It’s funny. We had a rider for five years and all this stuff would show up that we really didn’t like. We realized that somebody had taken a rider for a band that opened for us and just pasted it on ours. And it took us five years to realize that it wasn’t actually stuff that we wanted.
Kevin: Yeah they had a specific particular type of wine. And we hated the wine and we kept going, ‘Why does this wine keep showing up?!’ And then you think to yourself, that somebody in a small town is scratching their head trying to find this specific type of wine that we don’t even like.
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