Portland, Maine’s Kris Rodgers and the Dirty Gems Releasing Wicked Cool Records Label Debut ‘Still Dirty’ on July 23
Stream The Band’s Cover Of Elton John’s “Take Me To The Pilot”
Portland, Maine’s Kris Rodgers & The Dirty Gems have released a cover of Elton John’s “Take Me To The Pilot”, a track off the band’s upcoming Wicked Cool Records debut LP ‘Still Dirty’, which drops on July 23.
Rodgers says, “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.”
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.’
Photo: Kris Rodgers
Follow Kris Rodgers & The Dirty Gems Online:
Photographer and Editor/Founder of AllMusicMagazine.com. My love of live music has taken me to incredible experiences with the top bands of all time in stadium shows to the smallest venues with equally inspiring musicians. Using the medium of photography and my publication, these memories will last forever.