Cleveland duo Baker’s Basement whips up eclectic songs with buckets and lyrical humor
Cleveland’s eclectic indie-folk duo the Baker’s Basement makes unconventional music with nontraditional instruments.
Kate Dedinsky and Adam Grindler take a homemade approach to crafting their songs, flipping a five-gallon paint bucket upside down to serve as the music’s percussive backbone.
They incorporate other objects like shot glasses to make twinkling beats.
The Baker’s Basement has released four albums and several singles since 2012. They’re gearing up to debut new music after wrapping up an annual, month-long songwriting retreat.
“It challenges artists to write one full album in a month,” Grindler said. “It's a lot of putting limitations on yourself and approaching the creative process from different angles that shake you out of your patterns and your routine.”
From a baker’s basement to busking in Cleveland
The pair met in 2011 at a sound engineering workshop in Chillicothe, Ohio, where they discovered their instant chemistry.
“I remember just going into the kitchen and getting out some spoons, and, like, we just started grooving in the kitchen, and we were just having so much fun,” Dedinsky said.
The duo started writing songs together. Grindler soon moved from Northern Virginia to Cleveland to continue working with Dedinsky.
They started practicing in a baker’s basement where Grindler said the “secret ingredients” were hidden. Their first practice space inspired the band’s name.
Grindler and Dedinsky took their sound to the streets, busking in Cleveland’s Ohio City and Little Italy neighborhoods with a drum kit, two voices and a guitar.
“When you play clubs, you usually get 20 to 30 minutes, right? But we realized really quickly that if you busk, you can perform as long as you want out there,” Grindler said.
That street-style performance allowed the duo to hone their spirit of inventiveness and improvisation.
“Anyone can pick up anything and make music."Kate Dedinsky
They created a homemade drum set that includes five-gallon buckets and hidden elements that give the instruments a larger-than-life sound.
“In those earlier days, you know, busking was one thing, but we also wanted to be able to play a multitude of rooms,” Grindler said. “Not every room would allow you to have a full drum kit. It would just be too loud.”
They would take a single bucket to smaller, more intimate venues.
“Then eventually, that bucket became what we call the ‘Tempeh Kit,’ which is what Kate plays on these days,” Grindler said.
The kit includes a Latin percussion type of snare drum, a couple of symbols, tambourines and, of course, plenty of buckets.
Grindler recently added small, plastic hands and wind-up toys to make music as well.
Dedinsky refers to the setup as a “giant art project” serving to emphasize the simplicity of music.
“Anyone can pick up anything and make music,” she said. “It's like, we just build this kit, but you can build it at home and you could do it too.”
An uncommon approach to songwriting
The Baker’s Basement infuses out-of-the-box craftsmanship and humor into their work, resulting in a twee sound that pulls from elements of folk and hip-hop.
“People hear this pulse and they're like, ‘How is that bucket making that huge, pulsing sound?’ It's like, ‘Well, that's a sample that gives like this big like heartbeat to what we do,’” Grindler said.
The duo’s approach to songwriting can come from a place of inspiration or challenging themselves to shake up their patterns and routines.
In March 2020, the Baker’s Basement wrote “At Least 100 Things to Do in Quarantine” to occupy their time alone.
Since 2012, they’ve followed a regimented method that is inspired by a songwriting challenge Grindler first heard of when he lived in New Hampshire many years ago.
“When I moved to Cleveland, (I) told Kate about it, and we never looked back. We've done it every single year,” he said.
Grindler and Dedinsky individually work on multiple songs that could fill a full-length album. After a month of working in secret, they present their material to each other.
“It’s like Christmas,” Dedinsky said. “It’s like we're so excited to hear what he worked on [and what] I worked on. And then we have like a list of challenges for each other, and then we see how the other person interpreted that challenge. It's so exciting.”
Grindler said the challenge has evolved to where he and Dedinsky first write a full album together, then they go off and write their separate albums.
“We don't tell each other about it. So, on March 1, it's like we open up presents,” Grindler said.
Dedinsky said the Baker’s Basement writes quirky, colorful songs, often following a prompt.
“We also had one where we had to write using just our dog. So, like, maybe patting him or using his collar was like an instrument,” she said.
Grindler said one prompt took him to the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and Dedinsky to the Gray Dog Diner. Each location was pre-selected by the other artist.
He said this allowed them to take in the atmosphere and write a song.
"We always knew this journey would be slow and steady and patient and that we'd be feeling our way around in the process.”Adam Grindler
Gearing up for more music in 2023
The Baker’s Basement debuted its first album, “Island,” in 2014, followed by three more full-length releases.
“Wild Wild Sheep,” a collection of 13 new upbeat and thrumming tracks, debuted in the fall of 2022.
The duo said 2023 will bring many more new songs, starting with the single “Something’s Brewing,” which dropped in February.
The band uses a snail as its mascot, which Grindler said was pulled from two letter “b’s,” as in Baker’s Basement, that resemble a snail shape.
“The other part of it is, we don't come from a background of knowing music theory or more, you know, schooled approach to music,” Grindler said. “So we always knew this journey would be slow and steady and patient and that we'd be feeling our way around in the process.”
The Baker’s Basement will play the Beachland Ballroom & Tavern in Cleveland, alongside Ray Flanagan, Freight Street and Ben Traverse, March 30, followed by a show in Akron at the Rialto Theatre with Church of Starry Wisdom and Duo Decibal System March 31.