Jeff Badger is a musician and visual artist whose musical projects can be found under the banner of Flounder Productions. Before relocating to Maine, he was a member of New York’s Custardpaws & Mr. Freezy. In addition to performing under his own name, he also led the Maine band The Hot Dogs, later known as Transmission Drop. In 2004, The Hot Dogs released an EP containing the holiday song “Holy Shit, It’s Christmas!” (and yes, there’s a clean version, too).
Where were you born?
Miami, Florida. You can probably tell by the strong Latin influence in my music. Seriously though, my family left Miami when I was a baby and we moved to The Netherlands. After that we moved around a few more times and landed in Connecticut and I have mostly stayed in the Northeast since then. At this point I’ve actually lived in Maine longer than I’ve lived anywhere.
What brought you to Portland/Maine?
My wife Lydia and I moved here from New York City in 2000, just for the hell of it.
Do you have a day job, and if so, what is it?
I am a visual artist and art professor.
What was your most memorable gig?
I’ve got two:
In 1999 I played a record release party at CBGB’s with my band Custardpaws & Mr. Freezy. So many of the bands I love came through the CBGB’s scene in the 70s, so playing there was the fulfillment of a dream. I was glad I was able to play the club before it closed. It really was a shithole.
In 2006 The Hot Dogs got to open for The Figgs and Mike Viola at The Big Easy. When Adam Bean, Tom Abercrombie, and I started The Hot Dogs we were inspired by a Figgs show we had recently seen at The Skinny, so that was a great night.
What was your worst gig?
Probably a sparsely-attended show that ended with an argument outside the club that almost resulted in a drunken fistfight between my band and the club booking agent. But that is all water under the bridge and seems pretty ridiculous now.
What album or artist has most influenced you as a musician?
I really do love all kinds of music, but my biggest influences for songwriting are probably The Kinks, Pavement, Talking Heads, Tom Waits, and 60s/70s ska and reggae. Two exciting contemporary bands I’ve been listening too are Local Natives and Off!. That said, I think one of the best ways to get inspiration is to cross genres — visual art inspired by music, music inspired by books, movies about musicians — many of my songs have been inspired by books or movies.
What’s the one piece of musical equipment you can’t live without?
I’m not a gear-head. I just play whatever I have around. If had to choose just one thing, I’d keep my piano.
Any advice for a musician starting out?
My first piano teacher taught me solfège and ear training, and I think that is what allowed me to teach myself guitar and to pick out songs by ear. It makes more sense to me than notation or tablature, which seems more like math. Playing by ear made learning music intuitive and fun — and if it is not fun, then you’ll probably quit. Beyond that, just be sincere and ambitious.
What’s the origin behind your band name?
All I can say about this topic is that naming a band is one of the most miserable parts of being in a band. I hate every band name I’ve ever had and I regret them all.
What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
I don’t believe in guilty pleasures — I’m not into the idea of enjoying art ironically. If you find yourself enjoying something that is out-of-fashion, over-produced, super-poppy, or somehow antithetical to what you think your tastes are or ought to be, than you should acknowledge that there is something in that piece of music that you genuinely like. If you can figure out what the hidden element is, than you can expand your musical vocabulary and your songs will benefit from it.
Additionally, Stephen has exhibited his photography in Portland, Maine, Boston, and California. He lives just outside of Portland with his wife and two children.