Drexel & The Spirit Puts a Great Spin on a Kickstarter Campaign

New bands in New York City with Kickstarter campaigns to fund the recording of their debut album are a dime a dozen. But there’s one in particular that is quite different – and particularly of note for Central Arkansas residents and fans of the long-lived Little Rock rock band Go Fast.

Go Fast alum Drexel Baker, a guitarist, drummer, and vocalist and graduate of Sylvan Hills High School in the Little Rock suburb of Sherwood, has taken the Kickstarter campaign to a whole new level – a new level of creativity, of interactivity with fans, and just plain fun. His new band is called Drexel & The Spirit; it is Baker on guitar and vocals, Nancy Nicholson on bass, Brain Bauhs on guitar, and Luke Martinek on drums.

While trying to raise the initial minimum goal of $5,000, Baker started a little living room project from his home in New York City, where he and wife Michelle live with their two children. He began, with 26 days left in the Kickstarter campaign a couple weeks ago, going through the alphabet, taking requests for artists that begin with each letter.

Then he recorded himself, on his iPhone, doing a cover from one of those artists, one for each letter, one each day. Today (Thursday, October 26) was the letter “P”; he chose The Police, from among 50 fan requests he’d received. It is the incomparable hit song “Every Breath You Take”:

Baker emphasized to me that he is pretty much winging it, using a little Vox amplifier that has drum beats on it, but nothing else.

“I want to keep it as raw and natural as possible; I like the honesty that you can get from that approach,” he said. “I really liked the Lucinda Williams cover [editor’s note: that video is below]. I tried to give my full attention to the emotion on that one, and I like the way that is came out. Lucinda sings from a place that most people don’t.”

Baker started playing music and writing songs during high school, he told me, but it was a secret.

“I never shared my songs, never left my bedroom, and never played a show. It was my own private, secret thing, and I called the project BRUCE,” he recalled. “I made one homemade T-shirt for myself with spray paint. I used to write and record these half-finished songs on my boom box. I still have those cassette tapes in my mom’s attic, but I don’t think I have ever played that stuff for anyone.”

After jamming with friends for years, in his early 20s he started playing with bands, primarily as drummer. He was the founding drummer for Go Fast, whose initial lineup included frontman Scott Diffee, Matt Floyd and Kevin Kerby. He says his 6 years with Go Fast was his “longest journey” of all the bands he’s drummed with.

“I’ve played guitar in various bands over the years as well, but my favorite project outside of my own material was with a band from Little Rock called Widow Paw,” Baker explained. “Sean ‘Sulac’ Sapp was the guy who started the project, and I jumped on board shortly after. He is a force to be reckoned with! We collaborated for a two or three years.”

Baker says that while he has a knack for writing songs, he has “never been much of a guitar player” in regards to playing lead or ripping it up.“I’ve learned a few tricks over the years by default, but I come from a more Woody Guthrie/Bob Dylan approach,” he added.

Baker’s musical influences are quite broad, he says. “I am more of a rock guy in regards to my own personal writing style, especially because it is the most relatable to me. Americana/Heartland music is probably what I connect with the most (Lucinda Williams, Petty, Neil Young, Wilco, Drive-By Truckers, Slobberbone etc.)”

But he adds that he is drawn to musicians who are good at being “weird, in regardes to painting a very colorful sonic landscape both lyrically and musically,” such as The Flaming Lips, Sparklehorse, Bonnie Prince Billy, and Vic Chesnutt.

Baker tips his hat also to the influences of old Delta blues, jazz, old-school rap, and folk, as well. “The Beatles are the greatest artists ever though! They have it all,” he says.

With Baker “working like a truck over here” (a fave quote from Diffee) and the popularity of the alphabet cover videos on Facebook helping expand the fundraiser’s reach, the Kickstarter campaign reached its goal with 13 days to spare; the campaign ends on November 6. But Baker says they’re “pushing to get as much as possible, because the project will cost somewhere around $10K overall.”

The funds raised will help cover studio time, producer fees, engineering fees, mixing, mastering, vinyl pressing, shipping, merchandise, distribution, and marketing.

“My main objective is to be working with a top-notch producer in a top-notch studio. We are going to be making this album with Brooklyn’s very own Oliver Straus, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!”

The new record will be released sometime in the spring, on Baker’s own as-yet-unnamed label.