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20 most hated ATL bands, rappers, guilty pleasures, and electro douches — and why we love them

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Atlanta's Most Hated No. 15: Back Pockets

Untangling the flower-power roots of Back Pockets' musical legacy makes vindication sweet


In the beginning, all Emily Kempf wanted to do was stage a play. But from its inception in August 2008, Back Pockets quickly turned into a Frankenstein's monster, pieced together from Kempf's musical, artistic, and theatrical endeavors, along with anything else she fancied. She chose a banjo as her axe, mostly because she'd never really dug playing guitar all that much, and over the next few years her unrestrained vision grew into a living, breathing entity of dreamlike symbolism wrapped in shambolic music and performance art dirges. Her instincts not only carved out a niche for Back Pockets as one of the most bizarre musical acts in the city, she became a local pied piper of sorts.

Kempf's primal, avant-garde instincts and Southern hippie aesthetic left a mark on everyone who filtered through the group's ranks. But her unorthodox ways became something of an Achilles heel, provoking just as much seething animosity from audiences as she did endearment. It was as if Back Pockets suddenly had become a bad word; but Kempf would get the last word.

The outsider punk-gypsy plod of such numbers as "Break Up Song," "Leave Me Alone," and "Making Out is Great" seemed weird for weirdness's sake. At times, the songs lacked melody and the defining structural qualities that came naturally for Kempf's obvious influences: David Bowie, Crass, Of Montreal, and so on. What's more, the elaborate costumes, theatrical productions, and excessive size of the group — often incorporating as many as 15 members — felt like a gimmick to mask her lack of legitimate songwriting skills.

But Kempf never set out to create easily consumable pop songs, and Back Pockets' ramshackle aesthetic still holds true to her original vision. Through it all, the group has drawn scores of curious participants, many who never made music on their own prior to joining the band. While Kempf hesitates to guess the number, it's safe to say that somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 people have called themselves members over the course of four years. She certainly created a fertile stomping ground for many of the city's more adventurous spirits — including members of nearly two dozen burgeoning local acts such as Wowser Bowser, Faun and a Pan Flute, Christ, Lord, and others — thereby perpetuating a grassroots legacy of experimentation and primitivism. Despite the group's shrinking ranks in recent years, Kempf's vindication lies in the influence she has wielded over so many young musicians who walked away with an indelible piece of her sound and vision. — Chad Radford


Let no band put asunder

From purveyors of experimental art-pop to one hip-hop co-op, Back Pockets' offshoots run the gamut. The following are 23 past and present Atlanta acts that contain former members of the fanciful underground band of merrymakers.

Carnivores

Noisy, high-energy art pop

Billy Mitchell (drums), Philip Frobos (bass)

Street Violence

Summertime reverb punk ditties

Suzanne Baker (vocals)

(defunct)

Faun and a Pan Flute

Experiments in junk culture precision

Danny Bailey (drums), David Gray (drums), Suzanne Baker (vocals), Gage Gilmore (bass)

Rattler Snake

Ghostly murder ballads

Suzanne Baker (vocals, banjo, broken plates)

Babar

Dirty, mathy rock

Danny Bailey (drums), Gage Gilmore (bass)

Christ, Lord

Balkan folk-punk

Billy Mitchell and Brandon Camarda (trumpet)

A. Grimes

Creepy, lurking noise-rock

Britt Teusink (vocals, guitar), Gage Gilmore (bass), Kenneth Figuera (keyboards)

deadCAT

Beat-driven antagonism

Britt Teusink

Black Lodge

Dreary post-punk/gothic rock

Adam Bruneau (drums)

Electric Nature

Textured, droning majesty

Michael Potter (guitar)

Aviva and the Flying Penguins

Earthy reggae jams

Aviva

Cassandras

Lazy-day pop melodies

Heather Buzzard (vocals), Michael Jordan (guitar)

(defunct)

We the Lion

Sparkling pop innocence

David Gray, Heather Buzzard, George Petis (performance art)

Shaquille O'neal Slam Dunk Fest

No-sense dance mess

Billy Mitchell, Danny Bailey

Headband Girls

Staccato rhythms and weirdness

Billy Mitchell, Henry Detweiller (theater), Stephanie Pharr (theater), Brandon Camarda, Casey Hood, Gage Gilmore, Danny Bailey

Lily and the Tigers

Haunted Appalachian pop

Casey Hood (vocals), Jared Pepper (guitar), Mikhail Ally (bass)

Snake Shark and the Broken Heart

Accordion and ukulele elegance

Lindsey Elcessor

Buffalo Bangers

Goth-tinged minimalist post-punk

Lindsey Elcessor

(defunct)

Killing Floor

Bluesy rock 'n' rollers

Jared Pepper (drums)

Jack Preston x the Dojo Collective

Jazzy hip-hop co-op

Wowser Bowser

Super-dreamy electro pop

George Pettis

Balkans

Tragic brat punk

Danny Bailey

(defunct)

White Light Forest Choir

Noisy tribal rock

Britt Teusink, Suzanne Baker, David Gray, Danny Bailey, Cameron Stuart (electric guitar)

(defunct)

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