With This Kansas City Pop Band's Sugary Record, The Icing Is A Deck Of Cards

Oct 12, 2016

The Sexy Accident
Champagne Babycakes

Jesse Kates is a coordinated guy. The front-man and creator of The Sexy Accident has been at it for a decade, dutifully churning out catchy, creative pop records every two years with an ever-changing cast of characters.

Far from ruling as a dictator, Kates lets each record evolve organically from a firm marzipan base, the players in his pop dramas each adding a layer of spun sugar to the top. The band's newest release, Champagne Babycakes, blossomed into an electronic download and a physical card game.

Kates did the majority of the writing on the record, and his deeply personal style translates well to the broken and not-so-broken-hearted alike. His good humor is apparent from the opening “I'm Going to Love Your New Boyfriend,” when Kates tackles the panoramic view of love, including what happens when it doesn't quite work out. “Then he's washing dishes/You’re laughing from the kitchen/My resistance unravels,” he sings, presenting an entirely different view of a breakup as he embraces the eventual positive outcome. Later on the record, Kates sings about a girl he lost while insisting in the chorus that the song is “Not About Girls.”

The deck of cards, with illustrations by Gavin Snider, that accompanies The Sexy Accident's 'Champagne Babycakes.'

Included with the release is a deck of cards with Gavin Snider's whimsically illustrated representations of band members, music equipment and other scenarios in a pale pastel yellow-and-blue color scheme. Billing Champagne Babycakes as "the world's first album/card game," Kates tells me that he liked the compartmentalization that a deck of cards represents. Unlike the set album, the game has an infinite number of outcomes — it's something that can be revisited over and over again, bringing different people together as card games inherently do.

The idea, Kates says, is that while both projects compliment each other, they can be used in tandem or admired for their own merits. Eventually he hopes to release a combination EP/Expansion pack for the game, adding yet another possible dimension.

All of which makes it clear that Kates is also a hopeless romantic. “Essentially,” he says, “almost the entire record is a series of love letters.” The exception, he says, is "Drill To The Hull,” which he describes as a miniature musical. But there's even a romantic bent to that song, with its surrealistic scene of a fateful ocean voyage in which the narrator cries, “I'm on a sinking ship/And I'm the one/With a drill to the hull.” It's a journey toward the realization of self sabotage, taking away the things one needs the most.

Camry Ivory, who contributed female vocals on the Sexy Accident's last record, Lavender 3, left some pretty fancy shoes to fill — but Jamie Lin fits into them wonderfully. Her voice pairs with Kates' like a fine wine, the two performing languid lyrics as if they're dance partners twirling in a sea of organza across the soulful ballad “I Do or Adieu” and the country-poppish “She's the Memory You Keep.”

Kates put the record's production entirely into the hands of Steve Fisk, a legendary Seattle-based engineer who has worked with a long roster of Sub-Pop and other musicians including Nirvana and Soundgarden. “He doesn't fix mistakes, but the way he blends is masterful,” Kates says. “I knew I wanted him when I listened to four of his records and none of them sounded the same.”

As a result, Champagne Babycakes is a confection that goes down smooth and sparkly, its pop melodies bubbling deep into that little part of the brain that still believes in true love, in whatever form it comes in.

Monique Gabrielle Salazar is a Kansas City freelance writer, artist and producer. She can be reached at mgswrites@gmail.com.