Connie Cunningham and the Creeps

Connie Cunningham and the Creeps

Connie Cunningham And The Creeps

When Nick Kinsey moved into his farmhouse in New York’s Hudson Valley, he dreamed that he would stumble upon a trove of unreleased music from some eccentric artist who’d previously lived there. If anyone would be inclined to expect that kind of treasure, it would be the prolific Kinsey, who in addition to his own music has produced and played on Waxhatchee’s St. Cloud, toured with Kevin Morby, and drummed for AC Newman, Hand Habits, and Cold War Kids, among many others. And with all those various styles and ideas swirling around his head, that imaginary stash of songs appealed more and more. “I needed to create a fictional character to get into the headspace necessary to finish this group of songs,” Kinsey says. “I was able to escape my usual writing blocks and get away from any need to sound ‘cool’ by pretending I was this fictional weirdo and failed session musician.” And after rounding out his compositions with some key collaborators, the first volume of Connie Cunningham and the Creeps fulfilled Kinsey’s dream in the form of six brilliant, retro oddball pop planets circling one oddball songwriting star.

The burst and bubbling AM radio pop of lead track “Going, Going, Gone!” sets a clear tone for Connie Cunningham and the Creeps Vol. 1--as if composed of classic samples stretched and pulled like sugary taffy, though then showing flourishes of intimate humanity and intense musicianship. Beyond his own imaginary realm, Kinsey pulled from a blend of familiar and off kilter references to flesh out these songs. Equal parts Latin Playboys polyrhythms and Beach Boys sentimentality, the opener fuses taut girl group harmonies (courtesy of Cassandra Jenkins and Annie Nero, AKA The Creeps), psychedelic backmasking, and California gold guitar shudders, all wrangled together by Kinsey’s honeyed vocals.

As a contributor to so many excellent records, Kinsey had a large pool of talented musicians to draw from in order to round out his compositions. Many of his collaborators were drafted from his tight-knit community in Hudson Valley, which sits two hours north of New York City. Multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman also contributed to Waxahatchee’s record, and here adds additional guitar, keyboard, and percussion. Kaufman also hosted sessions in his Brooklyn studio for a few days, after the majority of the record was completed in Kinsey’s own Chicken Shack studio. With the contributions of trumpeter Mike Irwin, guitarist Oliver Hill, and Celeste player Jared Samuel rounding out the tracks, the min orchestra provided the robust backing needed to make the dream of the Connie Cunningham persona a reality.

True to Kinsey’s vision, tracks like the slippery “The Breaking of the Chain” feel as if they’re pulled from some dusty crate--but on closer look, the structures and melodies are far fresher and more complex than meets the eye. The swank “Flood Gates”, for example, bounces between classic waltz horns and glockenspiel to ominous bass percussion thundering, lending an extra eerieness to Kinsey’s in-character insistence. “All I ever wanted was to break a woman’s heart/ But I could never find someone to love me from the start,” would feel lovelorn in a truly vintage track, but carries an extra edge here.

Whether the seaside noir of “The Old Way” or the jaunty sidewalk bounce of “Buildings and Planes”, Connie Cunningham and the Creeps Vol. 1 embraces a cinematic depth, each track the soundtrack for its own film. In Kinsey’s mind, the thread tying the tracks together is a sense of escape, of leaving. “This is a going away record: wanting to leave, dreaming of leaving, threatening to leave, things leaving, people leaving, time leaving,” he says. 

And though this album feels like a remarkably complete universe for a debut, the winking insistence of the “Vol. 1” in the title shows just how much more is in store for Connie Cunningham. “I really love the unfinished quality of archival, bootleg, and outtake releases, so I wanted to borrow that language a little,” Kinsey smiles. And with “Vol. 2” already lurking somewhere up in the proverbial attic, that unfinished world will only continue to grow and expand in its mystic yet familiar depth.


I first heard Nick Kinsey’s Connie project at a time when he and I were entertaining the idea of working on some music together.  Nothing could have been more encouraging to me than soaking up the spirit of his music.  There is a fearless devotion to imagination and vision in that music that is soooo refreshing.  He's not just creating sonically interesting music for your speakers,  it has an effect of transporting your own whereabouts to an exhilarating time and place!  Really hard to articulate but his music takes me out of myself and into a warm and joyous place that’s so rare.  As a friend and as a fan I am so inspired by Nick’s creations.  Not enough music is this adventurous yet accessible. -Scott McMicken of Dr. Dog

“My good friend Connie pays his visit on high noon light through frosted windows when lifting from strange familiar dreams. I'm always delighted to see and hear him again.” -Elvis Perkins

“This collection of songs feels like they were pulled from a shelf amidst ornaments and sun bleached spines; they have a warmth to them that feels like entering an attic full of relics and the lure of their discovery that keeps you up there, wiping your brow, for hours in the heat of summer.” - Cassandra Jenkins

“We were driving…down a highway……in some sorta muscle car…when someone riding passenger who was fidgeting with the dial landed on some distant station….”don’t change it!” I yelled from the back…”I think I’ve heard this one before” but I hadn’t, though it felt like I had, if you know what I mean. We started to lose the station as we inched further out of the city, so we pulled over and let the station keep feeding us songs. One after another this strange beautiful sound kept seeping out of the old wire speakers, like smoke lifting out of a cigar. We sat in silence, waiting for the DJ to say who it was before we got back on the road, to tell us anything about what we were hearing when finally: “and that folks”, he spoke, “was Connie Cunningham and the Creeps”. - Kevin Morby