Kevin Bacon, the busy silver screen and television actor, and Michael Bacon, the busy film and TV composer, still make time for their passion: their band, aptly named The Bacon Brothers.
The brothers—who both write songs, sing and play guitar as well as other instruments—will visit Guild Hall in East Hampton on Friday, August 4, to perform and discuss their music for G.E. Smith’s “Portraits” series. Mr. Smith, the former “Saturday Night Live” band leader, will engage the pair in conversation about their music—which runs the gamut of genres—and maybe join them for a few songs.
Since 1997, The Bacon Brothers have released six albums of original music, plus a best-of CD and a concert film. But their common musical history goes back much further, and much deeper.
The brothers grew up in Philadelphia in a large family, with six kids—Michael, Kevin and their four sisters, all a wide range of ages. Michael’s now 67, and Kevin turned 59 last month.
In a recent phone interview together, Michael said that their parents were urban pioneers who moved into a dicey neighborhood in the inner city—though he noted it wasn’t quite so dicey by the time Kevin was growing up. Michael recalled their neighborhood had a Greenwich Village kind of feel, with lots of coffee houses and beatniks.
And in their home, there was an enormous amount of music. Their father, Edmund Bacon, was a trained architect who became a city planner, but he was also an early audiophile with a monophonic sound system.
“The whole house was really one big speaker, and the music that I heard falling sleep at night, and the music that I heard when I came home from school, was not only really, really beautifully reproduced, but also incredibly eclectic,” Micheal said. “From Broadway shows to blues and rock, folk and world music—just all over the place.
“In terms of my experience in our house, we were all encouraged to do creative stuff. It was all about acting and dancing and music lessons and art lessons. Anything you wanted do, it was there.”
Outside of the home, he was exposed to even more music through friends and Philadelphia’s folk festival, jazz clubs and The Electric Factory, where rock acts of the 1960s came through.
“When I was in high school, I loved the British invasion—the Beatles and Stones—but the guys who I went to high school with never listened to that,” Michael said. “They only listened to soul music—Smokey Robinson, The Miracles, The Temptations—and they had no time for the English invasion.”
The mix of influences is heard in The Bacon Brothers’ music today, even if it’s not always obvious. “Growing up in Philadelphia gives you a very eclectic sense of music and, for me, I try to pick what I like from all different kinds of music,” Michael said. “I don’t want a sound. I don’t want to fit into one kind of music. I want to be all over the place.”
Speaking to what keeps the band going and keeps it interesting for him, Kevin explained that he enjoys sharing music.
“If you write a song, you can play it in your living room for a while, and then maybe, if you’re feeling courageous, you can share it with your spouse or with your family,” Kevin said. “And then, eventually, you start to say, ‘I want to see what other people, strangers—let’s see what strangers think of it.’”
The songwriting process has changed quite a bit for the duo since they were kids.
“When we first started writing songs, Kevin was a little kid and couldn’t play the guitar,” Michael recalled. “But I could tell—one of my curses is, I see talent, even though maybe some people don’t. And I definitely saw that in my brother at a very early age. But he needed help, because he didn’t know how to play the guitar. He needed help in structure, the songs, the arrangement of the song, that sort of thing.”
Now, they each write songs independently, and share only a demo with each other and their band—which includes experienced musicians Paul Guzzone, Joe Mennonna, Frank Vilardi and Ira Siegel—after they run them by their respective wives: Kevin will celebrate 30 years of marriage to Emmy-winning actress Kyra Sedgwick next year, and Michael has been married to Betsy Maguire since 1972.
“The end of it all is to play it for the audience, which is always pretty terrifying the first time you do that,” Michael admitted. “Because you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know what you’re going to forget. It’s that point the song starts to really coalesce and you start to feel comfortable with it.”
At that point, they may want to capture the song in the studio, or they may let the songs fade away, he said.
Kevin noted that the one time he hosted “Saturday Night Live,” in 1991, Mr. Smith was the show’s musical director, and he directed a song Kevin performed in a sketch. They have had run-ins since then, and the timing for joining Mr. Smith for a concert finally worked out, Kevin said.
Michael, who is a distinguished associate professor of film scoring at Lehman College in the Bronx and used to speaking to large groups with an interest in music, is also anticipating the conversation portion of the evening.
“Sometimes it’s really fun to not just play but to talk about it with someone who’s been in the music business as long as I have, so I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
The Bacon Brothers will perform Friday, August 4, at 8 p.m. at Guild Hall in East Hampton as part of G.E. Smith’s “Portraits” series. Tickets range from $55 to $150. Call 631-324-4050 or visit guildhall.org.
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