For nearly two decades, drummer Taylor Hawkins has provided the chugging beats for the Foo Fighters, in and out of the studio. But the 44-year-old musician has a sneakily canny knack for songwriting that he’s putting on display once again with K.O.T.A., his solo debut that drops Friday.
“I like to put a little signpost in the road in between every Foo Fighters project,” Hawkins tells EW. “I don’t know why, I just have to do it. I have to get that itch to write songs out of my system.”
Hawkins has blazed his own trail before, whether with Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, which released albums in 2006 and 2010, or his more recent project the Birds of Satan, which released a self-titled debut in 2014. But K.O.T.A. marks a departure for him: “I had never really made a record where I played predominantly most of the instruments,” he says. “I’d always had other people play on the record.” (Hawkins does add that Wiley Hodgden, Coattail Riders’ Chris Chaney, and Foo Fighters’ Nate Mendel contribute bass work on K.O.T.A.)
Though it clocks in just shy of 20 minutes, the new record contains some of Hawkins’ most vivid songwriting yet. Written while the Foos toured 2014’s Sonic Highways — Hawkins says he takes a guitar on the road and records whenever he can — he says K.O.T.A.‘s six tracks encompass “six little stories.” “Bob Quit His Job” is about Hawkins’ old neighbor Bob who, you guessed it, quit his job. “Southern Belles” recalls his parents and Southern heritage, while “Tokyo No No” colorfully chronicles the Foo Fighters’ days as “young bucks” partying at Tokyo’s Lexington Queen nightclub.
And the collection opens with “Range Rover Bitch,” Hawkins’ admittedly problematic, glammed-out homage to some of his neighbors in the wealthy Los Angeles suburb Calabasas. “There’s this kind of ‘Range Rover bitch’: Rich, well-to-do wives — like my own — driving the Range Rover in their Soul Cycle outfit, ready to go to spin,” he says. “I was just playing around with some flippant, totally horrible, sexist term I threw out one day. It stuck with some of my friends in the neighborhood — it’s kind of a joke.”
While Hawkins’ snark shines strong on K.O.T.A., a more realized core theme runs throughout. Take the closer “I’ve Got Some Not Being Around You To Do Today.” He admits it’s about his “wife and kids on certain days” but adds that getting on his bike, or more broadly “the f— out of there,” allows him to “come back refreshed and loving and all of those things.” That ties into albums like Blur’s Parklife and Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, which he says inspired the project because of their vivid renderings of suburban neighborhoods.
“I’ve written so many songs that mean a lot of different things, but that don’t really mean anything,” he reflects. But, to an extent, watching Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl draw on regional personas for the songs on Sonic Highways sparked a similar urge in Hawkins: “You can really write a song about anything, if you try hard enough.”