Health care ordeal inspires Playboy Spaceman’s latest releases

Juneau songwriter George Kuhar performs with Playboy Spaceman at the Rockwell Ballroom on July 9, 2016. The band was playing at its album release party for "And His Father." (Photo by Annie Bartholomew/KTOO)

Juneau songwriter George Kuhar performs with Playboy Spaceman at the Rockwell Ballroom on July 9, 2016. The band was playing at its album release party for “And His Father.” (Photo by Annie Bartholomew/KTOO)

Kidney failure, Obamacare, and sounds of hospital rooms all inspired Playboy Spaceman’s latest releases.

Playboy Spaceman’s latest recordings veer away from the guitar solos of their past, entering the ethereal. The song “Get Me Out of Here” teases with electronics reminiscent of medical devices. Songwriter and front man George Kuhar’s vocals are hazy and echo, grounded only by gritty drum machine fills.

He says song was recorded while  visiting a kidney specialist last year.

“It was a solo journey and I had some health concerns. I spent a few days in Seattle doing some blood work, tests and things.”

The lyrics came to him throughout the day. That night, he finished it from his Travelodge hotel room where he laid the electronic beats and vocals that would become its framework.

The song closes out their new EP, which complements Playboy Spaceman’s second full-length album that went live for download last week. Kuhar named the album “And His Father,” in honor of dad who passed away unexpectedly this spring.

The album was recorded at Peabody’s Monster, a South Franklin cooperative music space, where many of Juneau’s rock musicians can be heard practicing at night.

“It definitely has the feeling of a place where a lot of music has been played,” says Kuhar. “There’s cigarette stains in the carpet, posters all over the place and other profanities. ”

Band members Bridget Kuhar, Jason Messing, Nick Wagner and Simon Taylor all took a week off to record in their rehearsal space. But Kuhar says, the vocals just sounded wrong, “I wanted to be like a samurai and be like, swoosh swoosh — you know and done, let’s put it out there. I had to learn how to sing all over again.”

Keyboard player Bridget Kuhar donated a kidney to her now husband George Kuhar who she collaborates with in the band Playboy Spaceman. (Photo by Annie Bartholomew/KTOO)

Keyboard player Bridget Kuhar donated a kidney to her now husband George Kuhar who she collaborates with in the band Playboy Spaceman. (Photo by Annie Bartholomew/KTOO)

Kuhar’s experiences with the health care industry are a central theme on the album and inform his songwriting. In 2008 he received a kidney transplant from his now wife and collaborator Bridget, who plays keyboards in the band. Because of the Affordable Care Act, Kuhar was able to treat his pre-existing conditions, allowing him to take time off from his job at the hospital to finish the album.

He says he was inspired by the human perseverance he observed working in surgical services at Bartlett Regional Hospital, patients making hard decisions to overcome their medical issues, and how things become complicated with the business of medicine.

“I have a lot of frustration with the way money plays into health care. Profiting off someone’s ailment,” says Kuhar. “That part’s hard to swallow. And how we do we make that right? I don’t know.”

For now, Playboy Spaceman is taking their music north. They’re playing at the 49th State Brewing Co.’s locations in Anchorage on Friday and Healy on Saturday.

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