This Monday belongs to no one other than Bailey Cogan.
The 26-year-old singer-songwriter's group 26 BATS! is debuting "Portal Party," its third album to be released on the 26th of a month. The cherished numerology is a nod to Cogan's May 26 birthday and a figure that's guided their artistry from the start.
"That's my magic number, that's the number that follows me everywhere. Why not celebrate it?" Cogan said.
Celebrate, indeed. "Portal Party" and its upcoming 7th St. Entry release show Aug. 6 signify a change for Cogan's golden year. Once a quintet, 26 BATS! now comprises just Cogan and longtime bandmate/producer Karl Remus as a collaborative duo who write, record and mix songs together.
The interlocked pair's 16-track album is a departure from the heavy jazz and R&B sounds that once defined the band's music, introducing more experimental song structures, drum machines and synths.
"Our past albums we recorded together as a band. This album is not like that at all," said Remus. "It's like, slowly building layers and overdubbing and shape-shifting the song, and a lot of manipulation of certain parts. And so it's a completely different kind of a live sound."
Cogan and Remus, 29, met on Twitter in 2013, sharing lyrics from the late St. Paul rapper Eyedea. "Portal Party," made largely during the COVID-19 pandemic, is about facing fears — like jumping into unknown "portals" with the support of friends.
"I think of fear as this big, shadowy figure that's really scary on the surface," Cogan said. "But when you punch through it, it's just a shadow, it's actually nothing. So, looking at it like a portal is the same thing where you're like, 'I'm gonna jump into this, look around, see if I can have a good time. If not, hop out.'
"And that is sonically true in this album, too. We purposely put a lot of 'portal' noises that might kind of send the song into a completely different dimension or space, which is really fun. So it kind of is about unpredictability, adventure with friends, and trying to make the best of the end of the world."
The album includes voice messages from friends and water-droplet, laser and thunder noises ("portal" sounds) that the two recorded on a road trip around the Southern and Western United States this spring. And you'll hear Cogan's dog's collar clinking alongside their piano on the album's third track, "Run."
Paving new sounds
The quintet experienced a surge in popularity after releasing its second album, "Onyx," with such songs as "Do What You Do," "I'm OK" and "Call Me Daddy" late in 2018. The band performed across the Twin Cities at breweries, festivals and block parties, while gaining exposure on public radio's 89.3 the Current.
Its last local show as a full group was playing the Current's 15th birthday party in January 2020 at First Avenue, a personal milestone for the artists.
"We knew after that it was going to be a different type of thing," Remus said. "It was bittersweet, but almost in hindsight, a very good way to kind of cap off that era."
The members — including drummer Warren Thomas Fenzi, trumpeter Daniel Chavez and bassist Christian Wheeler — had been playing several times a week together as a part of the Kremblems Collective, but were beginning to disband as they focused on other pursuits.
When the pandemic hit, living situations separated most of them while bringing Cogan and Remus closer. Residing together in northeast Minneapolis at the time, they began writing, playing and recording.
Still, Wheeler and Chavez, along with guest bassist Jack Stanek and brass player Samuel Howden, are featured on "Portal Party" and will play some live shows with 26 BATS!
Parts of the album reflect the band's previous "genre-fluid" style, but Cogan and Remus want to continue paving their own kind of music — like one of their influences, the Australian jazz-funk band Hiatus Kaiyote — instead of regurgitating a mashup of others' sounds.
"The common theme of 26 BATS! is just me — and my identity is nonconforming," said Cogan, who identifies as transgender, nonbinary and genderfluid.
One thing that hasn't changed is critiques of capitalism and policing — concerns that go back to "Guilty" on the band's first album, 2017's "Cave Cuts," and its lyrics about the 2015 police shooting of Jamar Clark, white supremacy and the Minneapolis Police Department. Cogan and Remus say they were further radicalized by the pandemic, George Floyd's murder and last year's Black Lives Matter protests, which the new album reflects in various ways.
"We both recognize the necessity for art in any type of revolution and social change," Remus said.
Cogan and Remus are getting ready for their first show in front of an audience since the pandemic — which also will be their first show as a duo.
While working on their new stage presence, they're looking forward to re-energizing in a live setting after the isolation of releasing music online and playing virtual streams. For Cogan, the big thing is focusing on fun.
"I want to do like, theatrics," Cogan said. "I want some confetti guns. I was thinking about: How do we acquire a fog machine?"
26 BATS! plans on touring later this year as well as debuting personal projects that are still in the works. But first, Cogan and Remus hope fans join in by celebrating the number 26 and embracing weirdness.
"That's been a theme of the 26 BATS! shows in the past," Remus said. "It's like a freak show, in a good way. Everybody can be their weirdest self and feel comfortable being whoever they are, without any B.S."
Madison Karas • 612-673-7394
New album: "Portal Party," available on all streaming services.
Release party: 9 p.m. Aug. 6, also featuring Keep for Cheap and Mrs. Pinky and the Great Fox, 7th St. Entry, 701 1st Av. N., Mpls., 18-plus, $15, first-avenue.com