INTERVIEW: Battles

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 7, 2011 3:00PM

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Photo by Dave Konopka
Battles is a band that mixes the math rock with the beats that make you want to dance. We remember seeing them at a totally stuffed, wall-to-wall people, show at Double Door a few years ago and were blown away at the effect they had on the crowd (and our feet). At that time they were a quartet with much of the visual focus falling on mulch-instrumentalist and vocalist Tyondai Braxton's gyrations behind his wall of gear while hisd bandmates Ian Williams, John Stanier and Dave Konopka whirled up an insane mixture of sound and rhythm that filled the room. Braxton left during the recording of the band's latest album, Gloss Drop, and the group continued on as a three piece with guest vocalists. The result sheds some of the proggier tendencies of their debut, Mirrored, but the band hasn't changed their focus on the gears inside their songs that make you want to move. Drummer John Stanier took a few minutes from the road to answer a few of our questions via email as the band made their way toward Chicago for their show tonight at The Vic.

CHICAGOIST: First off we kind of have to ask something about the departure of Tyondai. We know you recorded some of Gloss Drop with him so was it difficult to rework the album? And how do you think it affected your sound or songwriting process?

JOHN STANIER: It was difficult yet fun and challenging at the same time. The communication between 3 people who want to be there was such a breath of fresh air for us. It also made us exchange ideas in ways we hadn't done before.

C: The live show has changed a bit, including pre-recorded vocals. How is that? Does it affect the song's spontaneity at all or do you trigger the tracks manually to allow yourselves to play around with structure if you want?

JS: Because of the way that we are using the vocals it does allow us to experiment a bit with structure and the way the vocals fit in the song. Having that ability we still for the most part stick to the way the vocals were intended to be.

C: Have you been working on anything new on the road? Or are you more comfortable composing in the studio? How does that process work?

JS: We never write on the road usually because there's no time but mainly because of our set up. I think we come up with most ideas in our rehearsal studio and by ourselves as well.

C: We love the "My Machines" music video. It is crazy mind bending. What it was like to film and what do you all think of the final product? How much were you involved in the initial vision and planning? How they got involved with The Creator's Project?

JS: We could not be happier with the final version of the video and we think DANIELS are geniuses. We met people from the Creators Project when we were in London through Warp Films. I think The Creator's Project is an amazing organization that helps artists achieve their vision during difficult situations.

C: Five copies of "My Machines" silver 12" were to contain a handwritten lyric sheet by guest vocalist Gary Numan, but a lot of the copies were destroyed in the Sony DADC warehouse fire, so there's no knowing how many of the lyric sheets made it into circulation. Have you heard of any of them popping up? Did the fire affect the group in any other ways?

JS: I haven't heard of any of them popping up at all and maybe they are all destroyed. The Sony DADC fire was really horrible not just for us but it affected much smaller labels with extremely small amounts of stock. It definitely shut down some labels for good which
is a real shame.

C: You were just here this summer to play th Pitchfork Music Festival. How did that show compare to your 2007 appearance there and were there any nerves going into it?

JS: We really love playing the Pitchfork Festival especially for the staff that works it ... very pro but cool at the same time. It's not a typical giant corporate European festival, there is a lot of attention to detail.

Battles plays tonight, October 7, at The Vic, 3145 N Sheffield, 8 p.m., $19, 18+

Additional reporting by Michelle Meywes