- 31 Aug 15
Fully instrumental and loving it, New York trio Battles admit vocals were always an afterthought anyway as they deliver a third album titled with Snoop's laid-back outlook in mind.
It’s never a bad idea to take a leaf out of Slick Rick and Snoop Dogg’s book. No, not that kind of leaf. Considering the experimental, post-rocky waters in which they tread are often seen as the preserve of serious, beardy blokes with an intense love for their own instruments, Battles did well to lend their third album a title that could never be considered po-faced or pretentious.
As the aforementioned hip-hoppers once rhymed in carefree fashion: La Di Da Di.
“I like the title because it relieves any pressure from the record right away,” says Ian Williams, guitarist for the New York trio. “It’s like 'lodi dodi, we like to party'! It’s a breezy declaration of the record. It’s not a heavy-handed art move: ‘THIS IS A MIND-BLOWING RECORD’. I like the light touch. You should make of it what you want.”
While I’ve been enjoying the complex but beguiling LP – as will any music fan who fell hard for the cream of the old Richter Collective crop – I’m glad I’m not reviewing it. The type of music that the famous “dancing about architecture” line was made for, does Williams ever pity the reviewers trying to make heads or tails of their sound?
“I know what you mean. That’s the thing, when we’re asked to talk about the music, I always feel like ‘well, the thing we wanted to say was the recorded music and that’s why we made it, right?’ So we’re dancing around the issue of ‘how do we talk about it?’”
Let’s just dive right in at its genesis, then. Their first album in four years, La Di Da Di is the follow-up to a record that had a protracted birth.
In the midst of recording 2011’s well-received Gloss Drop, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Tyonadai Braxton left the band. Describing it at the time as a “dark situation”, they ended up locked in the studio for months on end.
This time, they headed for their usual Pawtucket, Rhode Island, haunt – “far enough away from our homes here in New York that your local life can’t quite grab you and distract you” – with ideas in place to avoid another long haul.
“We took our time before we went to the studio,” Williams nods. “Mostly Dave [Konopka] or I would generate these textures and loops that suggested at least a backdrop of a song. We would share these things and talk about things we liked or didn’t like. Narrow it down to 15 ideas that everybody was excited about pursuing.”
In terms of the big picture, however, there weren’t too many parameters set. Ian, Dave and drummer John Stanier were keen to enjoy the process this time around and favoured a looser approach. To that end, their reduced numbers were a help, rather than a hindrance. They seem liberated, tighter than ever. You can understand why they didn’t bother finding a new voice and risking upsetting the chemistry.
“It’s more fun and more relaxed. There used to be ‘traffic control’ for this band. Meaning that there were so many people making so much noise, to make a cohesive piece of music out [was difficult]. Everyone had to hone it and pull back. But now there’s a little more space. It’s more interesting.”
Set to pinball around the world for the rest of the year, they’ve already started bringing new material to the people. Before their Electric Picnic slot, they’ve gigged in Italy and shot a new video in Barcelona. How did the new material go down?
“The show we just did in Sicily was by far the most new songs we’d played onstage. It was good, it went really well. But I look forward to people knowing the songs and hopefully the responses will get a little more informed.”
Thinking ahead to the response they’re bound to get from the Stradbally crowd, “informed” might not be the first word that springs to mind. Oxegen 2006 and memories of scores of well-watered teens (myself included) running at breakneck speed for their tent as their set started while roaring “BATTLES!” maniacally does.
“Ha! There’s nothing more fun than the drunken Irish teens that have turned into drunken late-20 somethings!”