“ bat-tle v
2. vi to strive or contend in order to overcome or achieve something.
Duff Duff Duff Duff. Tss Tss Tss Tss. Thump Thump Thump Thump. Many annoyances can soundtrack the suicide of a young music journo but somewhere near the top of the list surely needs to be the sound-checking of The Cooper Temple Clause’s drum kit. Should it get so unbearable that I do decide to hurl myself off of Koko’s middle tier balcony however, I fear that my untimely death would not be enough to halt the relentless thudding. And so, I stick it out as a shout from the gods hollers, “can I get more of the floor tom please?” Duff Duff Duff Duff.
The silver lining on this otherwise darkest of clouds is that it’s not The Coopers who are getting the Loud And Quiet once over today, but rather their tour support, Battle: a band who themselves possess the patience of four saints watching grass grow.
Their career, as you may already know, has been picking up a steady pace for some time now as this London quartet plan their every move meticulously. And so, as the band are photographed from the roof to the floorboards of this once student cesspit, the least we can do is bite our lip and wait. “High Hat!” Tss Tss Tss Tss.
Let it be said that Battle front man Jason Bavanandan is not the man the music press will have you believe. Expecting the cock sure ‘motor mouth’ that he has been portrayed as, Bavanandan’s eagerness to discuss music in sprawling tangents and at great length paints the singer in an altogether more flattering light. Of his public perception he reasons that maybe people get the wrong impression purely on the ground that he does have an opinion to be heard – “I wouldn’t same I’m gobby. I am very opinionated but then we all are.” Which is something that we get from Battle instantly. If Bavanandan is a ‘motor mouth’ then so too is bassist Tim Scudder and guitarist James Ellis, with drummer Oliver Davies (the band’s very own George Harrison) arguably less so but still very much an equal member of the gang.
There’s a band motto (or maybe that should be a few band mottos) that Bavanandan, void of embarrassment, announces as ‘Things can only get better,’ before best friend James chips in with the rather tongue in cheek ‘Movin’ on up’ and/or ‘Moving forward together’ – “We like to adopt A&R sayings,” jokes the guitarist.
Still, Bavanandan considers Battle “quite an unlucky band” (hence for former slogan to live by, upping team moral) despite these four university friends seemingly doing alright for themselves, and doing so their own way and at their own rate.
Their spacey and often romantic guitar pop/rock that earned them not only support slots early in their career with Bloc Party but also gained them similar critical acclaim and buzz as Kele and Co. resulted in the band signing to Transgressive Records over a year ago. And, no doubt due to the label’s manifesto of only signing bands that offer a little more than faddish flavours of the month, Battle appear to have found the most comfortable of homes.
“A lot of people would have told us to fuck off by now. I really believe that,” says a grateful Bavanandan. “Our relationship goes from strength to strength with Toby and Tim [the Transgressive founders and bosses].”
Late last month Battle went some way to proving their worth as part of the Transgressive contingent, releasing mini LP, ‘Back To Earth’. Seven tracks of old favourites such as ‘Wicked Owl’ and ‘Isabelle’, as well as new songs that include the recent single ‘Beautiful Dynasty’, it’s a taster of what’s to come from the band when they release their full studio album in early 2007. Velvet vocals from Bavanandan that soar climax in the closing ‘Easy To Listen To’; a track that is part Clap Your Hands’ ‘Over And Over Again’, part Robert Smith doing an even more heartfelt ‘Lullaby’ than he achieved on his Cure original. All in all it shows Battle to be a band that are determined to not own a trademark sound.
Fans might be disappointed that a full album is still yet to surface and cynics might be writing the band off as a group who have ‘missed their window of opportunity’ but, as we say, Battle are meticulous. They are leaving nothing to chance. A half-baked album could have been with you this summer but new (better) tracks have bumped off some oldies to ensure that this release is just right.
“I mean everything that falls out my mouth,” yells Bavanandan to launch Battle’s 2006 anthem of desperation, ‘Tendency’. And he does mean it too. He, Tim, James and Oliver all mean it. Otherwise how would a band (one of the very few occupations that allows you freedom from office hours) clock in and out of their rehearsal studio five days a week? “We might have the weekend off but yeah, unless we’re touring or recording, we practice every day,” confirms James.
“You throw yourself into it don’t you?” offers Tim. “It’s really good to get into that work ethic and in a way it demystifies the whole process. It stops everyone thinking, ‘Oh I’m an artist’. You have to produce on a consistent basis so you can’t say ‘Oh I’m not feeling creative today.'”
On second thought the band’s dedication shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Bavanandan and James – friends since school – have, after all, always based everything around their band. Any other day job was not considered, causing their choice of university to centre around where they could find a bassist and drummer, which college would give them the biggest loan for equipment and where would be near enough to home in order to bunk the bus back to their folks for hot meals once food rations had all gone on guitar strings. Luckily for them, Tim and Oliver felt as passionately about the idea as they did. And now the band couldn’t be happier with what they do for a living, Tim himself making no bones about it.
“It’s an honour and a real privilege,” he says before putting us straight on the pragmatic flipside of the business. “I don’t feel any gratitude to the people who have given us the money [to make music]though because they want to make money off of us.”
Still, abusing their privilege – while temping to most in their position – is not something that Battle are about to risk.
“The amount of bands that we see who just get drunk all the time… I don’t understand that. You wouldn’t go to work pissed would you?” says James, voicing his concern before it’s swiftly met by Bavanandran’s view.
“But that is the work isn’t it. It’s like an inverted Status Quo with a band. It’s like you’ve got the right to just be a twat. Not that drinking’s being twatish. We like the occasional drink. Maybe a sherry at Christmas.”
Now that ‘art rock’ is considered dead, you might be thinking that Battle too are for the funeral palour, somewhere in the cremation queue between The Futureheads and Maximo Park. But could you really consider Battle ‘art rock’? No more so than ‘new rave’ and, despite claiming to have written the first new rave anthem (‘Sit With Me’ is a song that you’ll have to wait for the album to hear), these guys are certainly no Klaxons. Where are the haircuts? And the eyeliner? And the florescent clothes? It’s something that worries the band less than most who are constantly trying to avoid being shoehorned into a pigeonhole. Instead they look at the situation honestly and with a collective cool head.
“I genuinely don’t think we are a scene band and I don’t think we copy any band that are out there,” says Tim, throwing down the gauntlet. “If we got lumped in with a load of bands that we didn’t share any affinity with it’d be so frustrating.”
“If we were to find that happening? I think we would naturally move away from it,” concludes Bavanandan when probed. “You should never have to consciously break away from anything. When a band’s great, they’re just unique.”
Of course, whether a band are given the time and chance to breakaway from said ‘scenes’ that are thrust upon them nowadays is a whole other story. With labels dropping bands due to their dictated expiry dates rapidly approaching, few will see the day they are considered to be the new Blur or Radiohead. And, as with all artists, only time will tell Battle’s fate.
But as the industry continues to fill with rich kids who wouldn’t dream of working their bands five days a week, it remains that Battle are extremely healthy for new music. They might not be the last band doing it for all of the right reasons (namely to create music with something to say, regardless of the groupies perk) but they are certainly one of a select few. A dying breed who deserve all they have worked for.