Batsch are a dark disco trio who have played in the bands of Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, Devon Sproule, Marker Starling, Nicholas Krgovich and Pink Shabab. Their music is inspired by bands such as Talking Heads, Little Dragon and Dutch Uncles. They have released a new album called Attend Every Party which is out now via Tin Angel Records. According to the press release, It’s not a sequel but a deeper investigation into the statements made on their not-quite-eponymous debut.
Check the full streaming below and read our chat with the band who detail the new album and much more.
Let’s start from the current situation. How are you living these strange times and what are the main concerns as an artist?
Undoubtedly, the pandemic has been brutal for live entertainment and anyone involved in the music industry. Earning a living through music is tough at the best of times, but this has been unimaginable. All three of us have day jobs – to support ourselves and our families – so thankfully we haven’t been left destitute by the closure of the live events industry. However, our commitment to our art and the energy we throw into our music are no less than those of someone who does it professionally, so to have that part of ourselves stripped away for the past 18 months has been a real struggle. On the upside, spending more time at home has given us the space as individuals to develop creatively. Matt has started a side-project called !nvisible Hand. We also contributed a track to the City of Culture visual album in summer 2020, which was a project the Coventry City of Culture 2021 team set up to support local musicians and filmmakers through the first lockdown. Our track was called Amateur Mechanic and we wrote it as a bit of a collage, on our home recording devices. That was a challenge, but a very enjoyable experience. Artists will always adapt to their conditions and bounce back. Sometimes the best art comes from difficult circumstances, and in the grand scheme of things, it all could have been a lot worse. Not to detract from the difficulty that many people have endured, but at least we’re not living in a warzone, y’know.
“Attend Every Party” is your new album. What are the first vivid memories of this album and what was the main focus when you started to think of this album?
Initially, it was about revelling in the creative freedom of composing music with your best mates. We started writing these songs in the spring of 2017, just before the release of our first record, and after a good spell of touring. We felt confident in our forthcoming release and our live show, but eager to work on something new. Nothing beats the excitement of trying out new ideas without any pressure, making those first marks on a blank canvas. We had a new attitude of ‘everything’s valid; there are no bad ideas’. Our fourth member, Joe Carvell, was still in the band at that point, and he is such a creative musician, not just for his melodic, driving basslines, but fully formed ideas with synth lines, guitar lines and drum beats. He really was integral to this album. The recording process happened fairly quickly, and much of it was composed in the studio. As it began to take shape, the patterns and themes emerged. We’ve never really had conversations like ‘Let’s make an album about this’ or ‘I want to sound like that’, but common themes will become apparent when making several tracks within a short period. Circumstances and limitations will shape the direction you take. With the instruments we had at our disposal, and the space we were recording in, we found ourselves enjoying the idea of sounding faintly familiar, but unplaceable; neither overtly retro nor contemporary; like a forgotten dream or a false memory.
The new album is self-produced. How important is the DIY approach for your music?
DIY is the word! We’ve actually built a studio ourselves, using quite a bit of recycled materials. It’s in the same premises as the venue we work at, called The Tin. Musically speaking, though, the DIY approach is a necessary part of the Batsch process, well it certainly was for this record, at least. Although we believe that time and budget constraints can yield great results, as they can force decisions to be made quickly, for us, having ultimate creative freedom, without these constraints, allows us to fully develop our ideas. We’re all very collaborative musicians and open to outside perspectives, but previous experience of studios hasn’t always produced the results we’ve looked for. Over recent years, we’ve developed the skills to be self-sufficient and achieve in practice what we imagine in our heads, but this album feels like the most coherent application of those skills yet. I suppose that’s called progress. We really had the liberty to shape this record exactly the way we wanted to, which is why it’s so important to us to have a space to hide away and be creative in.
When the pandemic will be over and there will be live shows again, how would you like to introduce this album on the stage?
Prior to the pandemic, our bass player, Joe, left the band and we became a trio. That was the biggest challenge we’ve faced as a band, in terms of our live show, because we had to work out a whole set from scratch. Much of the album was written in the studio, so working out how to do it live was a big hurdle. We weren’t overly concerned with recreating the songs faithfully, exactly as they are on the record, but capturing their essence and putting it into an arrangement that works in a live setting. We never wanted to replace Joe – he was irreplaceable – so instead we started incorporating samplers more and more into our setup. Many of his basslines have ended up on the Roland SPDSX, as have many of the details from the studio arrangements, such as one-off synth hits, field recordings and Laetitia Sadier’s vocal parts. It feels like we’ve already overcome some of the biggest challenges, so now we’re just looking forward to blowing off the cobwebs, and perhaps making some new material.
During and after the lockdown period, Bandcamp was the only online platform which tried to help musicians, waiving their fees on the site, every first Friday of the month. What do you think of this kind of initiative and how do you feel about the rights of artists connected to streaming platforms?
That Bandcamp initiative has been really good. We’d like to take the opportunity to mention our friend, Joe Wilson (AKA Year Without a Summer, AKA Sadogasm), who spearheaded a compilation album of local artists, early in the first lockdown, called ‘Songs From the Vaults’, the proceeds of which went to The Tin, to help the venue stay afloat during the forced closure. The record was released on the first Bandcamp fee-free Friday, demonstrating not only how an initiative like this can help sustain artists, but also inspire them to rally together and support grass-roots music venues, benefiting the wider community. Thank you, Bandcamp, for being transparent, accessible and conscious of the people who make the music. Spotify, Apple and other streaming platforms, on the other hand, appear mysterious and convoluted, at least in terms of their pay distribution, which is, presumably, exactly how they intend it to be. We can’t pretend to be experts on how streaming profits are distributed, so it’s difficult to comment on whether it’s a just system or not, which is exactly the point! What we can say is that we’ve always had to subsidise our art with alternative sources of income and there aren’t many other job roles in the industry in which you find people working for beer tokens. It’s heartening, though, to see the likes of Tom Gray leading the #BrokenRecord movement, and Nadine Shah testifying in court, to reform the whole system.
You are from Coventry. I’m really interested in the connection between the places we live over the years, our roots and the art. How do you feel these themes connect to your music and your way of thinking about music? What are your favourite places which have inspired you the most?
Absolutely, that’s a very interesting topic. You can’t really separate the art from the place. No artist lives inside a vacuum, so where do they draw their inspiration from? Possibly from other art, which is good and healthy; educating themself, giving their art context among other art. But what about the wider cultural context, or the elements that make art unique? A person is, by-and-large, a product of their surroundings, whether influenced by or reactive against them, so why would their art be any different? The internet may have made other cultures more accessible, but we don’t generally live our entire lives in the virtual domain, so our real life surroundings are still vital to the way we channel our experiences through our art. It doesn’t always have to be literal or obvious, but location will affect the output. For Batsch, we may not directly sing about Coventry landmarks or characters, but our experiences are always present in the music. Sometimes, that might be literally, for example, when referring to the field recordings of the magpies in the trees behind our back gate and our kids playing in the park, or perhaps the natural acoustic of the coal vaults in which we recorded most of the album. Other times it might be more abstract, like in the lyrics, when exploring a twilight underground, or reimagining the economy. It might just be an overall atmosphere of urban, British greyness. However the music is interpreted by the listener, we take pride in knowing that we’ve remained true to ourselves throughout the process, and invariably, the influence of our home city will be very much embedded in there too.
Ritual question. Have you seen or heard anything good recently?
Some of the artists we’ve been listening to and enjoying lately: Sault, Little Simz, Sampa the Great, Solange, Tyler the Creator, Tirzah, Louis Cole, Sneaks, St Panther and always Little Dragon.