Friday, January 14, 2011

Interview: Battlestations

By Mike Sullivan

I recently got a chance to sit down with members of up-and-coming Chicago band Battlestations and ask them about their sound, their first live show coming up on Friday, January 21st at Liars Club (9 p.m., 1665 W. Fullerton Ave.) and more. You can check out their music before the show on their website and their Reverb Nation page, and find out what members Mike, Dan and Jason had to say below.

WCR: I know some of you have played in other bands together throughout the years. Can you give us a little bit of history on how Battlestations came about?

Mike: We’re all linked up from Twin Wrecks the Memory and Jesus and the Devil. I have played with Dan and Bob since high school. I met Jason about 10 years ago and played with him in Jesus and the Devil. Left there and joined Dan with Twin Wrecks, ruined that band (laughing) and then came back up here (their studio). I love it up here, I have a lot of cool posters.

Where does the name Battlestations come from?

Mike: There were no other band names left in the universe. Everything we came up with was already taken. It was the last thing we came up with. It would have ruined the band if we didn’t come up with a name.

Dan: I wanted to call it Guns and Robots, but there were no takers. There are a lot of people who loved it because it’s funny, but it never stuck. So then it just came down to pick any name and that’s what we came up with. So there’s no meaning or history, or anything like that.

I have heard people describe your music as electro-punk or electro-rock. It's hard to put a label on it. How would you describe your music to people that have not heard it yet?

Mike: We just received the best label from (fellow band member) Frank.

Jason: (Jason pulls up e-mail) He calls it “We’re kinda neo new-wave, slightly homoerotic, androgynous dance rock.” Pretty good…(laughing).

What are some of the other bands that have had an influence on Battlestations?

Mike: Everything we listen to. Everything from A to Z. I don’t think there isn’t one genre that we haven’t touched.

Dan: Yeah, it’s a bit of everything. Some older stuff sounds like The Cardigans and some new stuff sounds like Gorillaz.

Each song has its own completely different identity. Can you walk us through your writing process?

Mike: There’s so many different ways they come about. The writing process we use now is completely different than before. They (the songs) kinda get passed around and everyone adds their touch to it.

Dan: Usually Mike will have an idea and come in on his lunch break and lay it down. Then everyone will start adding stuff to it, or Bob will come in with a bass line or something amazing that we would never come up with. But it still needs finishing, so each person will add to it to come up with a finished track. It's everyone’s input in the end, and that what makes the current nine tracks work.

What do you think sets Battlestations apart from other bands in Chicago?

Mike: (Laughing) We’re the F’n shit! We all came from the angst ridden time where it was all heavy space music and we all had attitude and did what we wanted. Countless years of fuck that shit and destroying drum kits. We got all that out of our system and came back up here and settled back into our roots of what we started with. It opens us up to a wider genre, and I don’t think there’s one person that wouldn’t get into this in one way or another. I want something that people can dance to and bop around with. There’s way more maturity in this band now and it caused us to take this on a bit differently...

Jason: We’re actually a band.

Dan: Going back, I think, a lot of bands do this; Twin Wrecks did it, Jesus and the Devil did it, where this is our sound and this is what we do. We now have all these cool toys at our disposal to play with that can let us experiment. This makes our sound different.

Do you feel that living and playing in Chicago has had an impact your music?

Jason: I love Chicago.

Dan: If we were somewhere else, I think we would be in a different position.

Mike: Yeah, but by that it has forced us to go against what everyone else is doing. It seems a lot of new bands popping up are now getting into this genre of experimentation, whereas before it was all angst and punk rock or whatever you call it. The scene has all been cleaned up and now makes it a bit more difficult to get your name out. You used to have to go push your music, hand out flyers, etc, but now we just let the music speak for us. We’ve spent a good three years building something up that’s well worth it. I don’t think I have been more secure or more confident in any other band. I have no problem pushing it in someone’s face and saying "this is cool shit" versus "hey, I’m in this band, check it out." We made sure everything was right in our eyes with this.

What can people expect at your debut show on the 21st?


Mike: That’s a good question. We don’t really know.

Jason: We rarely get to play together as a band at the moment.

Dan: We don’t even know how we’re going to plug everything in.

Jason: Yeah, we got too much stuff!

Mike: It's three computers, an electronic drum set. I never had to do anything like this. At a show I usually just set up my drums and then knock them over when I’m done. But now I have to plug shit in and I have to think, "how am I going to label all of this?".

Jason: You can expect us to try and pull these songs off.

Dan: Try and not suck.

Mike: There will be singing, Dan will be there, there will be dancing. I may wear a button up shirt, I don’t know. Haven’t really thought that one out.

Dan: That is the question, isn’t it.

Whats next for the band?

Dan: We have another record just about ready. Should be done within six months.

Jason: We want to get more shows under our belt and really get this down.


Check out more WCR interviews:
The Congregation
Fall Fox
Diamond Rings
Frightened Rabbit

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