Sunday, March 29, 2009

BATTLETORN- some memories upon the release of Reflect the Filth

[Battletorn- the early days]

Like a bunch of people who have been involved with this kind of music, there was a period of time when I didn't go to a lot of hardcore shows. It wasn't that I had "moved on" or liked the music less, or anything as dramatic as getting "fed up" with "the scene" and so stopped going to shows. True, there was a good deal of hardcore music I was just plainly not interested in, but there's always been a good portion of that going on, and I found it easy enough to avoid even when I was going to hardcore shows every weekend. It was more of a practical thing for me. From 2002 on, for a few years, I was living in NYC and teaching. There wasn't much going on in NYC that was close to me; I didn't live too far from ABC No Rio, and while I was there a bunch in the mid to late 90's, I wasn't too interested in most of what was there in the interim. CBGB's didn't really have hardcore shows except for bigger ones, and a bunch of those I'd play with either Trenchcoat Army or the Nihilistics. But the stuff I was most interested in was happening in some spaces and lofts in Brooklyn and I just plain wasn't into trekking out there on a 45 minute to an hour subway ride on weeknights only to get up at 5 in the morning the next morning. I was into plenty of other music and went to shows regularly around NY to see other kinds of bands, so there wasn't a lack of music in my life. Who knows, maybe I'm making up excuses, but at that time, I do remember following what was going on in Denmark pretty closely and I loved me some Amdi Petersens Armee and Young Wasteners, I saw an Observers show that was pretty killer, and I picked up one of the earlier Career Suicide 7"s and thought it was awesome.

On one occasion, I went to see the bands the Witnesses and Bad Wizard at Sin-e at the location on Attorney Street. A pretty decent place to see a show, big stage, not too big/ not too small, good lines of sight to the stage, and it was never packed beyond belief. Bad Wizard had a big AC/DC thing going on and put on a good and loud show. I think they're still around and have some records on Tee Pee Records. I was mainly there to see the Witnesses who were one of those bands that came around in the days when blogs first started popping up, and the NY contingent thereof proclaimed that the NY rock scene (which, for some reason, they had everyone believe was gone) was suddenly "back." Of course the Strokes came out of that, and a bunch of other bands garnished a lot of attention in the wake. The Witnesses were one of those bands, and while the description above might come off sounding a bit derogatory, they were actually pretty awesome, had an un-ironic Stones-y/ Faces thing going on, put on a cool show, and a couple of them were cool people to boot. So I was at this show, the Witnesses were finished and Bad Wizard's stuff was set up. It was a typical NYC "indie" crowd at the time; lots of hipsters, folks who fancied themselves rockers, and just random folks. Everyone was milling about, and these three people just nonchalantly walked out of the crowd, this one dude who looked like he could have been a roadie for Bad Wizard picked up a guitar, some other dude sits behind the drums, and some girl with a metal t-shirt picked up the microphone, said something about playing a few songs before Bad Wizard went on.

[Battletorn w/ Beverly singing]

They then launched into a fucking racket that sounded like full on Victim in Pain-era AF meets Nausea. My jaw hit the floor, I was NOT expecting this at all. Are you kidding me? Is this a hardcore band? How could a band I never heard of before do this shit so damn well? I knew I was a little out of touch, but what the fuck?? Who the hell were these guys and gal? After the short blasts of the first song, I don't think the crowd knew what to make of this. In the awkward silence after the first song "Thanks, we're Battletorn." Battletorn, huh? They blasted a few more tracks, and walked off the stage. Such was their M.O. for the first bunch of shows. I had to see this band again. Somehow they got offered a bunch more hipster-type of shows, and I made it out to the shows when I could, but you could tell these folks just took whatever they would get and went with it. It was quite a cool vibe with very little pretense, whatever the scenario or circumstances were. Their sets barely lasted 10 to 15 minutes and often times shit was smashed in front of the stage. I don't know if it was a crew of hardcore folks bringing the mosh or some indie-schmoes putting going through the motions (probably a little of both), but it was such pandemonium, it almost didn't matter.

I started communicating with Omid and picked up their first single and album on Troubleman Records which were both cool. We found out we had a little conversation once on the subway platform at the East Broadway stop on the F line while I was helping my girlfriend move since he struck up a conversation about the Grief shirt I was wearing I bought at the CroMags/ Grief/ Queers show at Middlesex County College in '94. Dude was from Virginia originally, did some time in Enemy Soil, and knew his music (punk, metal, rock, and hardcore) inside and out. No wonder the Battletorn shit worked so well. We hit it off and decided to start working together putting out some Battletorn stuff on Mad at the World.

[Some more early Battletorn]

In the meantime, the singer Beverly left and Battletorn carried on as a two piece. I don't want to say I was skeptical, but I was a little bit curious how this would pan out, because I normally think of two-piece bands as a little bit gimmicky, but Battletorn continued to deliver. Their stuff got a bit darker, incorporated a bit more of the late 80's British thrashy hardcore style into their sound, and they got a ton more focused. We did the Burn Fast 7" with them, and then even when Omid moved to Nashville, TN, they kept it together and did the Terminal Dawn LP, a couple more tours, including the US, UK, and Japan. Some people didn't get it, some didn't like it, but with some people, it just clicked, and they loved the way this band managed their shit. From the first damn note on I saw of them, I'm one of the latter.

Everything they seemed to do was short, focused, and to the point (from their sets to their songs, from their tours to their recording process). It was never over-thought, but always well executed. Even though they developed this black and white aesthetic with hand-drawn, simple cover art, and minimal bells and whistles in the layout, it always turns out clean and well done. Working with these guys, I can honestly say there's a high quality control in there. I'm always comfortable giving them the reigns and letting them go to town on a project, however they want to get it done.
They recorded what now promises to be the final songs of their output comprising the Reflect the Filth LP (although some additional tracks from the same session might very well wind up on a split 7" with Double Negative), and may continue to play shows here and there after they some more jaunts here and there upon the release of the LP, but it seems like it might otherwise be the end of the road for Battletorn.

The test presses came in for Reflect the Filth, and they just sound awesome. Vinyl just carries this band's sound (and many others, for sure) so much better than any other format, and the LP has a larger number of mid-paced bangers (which I think Battletorn does best) than their previous efforts, I'm very excited to see this thing come out soon. I'm also proud to have had the chance to work with a band that surprised me and had me by the throat from the first note on. Thanks, dudes.

Reflect the Filth is on pre-order now. I imagine it'll be shipping in mid to late April. Pick it up here!!!

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