“Usually we move more slowly West and get acclimated.” -- Ian Williams
By David Downs
The New York City post-prog rock four piece returns to San Francisco this week, fresh off the Vegoose stage they shared over the weekend in Las Vegas with robot rockers Daft Punk and Iggy and the Stooges. Their Thursday return to the Great American Music Hall marks the second live Battles experience for local music trendsters, and yet another date in a gnarly year of touring. The band's breakout debut 'Mirrored' transcended it's math rock roots this April, enabling a world romp that's fattened their passport with extra pages stamped “Latvia”, “Australia” and most of Europe and Japan twice. ...
Guitarist and keyboardist Ian Williams says SF should prepare for a rather loud show this week, featuring four road-hardened dudes, eight amps, no earplugs, and quite a bit of dexterity.
“I play both the guitar and the keyboard at the same time, sort of fretting with my left hand in this half Eddy Van Halen style while my right hand is down on the keys. Plus, we do live samples on stage so we're capturing sounds on pedals, playing with them,” he says.
Lack of vocals, tight syncopated drumming, and very little in the way of traditional verse chorus verse structures lands the band far outside the mainstream, he says, but the mainstream has come to them.
“We've definitely crossed out of that sort of nerdy hard core music fan and into more of a general public, which is good. I enjoy that, I sort of like that. One thing that happens at shows – now you get girls for once, the guy with the beard who had to bring his girlfriend.”
Girls just have a harder time grooving to non-vocals, he admits.
“Yeah it's true I've found in in the general sense that girls do like vocals more. That's kind of the hit that Battles takes is 'it's music for guys'; which I really don't think is true.” The 17 year-old "math rock" label slapped on band only works if you're lazy, he says.
“I feel like it has nothing to do with that. There's no time signature games – it's just the general sense that, 'When I was in class, math was hard. And this music seems kind of hard. I guess it's like math.' It's sort of like an easy out,” he says. “Besides, numbers can be applied to all music. It's an odd term.”
Math rock or not, world fans have fed the band for most of the year. They four have proven immune to illness, he says, but relationships have suffered.
“The road has been hard. We all have girlfriends back in New York,” Williams says. “We've found it's cheaper to just fly them out than talking on the cell phone all the time. We're doing a Latin American tour and I'll be flying my girlfriend out.”
In addition to their much-needed Latin American diplomacy, 2008 also holds some R&R, then another round of shopping trips for bizarre instruments to fuel a new album, Williams says.
Battles plays Great American Music Hall Thursday at with No Age.