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Friday, September 10, 2010

Behind the Beat: Exclusive Birds & Batteries MP3 and Video Premiere

Posted By on Fri, Sep 10, 2010 at 1:55 PM

click to enlarge Birds & Batteries - KRISTOPHER HANNUM
  • Kristopher Hannum
  • Birds & Batteries
Birds & Batteries is one of the few local bands that's pretty difficult to pin down. It's not garage rock, it's not synth-pop, it's not dance music, it's not lo-fi, it's not chillwave, and it's definitely not any strand of hip-hop. So what does the four-piece outfit sound like? Well, in some respects, the San Francisco quartet is a complete amalgamation of all of those sounds. As heard on their last EP, Up to No Good, Birds & Batteries is a band that translates a large sum of contemporary sounds into its own kind of -- as founder and lead singer Mike Sempert puts it -- "classic rock sound."

Now, Birds & Batteries is about to release a new full-length record, entitled Panorama. We were lucky enough to host this premiere of the album cut "Some Hypnotic Flash," as well as a "digital collage" that Sempert made, incorporating parts of his bands' last EP and the upcoming album. You can check out that stuff, along with an interesting Q&A we did with Birds & Batteries' frontman, after the jump.

"Some Hypnotic Flash"


Give us a brief history of Birds & Batteries. How long has the band been around, and what's the current lineup? 

Birds & Batteries has been around for almost six years. I started out on my own, recording demos in Cape Cod, Mass., and put the band together when I moved to San Francisco. We've been performing and touring with this core group for over three years, and it keeps getting better. The lineup is myself on keys and guitar, Christopher Walsh on guitar, Jill Heinke on bass and synth, Brian Michelson on drums and sampler, and everyone sings a bit.

What made you want to expand from a solo project to a full band?

The evolution from solo project to band came from the basic need to have this music played by talented humans. 

Your last release was an EP called Up to No Good, which seemed to put you on the radar for some major music press. Have you seen an increase in attention online and at your live shows since then?

I think each release is an opportunity to make another splash in the vast ocean of music. Each time, there's no way to know how big or small that splash might be until you do it, and even then, you don't know where all the ripples go. "Where are all the ripples?" you'll ask, and there might be some hanging around, actin' cool or maybe some floated away and they're just shy ripples. But then, long after those ripples have all gone to sleep, some guy wearing pants comes out to your show in Albuquerque, and says, "Whoa, surfs up, bro!" And if that man with the pants turns out to be Keanu Reeves? Well, you can thank Mr. Ripples Jr., who is all grown up, and is actually a big, big wave now -- like at the end of Point Break, when Patrick Swayze escapes. What's nice is: Yes, I do feel that there's a cumulative effect of releasing music and creating more fans with each release. Getting some people wet -- What? Er... 

Nice. I also heard about your recent signing to Velvet Blue Music. How did that come about?

It's actually a dual signing with Spune Records (out of Ft. Worth, TX) and Velvet Blue. We got to know Spune through our friends in Telegraph Canyon. Spune co-releases everything with Velvet Blue. So far, they've both been great.


And you'll be releasing your next full-length, Panorama, with them in October. What would you say some of the major differences between your last EP and this new record are?

The EP is funkier, synthier, and mostly ironic in lyrical tone. Panorama is more sincere, a little more serious, but more open, as well. There's more guitar, some pedal steel, a slightly more 'classic rock' sound by B&B standards. And by classic rock, I don't me the Coog (someday, Johnny, when I'm ready). I mean ELO, Talking Heads, John Lennon's "Walls and Bridges". Recorded music of the 1970s is so awesome and hard to compete with in terms of the way it sounds. But it's definitely something to strive for and be inspired by.

What local bands and producers have you guys been digging lately?

I like Blackbird Blackbird, Lucky Dragons (not really local), Tuneyards, and Devotionals. I saw Thao Nguyen play the Bay Bridged Regional Bias show, and was really impressed. 

What's your favorite place to play in the city? And your least favorite?

We love Bottom of the Hill. We won't comment on our least favorite.

If you had to compare Birds & Batteries to any animal (besides any birds, duh), what would it be?

Does Falcor from The Never Ending Story count as an animal? If the answer is yes, then Falcor.

What else is on the horizon for Birds & Batteries?

Touring. I've been writing a new record for 2011 and we've started practicing a couple of songs. Should be a good one.

Any advice for kids looking to start their own band in San Francisco?

Go to lots of shows, have a good time, be lucky, and make creative space/time for yourself and use it to the fullest.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown and @PatricFallon

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