At The Opera
Itâ€™s not long now until renowned New York experimentalist collective, Battles, once again touch down on our shores.
The outfit were last in Australia to perform two spectacular shows at the Sydney Opera House for the inaugural Vivid Sydney Festival, curated by none other than Brian Eno. Battles founding member and guitarist/ sometimes-bassist, Dave Konopka, looks back on the bandâ€™s mindset during their barnstorming stint at the Opera House, and the changes which have eventuated since.
â€œIt was a pretty fun time,â€ he recalls. â€œIt was a privilege to be able to come back to Australia, especially to play the Sydney Opera House. And to be invited by Brian Eno, it was just an all round exciting experience for all of us. Those shows were great. I think we were starting to work on new material at that point, maybe even playing new stuff at the shows. It was an excellent way to end the last albumâ€™s touring cycle.â€
Not only did the shows at the Opera House mark the end of the â€˜Mirroredâ€™ touring cycle, but they also signified the beginning of a watershed transition for Battles. The two shows were among the last instances of the bandâ€™s distinctive vocalist, Tyondai Braxton, performing with the band. Though losing a quarter of their ranks, Dave explains that it was never an option for the group to cease existing under the Battles banner.
â€œNo, not at all. That wasnâ€™t even talked about. Battles has always been our band â€“ Ty was the last person to join Battles,â€ he explains. â€œIndicating that we wanted to change the name of the band would just be alluding to giving way too much credit â€“ well maybe not too much credit for him, but just taking away from what Ian [Williams, guitarist/ keyboardist] and John [Stanier, drums] and I have. Itâ€™s always been our band first and foremost.
â€œAs far as him leaving, it wasnâ€™t that big of a deal. I think we felt that things were heading in that direction. It was a slow, evolving process seeing that he was no longer interested in being part of the band or working with us. So when he made that decision it was fine. It wasnâ€™t shocking or anything. But he did have very poor timing,â€ Dave relays with a chuckle.
Before the public received any aural hint of what was to come on â€˜Gloss Dropâ€™, we were treated to the albumâ€™s striking album art. The sculpture, created by Dave, features an unidentifiable glob of strange pink matter, striking a weird balance between disgusting and appetising. â€œIt was more or less a reaction to â€˜Mirroredâ€™. My brothers and I built that room,â€ Dave states, referencing the stunning one-way mirror cube which features on the artwork to â€˜Mirroredâ€™, as well as the film clip for â€˜Atlasâ€™. â€œI still love that album cover. But this time around the music was a little more playful. I wanted this thing that was organic and non-representational. It stemmed from the idea of this dichotomy between the live show and a recorded document. When you have a recorded document, itâ€™s this very controlled, deliberate statement that you make.
â€œBut when you get into the live situation â€“ weâ€™re still a rock band first and foremost â€”Â it takes on a life of its own. If you were walking down the street and saw that somebody had spraypainted some dog shit pink, you would think, â€˜Hey, maybe I should go home and listen to that Battles albumâ€™. It comes from a place thatâ€™s a little more fun.â€
One of the standout moments on â€˜Gloss Dropâ€™ comes in the form of the Gary Numan-led charge of â€˜My Machinesâ€™. One canâ€™t help but fantasize about the possibility of a LPs worth of Numan-fronted Battles tracks. â€œHeâ€™s actually admitted himself that he doesnâ€™t like collaborating with anyone,â€ Dave reveals of the electro pioneer. â€œWhen he heard the song which we offered him to see if he would be interested, he just thought it was totally bizarre. He said something like, â€˜Thereâ€™s something interesting about what you guys are doing, and the process seems really coolâ€™,â€ Dave states before dismissing any hope of a collaborative album.
â€œI think it would be a little too much for us as well, but overall I donâ€™t think he would be interested in a full-length collaboration. Heâ€™s a legend, and has been carving his own path for so long, that he is so intently driven as a solo artist.â€
BATTLES PLAY THE BIG DAY OUT, GOLD COAST PARKLANDS, JANUARY 22. BIGDAYOUT.COM - â€˜GLOSS DROPâ€™ IS OUT NOW.