Battles: “Massive Fights are Part of the Game.” Interview by Ruth Bailey


Math rock enthusiasts were elated last week with the release of the much anticipated third album from the New York City trio Battles, called: La Di Da Di. The group as we know them today (Ian Williams, Dave Konopka and John Stanier) were borne from the urban streetscape and fabric of Brooklyn in the early 2000s and thanks to Williams (lead guitarist) and Stanier (drummer) literally stumbling upon each other on a New York street things seemed to flow from there for the band musically and they have been connected ever since, so recalls Battles’ drummer, John Stanier.

“When Ian started the band it wasn’t called Battles. Basically everyone knew Ian from different eras. I’ve known [him]for many, many years from his old band – Don Caballero and my old band – Helmet. Dave’s old band played with Ian and Tai (former member of Battles) somehow and so everyone sort of knew Ian and he moved to New York finally and Dave moved to New York and the three of them had already played a show together.”

Over a decade later and Battles continue to create awesome. Signed to Warp Records in 2006, the trio released an EP C/B EP early that year followed up soon after by their debut album Mirrored, which they recorded in 2007. Another album did not follow until 2011 Gloss Drop which worked well to whip math rock missionaries into a ‘hallowed be thy name’ worshiping state. Since then, however, we haven’t heard too much from the band.

“Basically we toured for almost two years off our last record (Gloss Drop) and then it just took a really long time to write La Di Da Di and a couple of personal things happened to us and then I went on tour with my other band. Oh, and I live in Berlin now…”

Reconciling geographical differences, Stanier feels, is not a huge issue for the group.

“It doesn’t really make that much of a difference. None of us write on the road. We all split up many, many times and we’ll share some ideas but we’ll work on our own. Fifty per cent of this record was written by ourselves/alone and then we’d get back together and the ideas will change and bounce them back to each other.”

Today’s announcement from the organisers of Laneway for Australian, New Zealand and Asian fans that the talented ambient noise trio will be heading their way this summer for a slew of shows as a part of the mega festival’s billing, ensures the bands sometimes lack of congruency caused by being apart will is restored but also means Stanier is returning to one of his accidental second homes.

For those less familiar, the significance of Battles touring and Stanier returning down under can perhaps be explained by his own musical legacy. Throughout an illustrious music making career, Stanier has enjoyed inclusion in some well-known experimental rock and noise derivative acts including the aforementioned ’90s stalwarts Helmet, as well as band Tomahawk and these days, more interestingly to Australian audiences, he also finds himself the drummer for Adelaide-based act The Mark of Cain. His band member status with the Australian alternative rock fiends allowing him the opportunity to visit Australia, he believes, around 50 or 60 times.

“I’ve probably lived there – and this time I need some kind of bush adventure. I don’t want to get sick of Australia – I need to see the other side.

In particular, this time around he’s keen on driving the stretch of road between Albany and Broome in Western Australia. So much so, he tells Cyclic, he has already made up his mind to hire a car.

“There is something about that sort of driving tour. Because on the left you have really weird abandoned beaches and on the right you have just like total cracked earth.” he says.

The band are somewhat renowned for their epic stints spent recording at Machines with Magnets studios located in Paw Tucket, Rhode Island. The previous album saw them spend nearly 9 months in camp there, but this time around Stanier maintains the band learned how to better prepare themselves before heading into the studio to record.

“When we’re ready, we go up. Sometimes we don’t commit to making decisions because there is unlimited options and you can get really caught up – going into your rabbit hole, really, it’s unlimited options. That’s one of the bad things about not playing constantly together.

Next thing you know it’s 45 options of one tiny line. There is no way anyone has the patience to sift through 40,000 takes.”

And this seems to be where the name of the band Battles comes into play. Apparently everything about the band is intended to be a democracy according to Stanier however the band struggles to even decide on which type of cuisine to be eating if it’s up for debate.

“There is no hierarchy whatsoever and we’re so democratic for a minute we thought, because we’re a three piece (majority rules), but we can’t even decide if two of us want to go to a Greek restaurant or a French restaurant – we don’t even do that. We’re 100 per cent a democracy.”

This lack of decision making authority translates to the recording studio in some unconventional manners continues Stanier.

“That being said it’s not always smooth sailing. There are huuuuge fights – massive fights but that’s all part of the game and I think that it’s a healthy amount of everything… it’s not too much of one thing.”

La Di Da Di is out via Warp Records/ Inertia now.
Battles are part of the Laneway Festival shows happening in 2016.


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I find myself in a 'looping state of mind' more often than not.