Need To Know: Battles


By Courtney Nichols

When Tyondai Braxton said adieu to Battles in the midst of a writing session for their latest album, Gloss Drop, the band replaced his would-be instrumentation and vocals with some of music's most venerable voices. Ranging from '80s anti-pop icon Gary Numan to techno producer Matias Aguayo and Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino, Battles turned what was a difficult situation into an advantageous one and ended up extending their math rock to a larger, more diverse audience.

A trio of self-proclaimed music geeks, Battles first entered the scene in 2004 but did not find significant success until their Atlas EP in 2006. Perhaps most notably recognized for the track 'Ice Cream,' the band is one of those rare acts that has maintained underground appeal while achieving mainstream success.

While the band was in Chicago to headline the Pitchfork Music Festival, we sat down with bassist Dave Konopka to chat the geeky process of naming an instrumental track, 'sexy music,' and his all-time favorite ice cream.

Out: Battles, in many ways, is a well-curated collective. Is there a distinct emotional journey you want your listeners to feel?
Dave Konopka: I don't think so. I don't think we are the kind of band that typically prescribes emotions to our music. It is more about playing with sound, texture, and rhythms. If emotion becomes a byproduct of that, then that is good thing. And if you can get something out of that emotion, then that is a good thing. I don't think we are in the position to prescribe emotional sensations.

What about visuals? You music videos have some really intense visual moments. Do you want to invoke a synesthetic reaction with your music?
It's very important for all of us. This is especially true with our newest single, 'Ice Cream.' Our last album was very cool. We were in a mirrored room and it was all slick and we are playing in these cool environments. This time, it was more fun to play around with things. There isn't usually a sexual aspect to our music, but it was fun to play with that on a single like 'Ice Cream.' It is more summertime. It has this Tropicalia sexiness to it.

What is your definition of 'sexy music'?
Saxophone music.

Kenny G?
There is something with working with Matias Aguayo on a single like 'Ice Cream.' If you strip away the vocals and get another vocalist in there, that song can be really dorky. Don't ask me what dorky music is, but it can be a Hanson song or this Os Mutantes, Tropicalia thing. I always associated that Tropicalia sound with being sexy.

Tags: Music