Interview: BATTS

Interview: BATTS

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BATTS is the musical project of Tanya Batt, who is a 26 year old musician born in the UK and thriving in the Melbourne music scene. Figaro caught up with BATTS for a beaker of beer last week to discuss her upcoming EP, moving to Melbourne, her greatest influences and outer space.

So judging by your lovely accent, its safe to say you weren’t born in Australia? When did the change from Melbourne come about?

Yes, well, I grew up in England and I moved to Australia when I was 13, but not straight to Melbourne I originally moved to a place called Warragul. Then when I was 16 I went to America on exchange to a town of 5,000 people called Colville. And after some time back in the UK I moved to the city of Melbourne when I was 18.

Were you involved in music before you moved to Australia, was it heavily apart of your upbringing?

Well, I grew up being an actress, but my dad is a singer and I grew up watching him. I was completely tone deaf and couldn’t sing to save my life. However, when I was 12 and I got the lead role in the musical ‘Oliver’ and my parents thought it was a sick joke, to the point where they told my whole family they couldn’t go. My mum actually walked out of the room when I told them and made me sing my audition to my Dad because she thought they gave it to me out of pity. Turns out I wasn’t tone-deaf anymore.

So being an actress mainly at what point did you start to take music more seriously?

Well, I always wrote songs, not with an instrument but with lyrics and melodies and I would construct an entire song with just vocals etc. When I started working at Target for work experience in high school and I met this guy called James who was a legend and he was into music and he started helping me record stuff. So we used to go to his shed and drink $2 wine and Barefoot beers and make music together. He helped start it all up and then I started doing music when I moved to Melbourne and met the right people. One of my friends introduced me to some people who ended up being my first band actually.

So it’s safe to say that Melbourne influenced your musicianship? 

Mmmhm, oh yeah, just all the people in it. All my best friends are just the most amazing musicians. And the standard in Melbourne is so high that it forces you to want to be better. Not because I’m trying to compete with others because I don’t like to compete or compare my music to any other musicians, you should only compete with yourself. You’ll only grow if you compete against yourself I think. Just aiming to write a song better than your last or be able to play guitar better in 6 months or whatever, that’s a healthier way to do it I think. Melbourne is so world class when it comes to music and my friends inspire me so much because they’re always so supportive and it means you can have some of the best musicians at hand to play with. The support is something else, I’ve been doing this for a really long time now and there are still people who came to my first gigs who come to my gigs now, and they talk about your growth from the last show etc and it’s so nice.

You work so damn hard at it too. I can imagine having that outside view from others can make all the tiring work with music so worth it and more valued within yourself?

100%, the support really is really important and also honesty. It’s so nice when someone comes up and tells you from an outer perspective that it looks like you’ve found what you want to be making. Which I feel I finally have.

So your new single ‘Little White Lies’ has been out for a little while now, which is truly beautiful song. You talked briefly about it at your show, but could you discuss a bit about what the lyrics are about, and what the process was like of making that song? Was it something you wrote at home or banged out in the studio?

Yeah! Well I was listening to a lot of Andy Shauf at the time who’s one of my favourite artists and influences at the moment and it just made me want to sing. So I kinda of just picked up my guitar and I have this weird obsession of loving watching smoke dissipating, like watching smoke just dissolve. And so then “smoke it dissipates around me” was the first line I had for it. So I picked up my guitar and I started playing that and everything came out really quick, the whole song came out pretty much straight away in one or two goes and then played it through again to record it and then listen back to the lyrics. So the whole little verse where it says…

Smoke it dissipates around me,
So I take another toke,
and I tell my doctor that I don’t smoke,
Little white lies.

…is how the concept of the song came about and how I think little white lies are about as common to us as breathing. Like we don’t even realise we’re doing it and it slips out and I don't think people feel guilty because they are quite natural now. Like when you say “sorry I’m running late the train got stuck for a while” but realistically you just got on the train late, that’s probably a bad example. But it’s a reminder of that as well to be more aware of it, maybe its as you get older and you start seeing it everywhere. But I guess the song is also about the desire for that deeper conversation/honesty.

When I first saw you perform was when you opened up for Timberwolf on hisHold You Up tour, and I got to see you a bit later at your own headliner gig which was dope, but I got to see the difference between a solo set and a band set which I thought was interesting. So to you what’s the difference between the two sets?

Oh yeah! That’s so cool. But oh man, so much! Like to me they are two different artists. Solo is a pretty new for me. I always had a band when playing although would never play guitar live, I’d just sing, I just liked that freedom when I first started out. When I’m solo I definitely talk more because its really weird when you’re up there alone and I’m pretty awkward and I’m used to all the other sounds and instruments around it so when I’m playing it alone it’s very different, but its also the most amazing thing.

                                                                          
When I decided to play solo more, the coolest thing when thinking of how to do it is that my top three favourite songwriters in Australia all do this certain thing live they and watching them taught me a lot about it. One of the writers Christopher Coleman pretty much taught me everything I know about performing solo just from watching him perform. Just like the way you get to play with an audience when you do solo is so cool. But watching those three play live, they just have these little techniques at their gigs and it’s so great to try put them to use for yourself and see them work. But with a band it’s very different. But as a recap, when I play with a band I’m connecting a lot more with them and I hope that connects with the audience and when I play solo I connect more with the audience myself if that makes sense.

So you’re about to start recording your debut EP which sounds pretty exciting having only released single projects in the past. Can you tell me a bit more about that project? 

So my EP is tracked, so it’s all recorded, it was recorded in 5 hours and...

Wait, hang on, what? 5 hours?

*laughs*  like I said, I’ve been performing a lot, I knew exactly how I wanted them to sound and the boys knew the songs from shows and rehearsals. We live tracked it, so the boys we’re all in a room and I was sent off to do guitar and vocals in another room at the same time playing our parts of the songs through, the only song that wasn’t live tracked was ‘For Now’. Because we did that before the tour. Like that 5 hours doesn’t include mixing, but each song took 3 takes at most I think. We were familiar with what we wanted and you just play the songs like you do live and pray you don’t fuck up. But it’s recorded and now it’s being mixed. Release date will be sometime this year!

So then what can people expect from this EP as opposed to your previous singles?

Well obviously it’ll sound quite similar to ‘For Now’ and ‘Little White Lies’ and I’ve moved away from electronic now and back into indie folk stuff. I started watching a lot of music documentaries when I fell out of love with music and I was gonna quit. So I started watching all these docos of old musicians from the time when I find music was so pure and made in a certain way and it was so cool the way they talked about live tracking. Like Paul McCartney said stuff like “we would do 300 hundred takes and sometimes it’s just not right”, and you sit there and think fucking hell 300 takes of one song?! But then again maybe you’ve gotta do 300 to get a song as good as The Beatles. But hearing Stevie Nicks talk, whose one of my idols, about music and the energy captured in recording, I took from that and I wanted to delve into what it was and bring in new elements as we’re from a different time, but I wanted to keep a raw natural element to the EP. It’s an insight of my brain, which is space and a lot of random shit.

Your music video ‘For Now’ is very interesting yet gorgeous, as when I popped it on when I was dead-on sober the other night and I actually kinda felt I was floating through space. How did you dip into some of that content and make that video?

Sober?! Yes, that's so good! Okay, so basically I spend way too much of my time watching this type of stuff, and a lot of time on NASA archives really. I just think it’s amazing really. We’ve made some pretty cool things in this world as humans but the universe? Like holy shit. Anyway, NASA archives is where I got most of the content to make the video. It took a while to find the footage but then my friend helped me edit it all together which was really cool.

On that, can you tell me a fun fact about space?

If you were to drive a car on one of Saturn’s rings at 100km’s an hour, it would take you 14 weeks to finish one lap.

What're a few things that are next on the calendar for BATTS?

So EP this year, I’ll drop another single pretty soon. But basically this type of transitional EP first, and then an album next year which I’ve already started writing for. And we're going away to write that in this cabin in the woods which I’m so excited about. Like you can see the most stars you’ll ever see, the first time I got so overwhelmed I cried. So I’m taking the lads and some songs away there to bring the tracks to life and write the album for next year. But I will be touring for this EP. I’m just so keen to play it to people.
(Rumour has it, maybe even an upbeat song…)

Lastly, we do a monthly Spotify playlist, could you give us a few songs that you reckon should be on people’s radar? 

Oh my god yes! Alright, so the first thing we’re gonna do here is do ‘Tomorrow Never Came’ by Lana Del Rey and Sean Lennon which is blowing my mind, then we’re gonna do Andy Shauf ‘Early to The Party’. Let’s do Big Thief ‘Paul’, Braille Face ‘Because, Hayden Calnin ‘Dirt’ and lastly Robert Muinos ‘Weeks at All’.

Photography: Tianna Eger

Photography: Tianna Eger

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