Battles Chooses Its Genre Wisely

BY Victoria Fleischer and Allie Morris  August 7, 2012 at 12:38 PM EDT


It’s hard to categorize Battles’ sound — so hard that even they don’t like to.

“We try to blend so many different genres and styles that I think we just try to avoid the labeling of things,” the band’s guitarist and bassist Dave Konopka said. If he had to choose, though, he says the band would fall under the category of experimental rock.

Battles formed some 12 years ago, when guitarist and keyboardist Ian Williams recruited Konopka, drummer John Stanier and vocalist Tyondai Braxton. “We started playing a little bit and getting these songs together, and it happened so organically that it was never this huge decision to be this band that writes this type of music,” Konopka said.

Although the band’s sound has been classified as math rock, Konopka refutes the label. “Sometimes when you have an odd time signature, it just happens to be that way. It’s not anything that we plan out or anything,” he said. “So, math rock we always try to stay away from, because the connotations are a totally different kind of music than what we really are.”

After a series of EPs, the band released its first full album, “Mirrored,” in 2007 to positive reviews.

In 2010, while in the process of working on the band’s next album, Braxton decided to part ways. The remaining three bandmates weren’t eager to commit to a new vocalist nor to become an instrumental band.

“Some of the songs we were writing had vocals in them, so rather than all of the sudden decide whether you get a new person to come and sing or [become] an instrumental band, we just made another functionally based decision,” said Konopka. “We thought the best way to do this was get guest vocalists and just cast the net wide and see what comes back”

So for the next album, they brought in a range of artists to add vocals. The album, “Gloss Drop,” featured the likes of Gary Numan, Matias Aguayo and Kazu Makino from the band Blonde Redhead.

Using guest vocalists also allowed the band to create music in a different way. At first, the group would jam together to get the creative process moving. Yet, as the band has evolved, there have been fewer jams and more individual work.

“It seems easier to kind of look at the parts that you have on a table in a more tangible way, when it’s on a computer screen, and you can work on it,” said Konopka. “That’s the way we kind of make our albums now, and as we are piecing the album together we could send a song in an instrumental format and send it to a vocalist and just see how they interpret it and what their demo is like.”

For the next step, the band decided to remix the entire “Gloss Drop” album. The result, named “Dross Glop,” is the album that the band is now touring.

“We thought it would be a good project to sort of remix every track, which is kind of an outdated thing,” said Konopka. “The process was really interesting. It is a lot of people that we really admire and like their music. Trying to figure out what track would be good for certain people and getting back the stuff they sent us was really it was a really rewarding part of the process.”