We got to know them through their magnificent acoustic ballads in ‘Sons of Anarchy’, but Battleme from America (fronted by Lions singer, Matt Drenik), is actually a rock’n’roll band overfilled with ’70s garage attitude. Here’s what Matt Drenik said to StraightOnMusic, just a few hours before their mini tour in Greece kicks off!
-Here in Greece we first became acquainted with you through the Sons of Anarchy series. How did this collaboration came about and what was the experience like?
Ward Hake (VP Fox Music) saw my old band Lions at SXSW Music Festival and thought we’d be a good fit to work on music for a new series that eventually turned into Sons of Anarchy. Eventually they asked me to start working on more folk acoustic songs for them. Bob Thiele and I became fast friends and that friendship led to me being asked to collaborate with him and the Forest Rangers on a number of songs throughout the series.
-Any funny incidents during this time you’d like to share?
Getting drunk Dave Way’s (Forest Ranger producer, Macy Gray, Michael Jackson) studio after a private SOA party and cranking Guided By Voices through his amazing sound system was pretty funny.
-Do the songs we hear in the series, that are mostly acoustic, folk ballads and quite differ from your other material, reflect only the SOA universe or are they maybe just another aspect of Battleme?
I’ve always ridden both waves. I love Dylan and I love the Flaming Lips. I love Elliott Smith and I love The Velvet Underground. I believe all that stuff can sound good together.
-Do you think that there is an actual rock ’n’ roll way of living in the SOA, like ‘rock’ morals that they lived by and it made being an outlaw almost attractive or do you think that it’s a façade, the club, the bikes, even the ever-romantic concept of the ‘old-lady’, just sugarcoated, ‘glazed’, or maybe just human, parts of actually being a criminal?
They definitely glorified it, but who doesn’t glorify parts of who they are? People love that. That’s entertainment. They took a niche that had been a fascinating topic, especially in American culture, and capitalized on that fascination. People love the bad because deep down inside they might wish to live vicariously through a character like that.
Your newest album ‘Habitual Love Songs’ was released earlier this year. What was the inspiration for it and in what ways is it different from everything else you’ve done so far?
We were on tour for most of 2014 and upon returning home, I started work on the demos for HLS. I wanted something romantic, visceral and raw. I wanted it to feel like 70s garage stomp stuff. Did I achieve that? I don’t know. You tell me. Overall it’s definitely my “baby” record. I feel like it’s going to end up defining what this band will become.
Are the songs parts of one story throughout the album or are they individual, separate stories? What do they have in common?
They’re all separate stories that have a common thread– they’re all about people I know. It’s like one big love song to everyone I’ve ever loved.
-Do you have any personal favorites, which are they and why?
Pete’s Song and Back to You Pete’s is about a good friend of mine from art school in Boston. I often look back at that time as the moment that would define the rest of my life. And Back To You is about one of my best friends that passed away a year before. Rob was the man.
-Is there any artist/band you draw inspiration from and why?
Hairy Patt Band is one. My brother is the singer and he means the world to me. Grateful Dead because I’m a hippie at heart. Shhhh don’t tell my punk friends.
-What artist/band, dead, alive or even disbanded, would you like to play with?
Lou Reed Transformer era 1972 or Modern Lovers 1976 era. Both are tops in my book.
-To someone who has never heard of you, which songs would you tell them to listen to, that are the essence of Battleme, in order for them to get to know who you are?
-If you could choose any festival to play at, which would it be and why?
Reading. Because it’s the best in the world.
-Word has it that you are pretty good live, what’s the energy like at your shows? What do you expect from the greek audience and the series of lives here?
High energy strut and kicks. We like to get down and roll around in the scuzz – and when it’s good it can be really good.
-How come did you decide to do a few more stops in smaller cities in Greece?
They asked and we accepted! Why not? Sometimes the best shows are in small towns that not many bands tour through.
-Any goals for 2017? How do you see yourselves in a few years time?
Having fun and making great art. That’s all we can expect. We’re just ordinary people loving what we do.
-Thank you very much for your time! Wish you all the best and we really look forward to your shows!
See you soon!