"Different experiences each time": Battles

We’re counting days to witness Battles’ fascinating live performance two nights in a row, in Salon İKSV on 24th and 25th of September. Days before the show, we had a chance to chat with the band’s drummer John Stanier about being on tour and the band’s musical approach.

Interview by Cem Kayıran – Illustration by Sadi Güran

You’re about to start a tour in Europe and you were in Berlin for a while.

Yeah, I lived here mostly, also in New York. But I’ve been here exactly for a week now.

There’s just one off day in the tour. How do you guys get yourself ready for such a tour?

I don’t have to get ready actually. The tour is like twelve shows in two weeks. You know there are tours that you’re flying everyday, with all the zig-zags. We’ll play in Helsinki and then Sevilla and Madrid in Spain. Then Holland and way down to Italy and way back to Norway. That means you don’t sleep at all. You have to be at the airport at 7 am in the morning. But the good thing about these tours is they’re kind of crazy and kind of short. Tour ends when you’re just about to go “Oh, it’s too much!”. So it’s perfect.

Do you think that tours like these help you getting tight as a band as well? 

We’re at the very very end of our touring schedule. After this tour we’ll do South America tour and that will be it. We’ve been touring like a year.

I ask that question because I saw you guys right before the release of La Di Da Di. And when I saw you guys after the release, and I felt that you guys have became tighter, especially for the songs from the new LP.

Every record that we do has been totally different. La Di Da Di was done in a different way, too. We don’t all live in New York anymore, Ian has a kid, I live in Berlin… Basically now it’s like we rehearse before we start touring. And in the first couple of tours we kinda figure it all out. So yeah, you’re absolutely right. That’s why I like the end tours. You guys are lucky, because this will be our final show of this tour.

You guys will play two nights in a row. So, should we expect two different shows?

Maybe. Haha.

You don’t like to give any clues right?

No, come on!

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about your first visit to İstanbul?  

I think we had at least a full day off. We saw a lot. To be honest, I was really excited. Right now I live in Berlin and there are tons and tons of Turkish people here. Just coming from New York, I didn’t know anything about Turkey. There’s no “Little Turkey” in New York. That made it awesome.

Let’s talk about La Di Da Di. It’s been one year since the release of the record. How do you feel about it right now? 

I feel good. We did a lot of videos and stuff before the release. So in reality it’s like one year and a half. And in fact, it’s more like over two years. There were a lot of preparation for it. You know, and you tour and you see your friends everywhere and it’s fun. And I always get a little depressed when the touring is over. Because you know, that’s it. You just sit around and wait for the next record, I don’t know whenever the hell that’s going to be. But at the end, I feel like we achieved what we wanted to do. But I’m kind of itching to do some new stuff.

So does that mean that we won’t wait for four more years for the next record?

I have no idea! I hope not. We toured for over a year for Gloss Drop. And everybody wanted to take some time off, understandably. Also I did a tour with the other band that I’m in. That lasted for another year. And then we started to writing  a little bit. We finished La Di Da Di and handed it to Warp and they were like “Ah, you just missed the deadline”. So I think we had to sit on it for nine or ten months. That’s almost a year right there.

How’s working with Warp? They just released the reissues of your first records. 

I think they’re fantastic. I’ve always liked being on that label. Their history is really impressive.

I want to hear what was it like when three of you guys got together for the first time in a studio to play.

It was a very very long time ago. That was like almost 14 years ago. It was pretty interesting, that was definitely not like something you would say “This is amazing”. It took a minute to figure out what we were doing. In fact it took more than a minute, it took a year of constantly playing.

In an interview you guys described the band as a “power trio”. In that sense, how would you describe the musical approach of Battles?

Again I feel like each record was completely different experience. The first record, we were four, everyone was in New York and we were doing a lot more jamming. We were in the studio every night. For Gloss Drop it was totally different. We kind of started from the beginning in the studio, so that was kinde of like half jamming half playing by ourselves. And the last record was done almost more seperately than together. Each record has a totally different approach. I think you can hear that too. So, I don’t know what the hell is going to be in the next record. I have no idea.

Also once you mentioned the “loop” is the backbone of Battles’ music. What does repetition mean to you in songwriting?

Loops are definitely the backbone of this band. They have been and probably they’ll always be. What we do with those loops is to contextualize what we’re tyring to say.

I really like the artwork of La Di Da Di. Maybe you guys would like to make one of those photos with Turkish food.

Hahaha. Yeah, sure! We did that once I think. I think we were in Berlin. We did an interview and they brought us some food but I’m not sure if they were Turkish food. Yeah, making one with Turkish food would be much more interesting!

Also I know that you’re fan of Ajax and you’re into football a lot.

Yeah, actually I found out that the first night we’re in İstanbul there’s a game between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe. I know that’s one of the biggest rivalries in the world. But I don’t think I’ll be able to go, cause we have to play.