Jul 2017 11

L.A.’s Battle Tapes is on the electro/rock fast track with a hot new EP about to be released, further proving the band’s vibrant and atmospheric musical dynamic.
 
Photo Credit: Lindsey Byrnes

 

An InterView with Josh Boardman of Battle Tapes

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

Los Angeles is proving to be a fertile ground for the latest and most innovative electronic and industrial music, and one of the most exciting acts to emerge from the City of Angels is Battle Tapes. Formed in late 2010 by vocalist/guitarist Josh Boardman, keyboardist/vocalist Riley Mackin, bassist Stephen Bannister, and drummer Beak Wing, Battle Tapes is steadily rising in the ranks of independent music for the band’s vibrant blend of rocking melodies and poppy, danceable electronics. With several EPs, including the Solid Gold collaboration with Party Nails, and the Polygon full-length album, the band’s music has found its way into numerous soundtracks for cinema, television, video games, and trailers and ad campaigns; on top of that, Battle Tapes have performed remixes for such heavy hitting rock and alternative acts like Wendy & Lisa, Helmet, and Julien-K. Now on the eve of the release of the latest EP, titled Form, Battle Tapes’ Josh Boardman speaks with ReGen Magazine about the band’s songwriting dynamic and electrifying aesthetic, with some insights into the atmosphere of creativity that cities like Los Angeles and New York cultivate, and a few hints of what is yet to come from Battle Tapes.

 

In the past seven years, Battle Tapes has released several EPs, with Form being the latest, and one full-length album. Before we talk about Form, what is it about the EP format that appeals most to the band and your approach to making music?

Boardman: It appeals to us because it allows us to release music more frequently. And in the current state of the music industry, I think audience attention is maybe the most valuable commodity. The EP format kind of helps keep you on people’s radar, but it also allows us to evolve a little faster.

Are there any particular considerations that go into a full-length album, as far as Battle Tapes is concerned, as opposed to the shorter EP?

Boardman: Not really. We approach every release with the same level of care and thoughtfulness. We did Polygon as a full-length because we wanted to give people a lot of music to swim around in and get to know us.

 

 

What is the band dynamic like in terms of songwriting and balancing the aesthetics of being a rock band with a decidedly electronic sound – or vice versa, being an electronic band with rock stylings?

Boardman: It’s interesting because we don’t really have a set way that we write songs. I think the fact that we are a band but also seeded heavily in the electronic world allows us to approach songwriting from a variety of angles. Sometimes I write by myself; sometimes Riley will come up with an idea and we’ll volley it back and forth. Or sometimes we are all in the same room together, be it in the studio or rehearsal space. With regards to aesthetic, we just do what we are feeling represents the music best. We don’t make decidedly EDM or rock or etc. So in turn, I don’t think we feel the pressure to fit in or conform to the predefined aesthetics of those worlds. It’s freeing to feel inclined to chart your own course. But at the same time, it can be a little scary because you are never sure if it’s going to resonate with people.

For the new EP, Form, what was most different in the band’s approach to the music (if at all)?

Boardman: With Form, we decidedly went with sounds and production techniques that in the past we’d shied away from for whatever reason – be it because we thought its was something ‘lame’ or not necessarily in our wheelhouse. We thought, ‘Let’s take these things we’d sworn off and make them our own.’ There were definitely some cringe worthy moments in the process, but once we pushed through the kneejerk of using those sounds the way we’d always heard them used, things got really interesting and really fun.

Regarding the band’s live shows, what have you found to be the major challenges in translating your style to the live environment?

Boardman: The biggest challenge is figuring out what the live versions of the songs are. I think anyone who’s made a record and then gone out to perform has found that some songs don’t necessarily translate. We usually strip songs down to what they are at the core and build up from there. Thanks to the nature of our band’s format, we can adjust where we see fit to adjust – making a song lean heavier on the live instruments or as far as doing a whole remix of a song just for the live show.

Battle Tapes’ music has been featured in numerous soundtracks, trailers, and TV spots, which seems to be a steady avenue for electronic acts and artists. What are your thoughts on why this is and in what ways do you think it has impacted the way people (both the industry and the audience) perceive electronic/rock/hybrid music?

Boardman: It’s kind of strange, right? For so long, electronic music was this niche subculture thing, and having your music used in any form outside of radio or MTV was super taboo. I think at the end of the day, people are always looking for new ways to be entertained and looking for the new ‘next.’ Brands have always used an association with an artist or music to convey their values to the public. We are just in a phase where electronic based music is the vehicle with which they use do that.

 
Photo Credit: Lindsey Byrnes
 

What are your thoughts on the current retro trend in electronic music – i.e. synthwave? In some ways, your mix of pop melodies, rock, and classic electronic sounds puts Battle Tapes ahead of this particular curve.

Boardman: I love it! I want more of it. And I’m elated if we are part of the wave that is making that movement more commonplace.

While Los Angeles has always been a hotbed of musical talent and activity, it does seem like in the last two or three years, the city’s been the center of a lot of the new and latest electronic and industrial music (i.e. The Black Queen, 3TEETH, KANGA, Youth Code, Julien-K, to name but a few). What are your thoughts on this? On a wider tangent, what would you like to see as the next evolution in music – from any direction, be it compositional or technological?

Boardman: Cities like L.A. are always going to attract likeminded people. In every small town, there is that one kid who doesn’t really fit in and L.A. and N.Y. are a haven for those types. So it’s no surprise that when you put those people in the same vicinity, you are going to get interesting results. I really like that people are caring less about the process with which music is made or what box it fits in to and more on whether they like it or not at face value. I’ve never understood people who need qualifiers to give a song an honest listen. So, I enjoy seeing the trend move away from that mindset.

What’s next for Battle Tapes?

Boardman: We have a really dope video coming out for the second single off our upcoming EP, so keep an eye on our socials for that. Maybe a couple of remixes, maybe more touring, but we are already gearing up to get back in the studio to get working on the next phase of things.

 

Battle Tapes
Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, YouTube

 

Photography by Lindsey Byrnes, courtesy of Battle Tapes

 

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