Lobsterfest 2017 Q&A: Bat House

By Eli Shively, General Manager

A group of four friends that met during their time attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bat House have spent a lot of time honing their craft. Though they like to remain humble about their wealth of instrumental talent, their self-released, self-titled debut record is certainly something to brag about. The band brought together deep psychedelic overtones and noodly math-rock guitars to create something truly spellbinding, and mesmerized the crowd at this year’s Lobsterfest with one of the standout sets of the entire weekend. Afterward, I sat down with bassist and vocalist Emmet Hayes and guitarists Ally Juleen and Shane Blank to talk about rock paper scissors, getting sweaty at SXSW, and why Dark Side of the Moon still holds up.

Your band has a special relationship with Athens. How did you come to know this city and the people here?

Ally: Our drummer Pompy’s best friend growing up in Pittsburgh, Megan Fair (note: Megan is the former General Manger of ACRN and we miss her lots) — she lived here in the Hardcore House of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Our first tour was all put together via the internet and friends of friends living all over the place. This was just one of the stops on the tour. Megan offered us a show at her house, she lived in a show house, and we came through. It was just one of those special places. You play so many places and you hear so many bands and meet so many people, but every once in a while you go to a town and it just sticks out way more than any other place. Athens is one of those.

How long has it been since you last played here?

Emmet: We played in August of 2015, so about a year and a half ago. Which is crazy! That was the first time that we played in Athens. It was awesome. We got to play to a bunch of new students and returning students, that was pretty much the week that all the kids were coming back to school. It was awesome to play for a lot of new faces that had never been to house shows before and didn’t really have that experience yet. It was really cool to see some of those people here tonight, too.

You just put out your first record this past weekend, but it sounds like you’ve been a band for a while now. How long has it been?

Ally: It’s been about three years. Our timeline is funny. We all met at Berklee and had been friends for a while and decided to play music. It takes us a long time to write songs. It took us like, three years to write twelve songs, basically. We’ve just been perfecting them live for a long time. Making this record took a lot longer than we anticipated. Shane and Emmet mixed it all, and we recorded most of it ourselves. It just takes way longer than you think to do something that you are really happy with. We put a lot of work into it and it took about two years longer than we thought it would. But we finally finished it, and it was like “Okay, we are finally happy with this. Three years later, we’re finally ready to release this to the world.” It’s important not to be rushed. Don’t put deadlines on yourself, just make a product that you’re happy with, as long as it needs to take.

Totally. Personally, I’m a huge fan and everyone at the station is too. We just put it in rotation.

Ally: That’s awesome. Thank you so much.

Of course. So you met at Berklee, in Boston — and you’re all very talented instrumentalists. How does that influence the kind of music you play?

Shane: I would say that the music that we wrote had a lot to do with the people we were surrounded by at the school. I think that there is a particularly high standard for bands in the area when they all do come from a school that’s like, known for its musical output. But I can’t say that we wrote anything with that in mind, really. If anything, we try to not think about stuff like that. But I definitely think that it has an unspoken effect on everyone. Every band in the area, at least maybe a couple of years ago, was writing music with a lot of odd time stuff.

Ally: High energy stuff.

Shane: Yeah, I mean a lot of complex but high energy music.

Ally: We were heavily influenced by the house show scene in Boston. It was a lot of high energy, odd-timey, loud shit. Thinking back now, we’re a product of what was going on in the Boston basements pretty much. We were inspired by that, and that’s what pushed us to make the music that we do.

Yeah, and you definitely combine a lot of different influences from a genre standpoint. Is there anything that you personally listened to while writing these songs that had an impact on you?

Shane: I mean, I would say that it’s just a bunch of different stuff.

Emmet: It’s all different, man.

Ally: We all listen to so much different music, we’re all open to a lot of different stuff. It could be like a walk in the park, you could get a new idea or listen to a new record or something old or — going to Berklee, too, you meet all kinds of people and listen to different shit in the hallways. We have open minds, we like all kinds of music. I don’t think you can even limit it down to five of our top influences. I don’t even know. Psych rock, math rock, folk rock, rock rock. Rock paper scissors.

Emmet: Paper scissors rock.

Ally: We’re a paper scissors rock band.

Rock-paper-scissors rock.

Emmet: Exactly.

Nice. So you self-released the record …

In the middle of this question, ACRN Sales Director Shem Krey walked over to our table to say hi. He didn’t know we were doing an interview.

Shem: Hey, do you mind, uh — hey guys, what’s up?

Hey Shem, we’re doing an interview.

Shem: Oh! I’m so sorry.

Ally: Dude, it’s cool.

Shem: Do you mind taking these ACRN shirts back to your dorm?

I can do that, for sure.

Shem: Awesome, thanks so much. And I’m taking you guys back to my house.

Ally: Yeah, we’re gonna tuck you in tonight. You get a smooch on the forehead.

Okay, bye Shem. Anyway, self-releasing a record is obviously a process, especially when it’s a physical release. What was your experience with that like?

Ally: Way longer process than we had anticipated. And it’s tough because you want to do it right, but how do you do it right? You want to get the most out of this thing that you put so much of your time, and blood, and sweat, and tears into. How do you put out a record will get the most attention that you feel it deserves? We’ve had friends put out records that — I don’t know, they put it out, and then a month later it’s kind of like lost in the fog. So we were releasing singles like, three or four months before the album came out. Dropping little Easter eggs, playing shows, and we did South By Southwest too. We were able to do that through Berklee. It was a huge learning process.

Shane: We also live in a time where you don’t need a label to like, drop an album. You can pretty much drop an album whenever you ultimately want to. It’s kind of an attractive thing about being a modern musician. You can just like, do that.

Ally: You really make your own way.

Shane: Right, exactly. We’ve had the option of doing that at our own pace as opposed to at the will of a label or anything like that. I’d say it’s been good. Self-releasing a record, I think at this moment in musical time is definitely the way to go.

What was South By Southwest like?

Ally: It was sweaty. A lot of noise. A lot of bands.

Shane: Yeah, a lot of bands. It was really really cool to be like, walking down a main street in Austin and hear something really cool coming from a bar and then follow that sound into the bar and see a band you’ve never seen before.

Ally: And be like, “Holy shit, this is awesome.”

Shane: We actually had some friends from Boston who were there, and we got to hang out with them. And they shared that very same feeling, just being stoked to like, meet and see these bands we had never heard of.

Ally: So much music. Soooooo much music.

Shane: All great, too.

Ally: There were 2,000 bands in for the week, or something?

Wait, is that the real number?

Ally: Yes, that is the real fuckin’ number.

Shane: Every place probably had like, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds.

Ally: Bands playing at hundreds of venues throughout the city, from like, 9 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Wow, that sounds overwhelming.

Ally: Very much so. In a beautiful, exhausting way.

Any future plans to promote the record or tour in the near future?

Emmet: We have a music video coming out for “Yarn,” which is the second track on our new album. It should be coming out in like, May or June. I think that was the time that we agreed on.

Ally: Yeah, it’s TBD. It’s all animated. It was done by our friend Jack Quinn in Boston. He worked on it for about a year and a half.

Dang, so the song’s been written for that long?

Ally: Oh yeah. Yes. We kept sending him mixes.

Emmet: The record was really a long process.

Ally: Yeah, it was like a long process for us. It was like a senior project gone crazy in a way.

So the songs have had a long time to just sit?

Shane: What was super interesting was like, we had the record mixed to a certain point and then we went on tour for five weeks. And when we came back — Emmet and I were mixing the record, and our own interpretation of the songs had completely changed when we came back. Playing them every single night, it was like “Oh, this is what should be happening at this part of the song.”

Emmet: It was like we didn’t know our own songs until we played them a million times.

Yeah, you find stuff that could potentially be better once you’re more familiar with them.

Ally: Yeah, we were going a little stir crazy trying to write new music, write new music. But in reality, our own songs that we had needed incubation time. We needed to play them every single night. There’s a lot of improvisation within the songs, too, and we spent a lot of time solidifying the parts and really bringing them to their full potential. Being on the road for five weeks and mixing the record helped.

Emmet: I would even say that like, us listening to tons of CDs we had in our car gave us a huge perspective of what we wanted to sound like. So when Shane and I came home and we listened to the mixes that we had, it was just like, “No.” We definitely changed a lot of what we were doing, and it was definitely eye-opening to go on tour and experience that. We had tons of listening time just driving around, you know?

Shane: We were super grateful for not putting out the record when we thought it was done. It was right before we went on tour. We were like, “Alright, is it done? Eh, no, I don’t think so, we should probably wait.” And I am eternally glad that we waited. It really changed everything.

Ally: When we did go on tour for five weeks and took like, a five-week break from our record, we only had a CD player in our 2002 Toyota soccer mom car. And we only had like, ten CDs.

Yeah, I was gonna ask what those CDs were.

Ally: Um, the big one was Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. We listened to that so many times! That’s when I learned to harmonize, on that tour singing along to those records. We had a whole bunch of Joni Mitchell. Plastic Beach by Gorillaz. Couple of Radiohead records. We had a couple And The Kids records. They’re a band from western Massachusetts, and they’re fuckin’ amazing. God, what else? What other records did we have?

Emmet: Hmm, I don’t know.

Ally: Beach Boys. Flaming Lips. Maps & Atlases.

Emmet: We had Dark Side of the Moon, too.

Ally: Yeah, Pink Floyd.

Shane: I listened to that album a lot when we were making the album. Not intentionally, but yeah. That record is kind of cheesy because it has the reputation that it’s got. But it’s absolutely like, a fucking masterpiece.

One thing all those records have in common is that they’re so well-produced, and it’s easy to tell you spent a lot of time making sure your record is super polished and mixed perfectly.

Ally: Thank you, that means a lot.

Thanks for coming out and playing, guys, we always love having you in town. Best of luck.

You read ACRN’s review of Bat House’s latest, Bat House as well as check out more photos from night two of Lobsterfest here.

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