Mistletone is honoured to present a new song by The Bats. December Ice is the A-side of a split 7″ vinyl release with Melbourne band Boomgates, a label collaboration between Mistletone + Bedroom Suck to celebrate Melbourne Music Week 2013.
As part of the celebrations for Melbourne Music Week 2013, Mistletone is honoured to present a brand new song by The Bats. December Ice is the A-side of a split 7″ vinyl release with Boomgates, a label collaboration between Mistletone + Bedroom Suck Records. December Ice is now available on digital release (click below to order on iTunes), and limited edition 7″ vinyl. The vinyl pressing is expected to sell out, so order yours now from the Mistletone mail order store, or visit our merch table early in the night on Opening Night to score your very own collector’s item. Have a listen on Mistletone Soundcloud above.
Previously unreleased, December Ice was one of the tracks that didn’t make it on to The Bats’ most recent album Free All The Monsters. It was taken from the album recording sessions at Seacliffe Asylum — a 19th century psychiatric hospital in the small village of Seacliff, located to the north of Dunedin in the Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island) — and later mixed by Dale Cotton, the NZ engineer behind High Dependency Unit, Dimmer and several Bats albums.
Paul Kean of The Bats remarks: “We ran out of time to do much more with this than capture it as a live studio recording. I didn’t know what I was going to play on bass when we started out so it’s virtually just me grooving along to the song as it evolved.
“December Ice is a bit different to your average Bats song. There are also a late night ‘space’ jams in existence from the Seacliffe session, that are way more left of centre, and may never be heard by anyone other than the band. December Ice evokes a northern hemisphere feeling. Skidding out on December ice, and taking me away from all my worries.”
The Bats will be guests of honour at the Mistletone-curated Opening Night for Melbourne Music Week 2013 on Friday, November 15 at The Residence. The Bats headline a dream-team lineup along with Boomgates, Montero + Sonny & the Sunsets (USA). This special event will be The Bats’ only Australian show for 2013. Early bird tickets sold out in one hour, general admission tickets on sale now & selling fast!
To quote a review from their last Australian tour: “Is there a word for better than perfect? If there is, New Zealand’s The Bats are it. Like a band reborn, The Bats absolutely smash this show — they’re back for real, and they rule.”
PRAISE FOR FREE ALL THE MONSTERS:
- “As you’d expect from any self-respecting Bats album, Free All The Monsters is chock full of outstanding guitar pop songs” - RAVE
- “The band has been more brazen about exploring other genres — Space Junk has a wonderful psych edge — yet, as before, have managed to absorb those influences into the monolith of their own unmistakeable sound.” – BEAT
- “There’s an evolution underway… The band with the distinguished back catalogue is looking ever forward.” – INPRESS
- “Free All The Monsters is characteristically Bats: seeking you out like a human sonar, slowly revealing more with each listen.” - THE THOUSANDS
Free All The Monsters was released in 2011 on Mistletone Records / Inertia in Australia, and on the mighty Flying Nun label in NZ.
Recorded at Seacliff, a former asylum just outside of Dunedin, New Zealand, and masterfully produced by Dale Cotton (HDU, The Clean, Dimmer), Free All The Monsters is fittingly filled with a manic and sophisticated pop charm. This album is one of The Bats’ strongest yet, with guitars swirling between powerful and bittersweet, backed by delicate vocals, swerving bass and stomping drums right through.
Watch The Bats perform Free All the Monsters live at KEXP during their recent North American tour, via NPR, below:
How do you tell the story of The Bats?
One that began over 29-years ago in Christchurch, New Zealand. One that has included three EPs, seven albums and two compilations, numerous international tours and received gushing reviews from every corner of the music press.
Formed in 1982 by Robert Scott (The Clean) on lead vocals and guitar as well as being the chief songwriter, bassist Paul Kean (Toy Love), singer/guitarist Kaye Woodward and drummer Malcolm Grant (The Builders). Following a series of EPs, came their outstanding debut Daddy’s Highway in 1987 and from there it has been a stream of acclaimed albums (Law of Things (1988), Complietely Bats (1990), Fear of God (1991), Silverbeet (1993), Couchmaster (1995), 2000’s best of Thousands of Tiny Luminous Spheres as At The National Grid (2005), and 2008’s The Guilty Office) all the while amassing fans and friends around the world.
PRAISE FOR THE GUILTY OFFICE (MISTLETONE, 2008):
- “The Guilty Office will delight anyone interested in reflective antipodean pop – meaning The Go-Betweens, The Chills, Underground Lovers, Mum Smokes… The songs are ideal, unforced miniatures about spending time inside, the mysteries of friendship, dropping out in mottled sunspots and other dressed-down themes that are never maudlin, and without trace of frustration. Profound simple pie.” - TWO THOUSAND
- “One of the purest distillations ever of The Bats’ strengths… show(ing) off the poppy propulsion and happy-sad core that made The Bats one of the defining bands of the Flying Nun catalogue… the band’s revival appears complete.” – INPRESS
- “As fine a collection of songs from the pen of Robert Scott as there ever was” – MESS + NOISE
Legendary New Zealand band The Bats have been playing their distinctive style of melodic infused pop folk/rock for long enough to have drifted in and out of fashion several times, without even trying.
Let’s recap – it’s been well over 20 years so some might not know the background to The Bats ….
Often loosely referred to as an indie pop band, The Bats have amassed plenty of fans from their home base in Dunedin, New Zealand and offshore, notably in US where they toured frequently from 1986 to 1993 with Radiohead and others, and won gushing reviews from every corner of the music press. From 1994 they were busy in New Zealand working on raising families, side projects of Minisnap (Kaye Woodward’s songs), The Clean and solo albums from Robert Scott. In 2000 they put together a Bats greatest almost hits CD, 1000’s of Tiny Luminous Spheres, followed by their 2005 studio album The Bats At The National Grid which was rapturously received by the critics and led to a US tour in 2006.
For The Guilty Office - their seventh studio album and their Mistletone debut – The Bats continue to refine and develop their own idiosyncratic path, whilst also adding fresh sparkle and new ideas. The strings and additional instruments come to the fore, such as on the first single Castle Lights, and Robert Scott’s songwriting has become particularly strong on tracks such as Countersign and Crimson Enemy. It could have been the pentagonal room they recorded in at Christchurch music doyen John Kelcher’s studio, or the proximity to Christchurch’s beautiful Heathcote River, but either way, the band have come up with an album that shines among their best.
>>> Fun Bats fact: the music for the title sequence of the ABC-TV political-comedy series ‘The Hollowmen’ is The Bats’ North By North.
From Mess + Noise magazine: Mess+Noise Icons
Ahead of an Australian tour, The Bats’ Robert Scott talks to RENÉ SCHAEFER about the makings of the “Dunedin Sound”, balancing rock’n’roll with day jobs and what it’s like holding onto the same line-up for 27 years.
It’s impossible to underestimate the importance of Dunedin stalwart Robert Scott to New Zealand music. After founding one of the country’s most influential and beloved bands, The Clean, in 1978 with David and Hamish Kilgour, the bassist soon discovered his own prodigious and prolific songwriting talent.
Scott contributed a plethora of memorable songs to the Clean’s oeuvre and was present at the inception of the Flying Nun record label, whose early releases by such artists as The Chills, The Verlaines, Sneaky Feelings and Look Blue Go Purple defined the “Dunedin Sound”. Taking advantage of the sporadic nature of The Clean’s existence, Scott branched out with his own group The Bats in 1983. It soon became clear that this was a band of considerable originality.
The Bats’ intricate, yet muscular, sound is built around the juggernaut rhythm section of drummer Malcolm Grant and bassist Paul Kean (ex Toy Love). Robert Scott’s signature guitar style consists of an up-tempo electric guitar jangle, eschewing cliched effects and distortion for the pure electricity of his steadily propulsive strum. Guitarist Kaye Woodward contrasts this electric storm with sparse, yet highly melodic, lead lines that soar and swoop like high-spirited birds across the grandiose vistas conjured by Scott’s songs.
This unique sound was probably best captured on The Bats’ classic albums Daddy’s Highway (1987) and The Law Of Things (1988), which perfectly melded Scott’s melancholic musings with the band’s exuberant post-punk folk-rock on songs such as ‘North By North’ and ‘Smoking Her Wings’.
Flying Nun’s burgeoning international reputation in the late 1980s, fuelled by rave reviews in independent music zines and crucial exposure on American college radio, allowed The Bats to take their music far beyond the parochial hubs of Dunedin and Christchurch. Still, they steadfastly returned to their home base. Through this, and taking lengthy periods off to concentrate on other projects, they have maintained an enviable longevity as a band and a close friendship as individuals.
While never having transcended their cult status, they still consistently deliver strong albums that can easily hold their own next to their early work. Indeed, The Bats have never delivered a “bad” or lackluster album and their latest release, The Guilty Office (out in Australia through Mistletone), is as musically and emotionally charged as could be expected from a group of musicians who still love playing and writing together in the third decade of their collaboration.
The Bats are one of the few bands that I can think of who’ve had the same line-up for their entire 27-year career. It seems like each element is indispensable to your sound. Is the band more than the sum of its parts?
Yeah, I guess it is. We each have our own role and fill it well. We have learnt to cope with each other’s shortcomings and foibles very well [laughs].
Tell me about The Bats’ songwriting process. Do you all get together and jam? How do you decide which songs become Bats songs and which are more suited to other projects, like Minisnap, or Robert Scott solo albums?
We do get together and jam in the studio, and that’s how songs like ‘The Guilty Office’ came to be. Most of the songs on the new album I had written about a year or so beforehand. I usually start with the chords and a vocal melody. I give it to the others and they work out their parts, then we fine tune it when we get together for album rehearsals. We sometimes write together during soundchecks. That can be quite fun and a different vibe too. We got a few songs together like that in Amsterdam recently. There are a few Bats songs that could go on a solo album and vice versa, but I’m not sure about that for Minisnap.
How important are the lyrics in The Bats? Are there particular themes running through your songwriting?
Whoooo … tricky! I think there are themes but I don’t know what they are until later when someone tells me. Overall it’s dark observations on the human condition with a bit of twisted beautiful landscape thrown in for good measure. I try and vary what I do and I hope I don’t repeat myself too much.
You have a strong fanbase in North America, as a result of Flying Nun records finding their way there in the mid- to late-’80s, and bands being able to tour there on the back of that exposure. Do you think The Bats would have lasted this long if you hadn’t ventured outside of your country?
Good point. I don’t think we would still be going if there was no interest outside of NZ. It gives us a great boost to know we are appreciated around the world; it does give us something to aim at. It does seem as though our music comes across as being a bit different from the norm. Maybe it’s the isolation, being stuck down here, that gives us the South Pacific/Antarctic sound: warm yet cold.
“Overall it’s dark observations on the human condition with a bit of twisted beautiful landscape thrown in for good measure.”
Why do you think New Zealand bands are so reluctant to tour Australia? I’m thinking in particular of The Clean here, but it appears to apply across the board.
For a long time Australia was seen as a difficult place to tour, even though a lot of great bands came from there. The feedback was a little slow in coming to our ears and we were all busy listening to what Europe and the US was saying about us. Also there hasn’t been a lot of record company help to make the tours happen. Over the last few years it has been much better of course, and we always have great shows when we make it over. Also with Hamish [Kilgour] being in New York, The Clean don’t tour that much. Now that both bands have local record companies, you will be seeing more of us.
The Bats have maintained a very distinctive signature sound over the years, which is still very much in evidence on your new album, The Guilty Office. Was that consistency deliberate?
Not really. We usually operate within our own comfort zone. We tend to not take too many chances. This could be seen as a weakness too. So overall our sound is consistent because we do approach a lot of the songs in the same way, for example, chords with a lead figure over the top with bass and drums. We like to have songs that are easy to play live and not dependent on machines. We intend to change the formula for the next album.
Out of the many many songs you’ve written, do you have any favourites or particular ones that you are most proud of?
No, not really. Whatever is the most recent and getting good reviews, or a good response from the crowd. New ones like ‘Countersign’, ‘Stepping Out’ and ‘Two Lines’ went down very well on tour, and I think ‘Castle Lights’ is a well put together tune.
It’s often perceived that there was rivalry between the proponents of the “Dunedin Sound” and the more experimental or noisy bands, to some extent identified with Bruce Russell’s Xpressway label. The Bats always seemed to have a foot in both camps though, working with violinist Alastair Galbraith, Robert playing with The Dead C’s Michael Morley in The Weeds and having Brent McLachlan from Bailter Space co-produce The Law Of Things. So was that rivalry just a beat-up or did it really exist?
It was a beat-up, I think, and it makes for a nice story too. Maybe there was a little looking down one’s nose going on here and there between the camps, but there were also some good collaborations too. The scene is a bit too small to have that kind of thing going on, but I guess that didn’t stop the Norwegian Death Metal scene from not getting on.
When you guys aren’t playing together, how do you occupy your time? I’m guessing none of you would be able to make a living purely from music.
True. I am a teacher aide doing music with kids aged five to 12, here in Port Chalmers. Paul organises events for the Christchurch city council, Kaye teaches English to foreign students and Malcolm works for [non-governmental organization] the IHC. So, yes, we enjoy escaping into the scruffy world of rock‘n’roll.
THE BATS: A SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY
And here is…’Music For The Fireside’
Made Up In Blue
The Law Of Things
Compilation of early EPs, 1990
Fear Of God
Spill The Beans
Afternoon In Bed
Thousands Of Tiny Luminous Spheres
At The National Grid
The Guilty Office
Free All The MonstersAlbum, 2011