I spoke with Sleep Party People‚s vocalist a few hours before his another gig in Poland, at OFF Scena in Kraków. Despite the fatique of travel, Brian Batz turns out to be the most likable guy in the world. With so many themes it was hard to decide which one should be first. And we started off the simplest way – with some album oriented issues.
I bet you are bored with these similar questions about music, and all that stuff when you release an album. But from what I know you seemed happy to do it. So, where it’s coming from?
Brian Batz: I think it’s important just to stay in touch with the press.
And it’s not bothering you to answer the same questions over and over?
Brian Batz: [laughs] No, not really. I don’t do that [interviews] much, so it isn’t boring at all. But people do it, of course. For instance: „where did you get the bunny mask idea from?”. [I mentioned to have some of those on my list but Brian doesn’t mind] That’s fine, I can just tell the story.
But before that: your second album is very atmospheric, there’s a lot of emotions and creepiness involved. The new one sounds so clear, there’s clarity in it…
Brian Batz: Well, on „We Were Drifting On a Sad Song” I wrote most of the songs in my apartment and there’s a similarity in it, it was focused on the piano. „Floating” was recorded in San Francisco with two awesome producers [Mikael Johnston and Jeff Saltzman] in a high-tech studio. And there’s the difference, already there. So I guess making an album in my bedroom is more like one to one, like… intimate. In „Floating” I wrote everything and recorded it in one month. I really work hard every single day, and working in the studio gives you new ideas. I really wanted to go away from „bedroom project” on that album and make it more epic.
So Johnston and Saltzman had a big impact on the album.
Brian Batz: They do. They produced that together with me. It was just running from one room to another and recording drums, bass, guitars, keybord and so on, while they were just sitting there and guiding me through the process.
I’m asking because I don’t want to put a label on „Floating”, you know, call it post-rock, dream-pop, rabbit-core or whatever it sounds like. Do you?
Brian Batz: Oh, I do that all the time myself. I think it’s just guiding the listeners in one direction, for example, if you say shoegaze people think „oh, that reminds me of Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine”. It’s a good thing, it doesn’t bother me at all.
But there are all that tunes on this album and I have a few other bands on my mind when I listen to it. „In Another World” is kind of trip-hoppy, in „I See The Moon” Lisa Light’s vocal sounds like Arcade Fire’s Regine Chassagne but the song is quite Mogwai alike. And here we are, „Only A Shadow” sounds like the old Sleep Party People songs. Didn’t you think that something sounds like another band and you have to change it?
Brian Batz: Most of the time I just listen to the songs non-stop. I do it all the time in the process of recording. I need that to just clear my head and focus on where I want to go. And the same happened here – I think I don’t want to think too much about the process, I just want to do it spontaneously and see where it takes me, kind of finish it. Do it quickly, you know.
I get it. Like you said, you have two other people in the studio, but you still didn’t bring your band. In one of the interviews you said that they are just friends and Sleep Party People is not a band, it’s just you. Didn’t they feel offended a little?
Brian Batz: No, not at all. I wanted them to go with me to San Francisco but it was way too expensive and I thought „well, I can play everything myself so I’ll wait” [laugh]. I’m kind of thinking of doing this on the next album because I have a new, really nice, big studio. I’m thinking of taking the guys in there and have them play the stuff instead of me. But I don’t know [laughs], I guess it’s going to change.
Okay, we’ve mentioned the masks and here we are. I wonder if you thought at the beginning that someone could think it’s pretentious. I mean, „another band in the masks”.
Brian Batz: Of course, I did that a lot. I was having my doubts about playing in my mask on and I think people were like „oh, now I’ve seen the special thing about this and I don’t have to see this anymore because they are still wearing a mask”. But I don’t think it’s about the mask, it’s about the music. The album differs a lot from the first, but I’m still wearing a mask – it’s just a visual concept.
But we had no clue who you were at that time, you were just a guy behind the mask. In the meantime, when the second album came, you just said „I’m Brian Batz and this is my band”. So why did you ever hide your name, your personality behind this and then just came out like this.
Brian Batz: I had to get used to it. I wasn’t used to singing and I haven’t even sung in front of my mom in my entire life before I went on a stage. So that part was just, you know, nice to hide behind it because I was, like, really shy on stage. And now I feel more comfortable.
Did that feeling absolutely disappear?
Brian Batz: Yes, I think so. I think it’s important to have my face… But I don’t want to do my interviews with my mask on, that’s silly.
Were you thinking about leaving the mask and doing the show without it, or modifying it in a way?
Brian Batz: Oh, no, no… I don’t know about it. Perhaps. Maybe? I think it still works, it’s really funny to play with mask and people are always really excited about it, so it’s our sign.
Okay, we know you as a musician, but aside from that, what do you do in your time off, if you have any?
Brian Batz: Well, I work as a producer, so it’s all about music. But I’ve got my girlfriend.
And what about pop culture stuff? Do you find yourself in the movies, books, comics, anything like that?
Brian Batz: Well, I like to go to the movies. Last time I was in the cinema, well, I guess it was like a French movie… with the girl with the blue hair, two gorgeoues girls… An three hour movie. Oh, got it, „La vie d’Adèle” – it was fantastic.
But you’re not kind of a movie freak, you don’t wait and go to see it when the movies drop?
Brian Batz: No, not really.
Not a great reader from what I’ve heard…
Brian Batz: Well, right now I’m reading Franz Kafka, I don’t know the English title…
[here we got interrupted as Brian received some really important parts for his instrument to make the gig perfect]
All right, where were we… What about television then? Are you a fan of some TV’s series?
Brian Batz: Oh, yes. „True Detective” – that was a good one. I’m watching season three of „House of Cards” right now, but it’s not that good anymore. I wanted it to be mean again…
I have to agree, but sometimes you have to change something. You know what, I forgive them, it’s still quite a show. I asked you because Denmark’s culture has a lot to offer. We dig into series like „The Kingdom”, „The Bridge”, and artists like: Mew, I Got You On Tape, Efterklang, WhoMadeWho, I myself love Iceage. Is there any other Danish name you would recommend?
Brian Batz: A girl called DíSA, she’s actually from Iceland an now lives in Copenhagen. She got an amazing voice, like Elizabeth Fraser from Coctaeu Twins, really dreamy, sounds poppish but with a kind of electronic touch – that’s incredible. Ice Cream Cathedral reminds me kind of a Portishead’s „Third” album. And Communions – they’re like a punk band, kind of Iceage-ish but more poppish. Yeah, but we’ve got many, many good bands.
We have a site called „Good because Danish” and I was wondering if you’ve heard of any Polish artists about which you could say „good because Polish”?
Brian Batz: Oh, well… [a moment of reflection] I don’t think so, maybe some classical. Jazz? [Brian mentioned a name of an artist and we’re sure that’s not a Polish one]
I’m so sorry, that one is a hard question.
Brian Batz: [laugh] Yeah, it is.
You’ve played in Poland a few times, couple of years ago at OFF Festival and Northern Art Festival, in Warsaw and Poznań six months ago. Do you recall any of this?
Brian Batz: Oh yes, I really remember OFF Festival. I love playing in Poland… [I mentioned that everyone says so] And I think the audience is really into it. When we play quiet songs there’s always pretty damn quiet, people are listening. And when we get rowdy, you go all into it. I love that, this thing between the audience and the band.
Okay, we’re going back to square one. Is there any question you’d like to answer but no one has ever asked you about?
Brian Batz: I guess the old style Brian, like musical career – where did it start. It’s not a very frequent question and I can say that it started when my dad told me to play the acoustic guitar. He played Donovan and Bob Dylan and I was like „yeah, I need to try that!”
So no one ever raised that issue? I’m really surprised because I have that in my mind, but it just seems to be too simple for the interview.
Brian Batz: Maybe everyone thinks that and just gives it up.
I guess there were no surprises in this one. There’s nothing I can say more aside from wishing you Godspeed. Thank you for the talk.