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Q&A with BATTS

The Melbourne musician reflects on change

BATTS (aka Tanya Batt) is one of those slow-burning discoveries that we’ve had on the HumanHuman radar for the past three years; from the moment Blubb Blubb (fka The Indie Curator) added BATTS prior to the release of her official debut “Morals” to her transition from electronic towards an indie-folk sound.

Photo by Michelle Grace Hunder

One of the first to write about this Melbourne talent from the HumanHuman set was Hillydilly, who noted “Tanya's truly captivating vocals,” that “appear in spellbinding fashion” through a production from Ficci, the artist’s long-term collaborator. The agrees continued to pour in with each astronomical creation, such as “Kiki” and “Lie To Me”, until the Australian musician was finally labelled as a Promising Discovery eleven months ago. Since then, BATTS’ sonic horizons have begun to expand, as heard with ambient single “For Now” and singer-songwriter style track “Little White Lies”. With the conscious decision to take a break from working with UK producer Ficci, Tanya Batt is on a journey to find a sound that is completely herself. With an EP on the brink of release, it’s time to rediscover BATTS.

Let’s jump straight in and start by talking about your newest single “Little White Lies”. It’s noticeably folkier than your earlier material, what’s sparked this sonic change?

I think it was only a matter of time before this happened. I actually started out with more folk indie stuff when I first started making music under a different name. The main reason for the change was that I was really unhappy and wanted to quit music. I love the stuff I made with Ficci and he is one of my favourite producers and collaborating with him was the best, but I listen to folk singer-songwriter stuff every single day and that’s the music I’ve always been inspired and influenced by. I wrote so much at home on my guitar and wasn’t doing anything with it, and I just wanted to start making stuff that was 100% me and what’s inside my mind. Electronic is really cool but it’s not really who I am. I’m really happy and inspired at the moment within music and it’s a great feeling.

It’s quite a forlorn song, considering topics of deception, death and disappointment. What does this song mean to you?

“Little White Lies” is a strange one, I was listening to a lot of Andy Shauf at the time I wrote this and it kind of just all came out at once then I listened back to the lyrics and was like, oh ok. To me, I think little white lies are as common to humans as breathing these days and the song is about wanting that deeper conversation and to confide in others etc. The line in the second verse, “I stopped breathing as a child, found blue within my cot, when my mother found me her heart must have stopped” is actually me sharing a secret with all my listeners, I guess.

As with your other recent track “For Now”, you’ve moved on from working with long-time collaborator Ficci. Was this in pursuit of a new sound, or because you’d felt your co-creation had a reached a natural end or another reason entirely?

It’s a bit of both of those, I guess. It’s really hard making music across the oceans with time differences and we move at very different paces. I was playing it live and just really hated having a laptop on stage with myself and my band. That was a huge thing for me, it felt like this lifeless thing on stage taking away from our live element and I really wanted it gone. I think that’s when I really started realising as much as I love creating with Ficci and I hope will continue to have the opportunity to sing on his songs in the future, electronic music as a package isn’t what I wanted to be creating under BATTS. I wanted to be more honest and have more trust in what I was just writing at home by myself.

While working with the British producer, you had to communicate across time zones and the Internet, so I’m guessing that the online music world is important to the way you make music?

It definitely was! The online music world was a huge platform for Alisdair (Ficci) and I, it’s pretty incredible how many platforms electronic music has compared to say folk music. All the YouTube platforms are huge too! I think it can be pretty easy to break into the online electronic world quite fast; however, there is a lot of content constantly coming out, so maybe it’s harder to stay relevant? I’m not sure, I definitely wasn’t in it long enough, it’s just not really where my heart lies. I love the whole singer-songwriter world. Now, my favourite thing is that I get to disconnect from the online world a lot more and just sit with an instrument and write and then take it to my band and all bring it to life together. No better feeling than that.

What’s your favourite song that you and Ficci recorded together? And why?

This is a hard one, I’d say “Morals” because it was the first and there is something really special about it and I remember writing it whilst living in North Melbourne in a share house of seven people. I had this window sill that overlooked the city and I remember when he sent me the first mix and I sat and looked out over Melbourne and felt so happy with what we had created together.

Of course, you also happen to live in Melbourne with it’s vibrant music scene. What’s the last gig you went to in your hometown?

It definitely has one of the best music scenes ever. Well, I haven’t been to a gig I haven’t played in a while, but I’ve kind of been touring every weekend since March. I did however play a gig a few weeks ago with a guy called Didirri who is this young incredible songwriter, definitely recommend looking him up.

Hayden Calnin, Braille Face, Matthew Kenneally, Robert Muinos, Christopher Coleman Collective, Canary, Oh Pep!, Al Parkinson, Ainslie Wills, The Teskey Brothers, nyck, Didirri and Magnets. Seriously I could go on forever, the talent in Melbourne is ridiculous.

In an interview with Smoothie Tunes, I read that you often take inspiration from novels, finding it easy to place yourself in another’s perspective. It reminded me of Iris Lune’s “Sewing Skylines to Shores”, where they imagines the emotions surrounding Sylvia Plath’s suicide. Is there a particular writer or character that you would love to write a song about?

Great question, thanks also for doing so much research, it’s really refreshing answering well thought questions. I’m currently reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, so funny you should mention Plath. My favourite book is a book called Stoner by John Williams, and the main character William is someone who has stayed with me since I first read it. It is quite a sad book, but I have such a love for him that I re-read it all the time just because when I do, I feel maybe he isn’t as alone and plus I genuinely miss him if I haven’t read it in a while. I know I’ll probably write a song about him one day.

Possibly, this perspective transferring ability came from a childhood as an actor, so why did you switch to music?

It just got to a point where it was one or the other, they both take everything you have and I really wanted to progress within my knowledge and ability with music and writing etc and I wanted to dedicate all the time I had to that. So, I made a choice and I have not regretted a single second of it.

Would you ever be drawn back into the world of acting?

Oh definitely, one day.

BATTS

Aside from novels, which other materials do you draw creative influence from?

Space is a big one - the beauty, destruction, uncertainty and unknowing of what happens out there and what is out there fascinates me. It’s all very magical and the visuals of it really inspire me plus just the stuff I watch and read about it. Obviously, other artists influence me a lot too and Ghibli movies tend to inspire me a lot.

I’m aware that you’re particularly fascinated by the natural music made by stars and planets, do any of these recordings feature in your music?

Let’s just say my EP will be out later this year.

As previously mentioned, your debut single as BATTS, “Morals”, was released two years ago now. What have been the most significant changes in your life since then? Do you think your music has evolved as a result?

An insane amount has happened in this time, my life has changed a lot, within music and just life in general. I’ve learnt a lot about myself and the music I want to create in that time. I feel like I’m really comfortable within where I am now and confident within knowing what I want to create. It’s a nice feeling. I’ve been doing music for a really long time and it can take a long time to work out what kind of music you really want to create and I finally feel like I’m there. I have a few of my closest friends to thank for helping me get to this point.

I’ve been doing music for a really long time and it can take a long time to work out what kind of music you really want to create and I finally feel like I’m there.

Okay, time for the big question - where do you see yourself in the next two years?

Still wishing for a holiday. I mean within two years I should have finished and released my debut album and have played shows overseas, I 100% plan to head back to the UK and play some shows there next year. I’m from England originally, so would be real nice to play some shows in my other home. That’s definitely the goal.

Looking a little less far into the future, what do you have planned for the rest of the year? More live shows? Perhaps some new music?

It’s funny with this career, because you put these odd timelines together that span over like a whole year or more, and of course, some things change, but yeah for the rest of this year my debut EP will come out and I’ll tour that. Then I’ll be going away with the band to start working on the album, but in the immediate future I just can’t wait to share the EP with everyone.

This article is written by Hannah Thacker and was published a month ago.

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