Monday, 8 February 2010

Conversational | Battant

by Little Miss B, 8th Feb 2010. All photography by Rachel Ferriman for The Girls Are...

The first time I saw Battant play was enough to render me really rather intrigued: the slightly awkward on-stage demeanour, the intensity of performance, Chloe's rhythmic, precise, punctuated vocals, and the surprisingly melodic way that the above manifested... They were interesting. Further research revealed multiple line-up changes, a jump between labels and a burgeoning career across Europe. Continued listening, and a spot of gig-stalking confirmed Battant's consistency, charisma and songwriting prowess. Battant are an ace package. So why the dickens don't more people know about this band? The Girls Are picked frontwoman Chloe Raunet's brain for some answers...

As you may have noticed from previous posts, we have become a little musically obsessed with you guys. For those who are less acquainted with the band, tell us how Battant formed.
C: Obsessed? Hope we live up to your expectations…
The initial incarnation of Battant was formed a while ago. Started out as me, my mate Mole, a couple of songs and a laptop. Tim was recruited to play guitar and we began writing more material. In the early days we were affiliated with the now defunct electro club, Haywire. Our sound was a lot harder, almost veering towards industrial (even supported Nitzer Ebb). We released our first EP with moderate success on Haywire’s home label, but never really took off. Then Mole left, Joel joined and we worked our way through various different bass players.
It wasn’t until we signed to Kill The DJ and started working with Tim Paris and Ivan Smagghe that we really came into ourselves. 

In previous interviews, you've admitted that you're "a little bit unknown in this country" and many reviewers have remarked upon your 'euro-friendly' sound: would you say Europe has traditionally been more receptive to electro music and therefore provided you with a better foothold than Britain? 

C: It’s funny – here they say ‘euro-friendly’ and there they say ‘British’. I guess it depends on what you define as ‘electro’ but if anything I’d say the closest sounds to ours originated in the UK: Joy Division, The Human League, Young Marble Giants, Throbbing Gristle etc, etc.
We’ve never been associated with a UK scene though (Haywire doesn’t really count – didn’t fit in) and doing our thing didn’t attract many British labels. But it did interest Kill The DJ. They have a high profile in France, which helped us a lot there, but lack the machinery and influence that seems necessary to push a band here. These days even a small indie band needs a lot of promotion, a lot of networking and a lot of err cash… but I suppose that’s to be expected when the small indie band wants exposure and commercial success. And it is easier to crossover here in the UK than anywhere else so… maybe we’re just not right for this country. 

At the recent show at Cargo, a hyperactive Frenchie demanded I note in this article that "English people watch bands as though they HATE them" (arms folded, solemn faces). Is Britain an unfriendly place to make and play music?

C: I think that’s a big city thing.  You could say the same about Paris. The further north you go, the warmer the crowd.  But I would point out to Frenchie that indie audiences can be a bit geeky and cool (especially in England) and that a small band playing a place like Cargo isn’t necessarily performing for a room full of fans. I doubt all those people were there to see us.  

How do you feel the music scenes in Britain and the rest of Europe compare? 

C: I’m not out enough these days to know what’s going on, but from my front room I don’t seem to be missing much. I know we’re in a transition period but it seems the second something new (or regurgitated) comes along, it’s jumped on, commercialized and killed before it can make have any real impact. Because of this cycle, whatever edge the UK used to have is disappearing. In the rest of Europe a small scene can be “cool” for a bit longer, before it gets eaten, digested and thrown back up to the masses. 

The genre labels that the press most frequently apply to Battant are electro and post-punk, neither of which I feel adequately identifies your sound: given that you have previously been quoted as saying "people have never been too sure where to place us", where do you feel Battant fit into the current musical landscape?

C: I have no idea. Getting wrapped up with where you fit in is a deathtrap. We’re already drowning in homogenized culture so I’ll just keep my head down and concentrate on making music, leave the labeling job to you journalists ;) 

Something quite special happens when you appear onstage: are you more comfortable performing live or recording in the studio? 

C: I think it depends on the day – where I am, how I’m feeling. There are more external factors at play with a live performance. As well as the music, I’ve got band, audience, venue, lights etc… to influence where I go with things. Recording’s the complete opposite. I’m alone in a room, wearing headphones and completely immersed in the song.  Any journey I’m gonna take is inward so I suppose the end result’s more intimate. 

Vocally you've been compared to Siouxsie Sioux, Ari Up and Carrie Brownstein. Who would you say were your biggest musical influences? 

C: I like a whole lot of music but it’s really hard for me to specifically say who’s influenced me… there’s no one I’m directly trying to copy but I’m sure all the artists I love have given me ideas. 

You've written some killer lyrics (Kevin said he'd fuck the AIDS outta her/that stupid barmaid cocktease whore). Where does your inspiration come from? 

C: Kevin is one of the more literal songs. A mate was refurbishing a pub and found a diary behind this wall they’d knocked down. A guy called Kevin wrote it in 1989 and my lyrics are interpretations of some of his entries. Inspiration for my other songs come from all over… personal experiences, places, films, books, paintings, topical events, my views on the world. Most of them tend to follow a narrative - I’ll have an idea or opinion and I’ll develop it through an imaginary character or situation. Sometimes the words come first, sometimes the track. In the case of the latter the music normally triggers an image/emotion in my mind and I go from there. In the end, all my songs have mental pictures and their own definitive lighting/colours to go with them. If I visualize that, I’ll remember the lyrics. 

Magazines like Wears The Trousers were born out of the desire to correct the under-representation of women in music: do you feel that women are under-represented? What importance, if at all, does gender play in your identity as a performer? 

C: You could write an essay on this question. I think it’s not so much under-represented than mis-represented. The music industry is still incredibly chauvinistic which is why I’m very happy to be where I am. Kill The DJ is a label with strong ideas on gender issues politics, and the perception of women is something I deal with in a lot of my songs (directly or indirectly). I think every female performer has their own way of playing with the codes of being a ‘woman on stage’ and in my case, revealing it would be counter-productive. 

You released your album 'No Head' in 2009: what is 2010 going to bring for Battant? 

C: We’ve taken some time off the gigs to concentrate on writing and recording the second album. It’s going well. Should have a single coming out soon and will be ready to start playing again with some new material. We’re developing the live act too. Bit of a line-up change, more going on. I’m really excited about it all. 

Which current bands do you rate?

C: I haven’t been following enough new music recently. My favorite album and live of 2009 has gotta be Micachu though…

And now for some questions we ask everyone... 

Describe your sound in 5 words... 
C: Raw, ghosts, twang, inner-tension, Conny Plank  

What are your guilty musical pleasures? 
C: Take That Live (comeback not back in the day) to play the game. But who says I should feel guilty? Some prick behind his desk at The Cool Bureau? 

What the world needs now is.... 
C: An alternative to Capitalism 

What's next? 
C: Only fools want to know. 

You are headlining your dream, all-star tour: who would your tour mates be? C: Young Marble Giants, Elliot Smith, Sister Rosetta Thorpe, The Velvet Underground, The Cramps, Tindersticks, (this isn’t making much sense… don’t think we’d sell many tickets), Neu and Dolly Parton. She’d be my best mate. 

As part of a new feature for The Girls Are, we'd like you to recommend that we interview a musician or band who you love.We will then ask them the same question, and start a chain of links and recommendations.
C: Dolly Parton would be amazing but…
Micachu, if you haven’t already had her?
Or “the other” Chloe at Kill the DJ, who is releasing her album “One in Other” in March. She’d be more than suitable.

To see more from this photoshoot, click here.


  1. Thanks for introducing me to this band. It's true. They are hard to categorize.

  2. I think that's what I love most about them: listening to them on your ipod presents a completely different sound to watching them play live. Really excited about their new material.

  3. hi guys.. as some of you may know and as chloe speaks about in the latter half of this interview, there have been band changes. you will now find us here and here

    we are a hair away from having album number 2 completely written and we look forward to sharing it with you all. joel battant xx