The name might suggest some kind of internal struggle, but Battleme tries to keep things intuitive, says bandleader Matt Drenik. “Other people have these interpretations of the name: ‘Are you trying to battle yourself with your pop songs and your loud songs?’“ Drenik jokes from his home in Portland, Ore. “I’m like, ‘Not really. I don’t know what I’m doing.’” When listening to Battleme’s latest, Future Runs Magnetic (El Camino Media), the idea that Drenik doesn’t know what he’s doing sounds far-fetched, with his bedroom-pop sensibilities somehow finding common ground with the record’s brasher rock songs. But the first Battleme tracks were very different. While still a member of Austin stoner-rock band Lions, Drenik recorded some country/folk songs under the Battleme moniker for Sons Of Anarchy. Drenik will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand-new feature on him.
Drenik: “Oh, you know Matty, I just can’t handle the way he sings. He sounds like a hillbilly,” my mom said late one night.
She was referring to my older brother and, more importantly, his seminal cow punk band, the Hairy Patt Band. Now he may be rolling his eyes when I say seminal, but to me his guttural howl was just as important as any of the shit that was crowding the FM radio at the time. And this was the early ’90s, back when you might actually turn on the radio and hear something you liked. There was something about my brother’s songs that was demonic and fearless. He didn’t just sing about Richard Ramirez; he channeled that psycho into the forefront of my teenage brain in crusty waves of garage rock, bullets and blood.
“Dad came to the show.” I remember him telling me one night when I was in seventh grade. Maybe that’s me projecting something that he ended up telling me years later, but for the sake of the story, we’ll just say it was seventh grade.
He was opening up for the Jesus Lizard at Annie’s Down By The River, and my old man showed up. Dad was wearing a nice blazer, pressed khaki pants and a loose-lipped tie. My brother darted toward him.
“Dad. Everyone thinks you’re a narc. Let me take your jacket.”
My dad laughed, awkwardly.
Fifteen years later, when one of my bands opened for David Yow’s Qui, my brother asked, “Is he still jumping on people’s backs?”
When I think of punk rock, I think of the Hairy Patt Band. But just when the sonic assault from two kids beating their instruments to death had seeped into my soul, he’d pull out a song that’d repeat, “Let’s go dancing, all night long, dancing to any song, dancing just you and I, we’ll be dancing up to the sky.”
Maybe my parents didn’t get it, or a lot of other people for that matter. And that’s what made it so good, especially when you’re a kid, and especially now. In my mind, there is no better version of punk rock.