In Conversation with Bat House

Be Loud, Push Boundaries, Lash Out

On April 14, Bostonian rock band Bat House is planning to release their self-produced, self-titled debut album. (You can listen to “Chemical X,” an early released track from the forthcoming album on Soundcloud and see their video “Alright Spaceboy” on Youtube.) Their sound has been categorised as “psych/math:” a wedding of the reflective introspections of psych rock with the innovative percussions of math rock.

Emmet Hayes (bass, vocals), Nicole Pompei (drums), Alexandra Juleen (guitar), and Shane Blank (guitar) are all inspired by women’s issues, nature documentaries, and space rock. Last month they were nice enough to answer our questions about their individual and collective musical journeys.

Can you describe your musical backgrounds?
ALEXANDRA: My parents are both lovers of music and would blast it in the car, around the house, and at get-togethers. Most of my childhood memories relate back to songs.
EMMET: I started playing music at a very young age. My father died when I was eight, and I used music as a way to express my feelings and let them go. Music has an amazing potential for healing.
SHANE: My mom was an impassioned classic rock DJ who would play everything from Bon Jovi to Black Sabbath. I remember many rides to school and many family trips with Deep Purple’s Machine Head.
POMPY: I definitely drove my family, teachers, and classmates nuts with my incessant tapping and fidgeting. I was always playing songs in my head and tapping and banging on whatever I could get my hands on.

What or who in your musical training had the most?and best?influence on you, as an artist and as a human being?
ALEXANDRA: My grandpa. He played guitar in bands growing up and tried to pass the instrument on to my dad and his brother (my uncle), but it never stuck. Being the firstborn grandchild, I was next in. To his sheer delight, I ended being the one that took to it.
EMMET: I had a piano teacher at a young age named Anca Stefanescu. She was a wonderful Romanian woman with a thick Romanian accent, and she would always call me “pumpkin.”
SHANE: I took guitar lessons from Jerry Outlaw. He’s been the guitarist of several metal bands from Florida and is currently in a Zappa tribute band. My lessons for the most part were really just playing together and improvising off of each another, but they taught me to be creative and to follow where the ideas go.
POMPY: My drum mentor throughout middle school and high school taught me a lot of very valuable lessons about practicing, performing, and life in general. He taught me the value of working hard and remaining humble.

What brought you all together?
BAT HOUSE: Berklee and the drive to play and create. One of the first house shows we all attended pushed us to do what we’re doing now. The Pigeon Coop, a former spot run by some of our best pals in The Skinny Pigeons, hosted a show featuring the Boston band Dent. The performance was raw, energetic, and the most totally wild amalgamation of musical performance we’d all witnessed. From that moment on, we knew that this was what we needed to be doing.

How did you come up with your band’s name?
BAT HOUSE: The band name comes from a story Shane told us about an abandoned tower in an airfield in the Florida Keys. His grandfather used to take him to it when his family would take trips there. The tower was built in the ?20s, when the Keys was a destination spot for the U.S. wealthy to live or vacation. The only thing that detracted from the beautiful weather and scenery were the mosquitos, and it was thought that building a tower would attract bats to devour the mosquito population. No such thing happened, but of course this tower is still referred to as “the bat house.”

If you had to give your music a genre, what would you call it?
BAT HOUSE: Spooky Psychedelic Particle Punk.

What’s the story behind your song “Viridian City?”
BAT HOUSE: Ally and Shane had concocted the main riff while practicing together one day, and they’d recorded it along with Pompy’s drum part into this hard-disc recording machine Shane had. Meanwhile Emmet was on a plane back from California and by the time he got back we’d birthed the wonkiest riff. Sure enough, he speedily laid some phat bass over it. We handed him a microphone and just recorded whatever came next. The chorus was the first thing that came out of his mouth, and we kept it.

What do you like best about your debut album so far?
ALEXANDRA: It’s something my friends and I brought to life, with the help of other close friends.
EMMET: I love that we were able to produce and mix it ourselves, and it gave us the opportunity to really create a new atmosphere on the record.
SHANE: The album gave us an opportunity to realize these songs to their full potential, allowing us to do things that we may not be to do live. It was a true creative experience to try to develop each tune into its own little planet.
POMPY: The fact that my best pals and I created something from scratch and saw it through from the very beginning stages to the final form with the help of a handful of other pals is beautiful in itself.

Did anything funny or weird happen while you were making the album?
ALEXANDRA: God, so much.
EMMET: Things got very silly when we borrowed some synths (thank you Peter Landry!) and spent a few days in the basement without sunlight or outside exposure.
SHANE: While we were tracking guitars our neighbor was using a jackhammer. We realized that the sound of the jackhammer was passing into our basement and was being picked up by Ally’s guitar. The jackhammer is on the record.

What life conditions do you require to go on being creative?
ALEXANDRA: Living with and being surrounded by creative individuals is what inspires me every day.
EMMET: Step 1: Everyone is off of work and home. Step 2: Nobody has any money. Step 3: Just play instead.
SHANE: We’ve got to just be playing all the time, despite how hellish our work/life day may be.
POMPY: Constantly being around my creative partners pushes me to grow and expand every single day.

Is Boston a musically inspiring city?
ALEXANDRA: 100% DIY house and basement shows are what set the city apart. It fosters an incredible music community.
EMMET: I would say it definitely is. Have you heard some of the other local bands? There’s a lot of awesome stuff going on especially in Allston; That’s why we chose to put ourselves there.
SHANE: Absolutely. We definitely would not be a band or make the music we make if we hadn’t seen bands like Dent or Hit Home at house shows.
POMPY: Boston, especially Allston, is an incubator for loads of creative talent. The DIY house and basement community is an incredible playground for musicians.

Tell us about the Sound Museum and the Banana Hammock.
ALEXANDRA: The Sound Museum is a damp rehearsal space underneath Boyston St. in Boston. It was where we began writing music as a band. The Banana Hammock was the band’s rehearsal space and DIY venue. We rehearsed, recorded, and hosted shows for bands from all over the country.
EMMET: The Banana Hammock was our house from September 2014 to September 2016. We had tons of shows with local bands supporting bands from out of town, and it was awesome to meet people from the Allston basement scene and new people from other parts of the continent.
POMPY: The Sound Museum in all of its grimy glory was the birthplace of the early forms of a handful of our tunes. The Banana Hammock was instrumental to us as both a rehearsal space and a DIY venue.

What do you feed your muses? Are there any books, films, or albums that have deeply influenced your developments as artists?
ALEXANDRA: My own experiences as a human and the people around me are what inspire me the most.
EMMET: Miyazaki films, shows, and films about space, and books by Kurt Vonnegut.
POMPY: Adventures! Our crazy talented friends! Books by Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut!

As artists do you feel any desire to straighten out the world a little?
ALEXANDRA: In today’s world I think It’s far more inviting to lash out musically as opposed to playing it safe.
EMMET: Yes. We want all humans to be able to have the same access and privileges that we as Americans/whites have. I hope that our music will encourage open-mindedness and obstruct racism/homophobia/transphobia/misogyny.
SHANE: Yeah, It’s an unavoidable reality that must be confronted and dealt with through the creation of art.
POMPY: All humans deserve equality. We strive to inspire and encourage open-mindedness.

If Bat House had an artistic mission statement, what would it be?

What do you think is your role in Trump’s America?
ALEXANDRA: To push boundaries, be loud, and lash out.
EMMET: Our role is to defy bigotry and to stand with and protect Muslims, LGBTQ, and women from our new bigoted government.
SHANE: To be in opposition to hatred.
POMPY: To never stop making noise. Always push boundaries, ask questions, and support those around us who are at risk.

Wanda also writes the blog The Mindful Bard:The Care and Feeding of the Creative Self.