Ones to Watch: Bat and Ball
Just one song – We Prefer it in the Dark – sits pretty and perfectly-formed in cyber space from West Country via London quintet, Bat and Ball. Intelligent and soulful, this minimalist cut of future-indie is justifiably causing quite a stir. Like a less jangly Slow Club, a more spacious and considered Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bat and Ball are an exciting prospect. At the heart of the band are brother and sister, Chris and Abi Sinclair, who kindly answered some questions:
How did you first start writing songs together and how has the process evolved?
Being a whole two years older than Abi – I began gigging and writing with my own bands before she did. I remember the first thing she wrote was in 7/8. I could hear her in her room – her voice and guitar. One time, I had to say something; I remember asking her to “save it for when we start a band”. It took a few years but that became the first song we worked on together and we still play TV Dinners now.
We’ve always started from the bones – melody, lyrics and drumbeat. The process has evolved through the other members of the band joining. It’s hard to describe: we want a ‘solar’ sound – we’ve always wanted to come alive and be live. And that would never work with just the two of us.
Any sibling rivalry or dark family secrets to add fuel to the creative fire?
Unfortunately, we can’t reveal any dark family secrets. We told people at university that we only found out we were actually related to each other when we started at Goldsmiths. I don’t think they believed us, but it was fun. Actually that inspired one of our new songs, Unrelated. We both bring different things to the mix; we know that and respect that. And we are incredibly close.
What was the creative atmosphere like at Goldsmiths and how has this fed into the band’s ethos?
Goldsmith’s pushes you to experiment, to find new contexts and to re-imagine yourself. Being in New Cross and surrounded by people who want to do something new definitely has a positive impact on you. But sometimes it can be intimidating being surrounded by incredible musicians. Chris and I have never been virtuoso musicians, but Bat and Ball really gave us confidence in what we wanted to say. I think the biggest testament to the Goldsmith’s course is that we met Harri (keyboards), Jamie (guitar) and Kenta (drums). I don’t think it’s common to come across musicians so diverse and individual.
Was it a difficult transition to play and write with a full band?
Bringing other members in seemed a natural process. Harri, Jamie and Kenta are fabulous players and great friends. The transition redefined us – and change is good.Everyone in Bat and Ball brings their own character to the band’s sound – and I think we are still discovering what that sound can be.
How do you now approach songwriting? And where do you get the inspiration for the lyrics?
Every song is approached differently. I think that’s natural when there are five creative heads in a band. Recently, I’ve been writing on the piano (although I don’t really know how to play) and Chris focuses on the arrangement. Sometimes I think my biggest inspiration is my cat. I’d like to know if anyone else has tried writing a song from a cat’s perspective.
You have taken the pragmatic approach of performing live/writing together and not rushing into recording and releasing material – do you think this is important in an age when acts tend to record, release and promote music on the Internet almost over night?
Yes it’s definitely important; you can’t be a successful band without putting in the time. And the song rules – we want to write beautiful, memorable songs with melodies that really make you feel something. That takes time, and we are still working out how to do that. We also spend a lot of time making videos, recording demos and rehearsing for our shows. How much you choose to share is up to you. Bat and Ball is still like those early weeks of a relationship – exciting, fresh, full of possibilities – we don’t want to rush the process; and we want to build something strong.
There is a sense that the current wave of electronic music has as much an influence on you as more traditional Indie/guitar music – is it a challenge to balance and bring together two genres into your sound?
I guess you can’t ignore the way an audience reacts to electronic music – especially in a club. But it was never a conscious decision; our roots are guitars – that’s how we both started writing. We want to write music that is for the head and for the heart. And we have always wanted to write songs, so melody and lyrics are paramount.
But when it came to our first recording, We Prefer it in the Dark, that new balance just seemed to happen. We had this old Roland Mono-synth in the studio and we used it to work in some seismic bass sounds.We also sampled some key jangling and claps.
Has London had an influence on your song-writing?
In some ways it’s easier to write music back at home in the South West. The sea breeze is good for your brain. Of course, London is full of inspiration, but also distraction. It’s amazing in London how you find yourself thinking of lyrics whilst riding the night bus home. Those moments of inspiration are golden, especially when it’s so hard to clear your head.
What do you hope to achieve with your debut release?
We hope people will get more of a taste of what Bat and Ball is. We hope that there will be bits that people want to keep listening to because they make them feel something.
It is the first recording with the whole band involved, too, so it is really exciting bringing all the elements together. We’ll hopefully be doing some festivals in the summer and looking to do some gigs further afield.
What’s next for Bat and Ball?
We’re looking to finish our EP over the next few months. It’s great working on songs in the studio that have only ever been played live. The new context forces you to re-think songs and find new possibilities. And of course we’re always busy writing new material to keep each show different and exciting.
Words: Thomas Spooner