After a massive year that included playing Fat as Butter and Supporting Boy and Bear, Battleships are ready to embark on their own headline East Coast Tour. Guitarist Jonathan Bowden caught up with our own Cameron Warner last week to chat about the upcoming tour, Christmas, and how everyone Jonathan went to school or uni with is now famous. Here’s how it went down.
Its been a pretty nice couple of years for you guys, two years ago before In Retrospect came out did you think battleships would be where it is?
Not really, we were pretty surprised by the response that In Retrospect got. I don’t think we ever planned on it, obviously we hoped that it would go as well as it did but I wasn’t really expecting it.
And now look at you, playing a big east coast tour. You guys are playing Brighton up bar in Sydney next week one of my favourite venues, I like it because it’s a bit smaller and more intimate. Would you prefer to play a small venue that’s packed or a big venue that’s half full?
I’d definitely go the smaller one that’s packed out, the vibe is just way better. I think the only person in our band who would perhaps not enjoy the smaller venues as much is our drummer because he cant play as loud, he’s a bit of an animal.
Now your first mini album ‘In Retrospect’ was recorded in a really cool 100-year-old hall I hear which would obviously have a lot of natural reverb. And there’s still a lot of reverb on the newer releases, do you think recording there sort of cemented that dreamy brit pop kinda reverb into the band sound for good?
It’s definitely contributed. Using the hall was sort of forced upon us because it was free and available, so we just ended up recording there. And just the way it turned out and how it was mic’d it just had this great, big sound with lot of natural reverb. And I think we’re definitely trying to make that a bit of a trademark thing in regards to our sound yeah.
You guys did a lot of writing using Skype when Jordan lived in Queensland but your over in Sydney now, how different is it writing together in the same room compared to over Skype?
Well with Skype, because of the lag and the distance, the way we’d work is on of us would have an idea and we’d show the other one then we’d go away and work on it separately, then we’d bring it back together and show each other what we’ve got and keep doing that until we had a finished product. But when you’re face to face that happens instantly, if you don’t like something you just say no I don’t like that and move on.
Is it a little bit harder now because if someone puts an idea forward that you don’t like you cant say oh that’s great, then go offline and think of a way to tell them it’s terrible?
Well I’ve actually known Jordan since we were both in year 1, we were making music for years before I moved to Sydney so Skype was just letting us continue that while we were apart. And now that he’s in Sydney it’s kind of gone back to where it began in a way.
So when you guys were Skyping were you Battleships or had Battleships not been formed yet?
I kind of always had this idea that I would call my musical project battleships, I didn’t know if it would ever happen though. Dan the drummer moved down to Sydney with me so we were making music down here and on the side I was writing with Jordan and then I thought why don’t I just ask Jordan to move down because we needed a singer and Dan was already here so we could record.
Why did you always want to call your band Battleships?
It’s a song by the band Travis, it’s not even one of my favourite songs, I just remember seeing that and thinking that’d be a cool band name.
Ok so it’s not a board game reference?
No no, and its not a reference to that terrible movie with Rhianna either.
Thank god, so you’ve just come off a massive tour with boy and bear that included a show in our neck of the woods Wollongong, what’d you think of our little coastal town?
We’ve been to the gong a few times, that one was probably our best one there yet I would say. Any show with Boy and Bear is gonna trump a lot of the shows that we’ve done previously, but Wollongong is great. The crowds are always really respectful and they love Australian music, and that really shows when you go down there.
Did you get along with the boy & bear guys?
Yeah, they’re great. There is talk of one of the Boy and Bear guys possibly playing a song with us at one of our upcoming shows. We’re just confirming availabilities at the moment but hopefully that happens.
But yeah we struck up some really great friendships, they’re just the coolest dudes, real genuine and just nice. It wasn’t hard to be friends with them.
Jordan’s voice is so pure and easy to listen to, when you guys are on the road and maybe having trouble sleeping do you ever get him to serenade you with lullabies?
Uh, (laughs) not really no. His singing voice is much nicer than his talking voice, so maybe we should get him to sing everything.
He’s the one who sometimes has trouble sleeping so if we did get him to sing to us, he’d still be awake anyway.
Christmas is just around the corner what would be the perfect Christmas gift for battleships?
Uh just to write that hip song, the song that kinda pushes the band over that invisible line.
So you don’t feel like you’re over the line yet? You do get a bit of airplay on radio.
We do get airplay but usually there’s just one song that just takes you to that next level, even after you’ve already had a few songs on the radio. Whether that level is playing bigger shows or whatever, it kind of just pushes you there. And I think to write a killer song like that over the Christmas break would absolutely make my Christmas.
It would probably make your 2014 pretty good too, do you guys get to listen to a lot of new music?
We always try to, when we choose supports we go through (Triple J) Unearthed and listen to a lot of stuff there. There’s so much good music coming out it’s hard to keep up with it all sometimes.
Tell me about it, so what are three band that you think people should be listening to. Besides Battleships.
I’m really getting into Half Moon Run at the moment from Canada, they’re fantastic. Ah another band from Brisbane, I’ve forgotten their name.
No, but we’re actually mates with the guys from the The Cairos.
No way, I saw them support Andy Bull at Oxford Art Factory the other night.
Oh cool, I grew up with the drummer Jacob Trotter it’s amazing how many people that you grow up with or hung out with somewhere in your previous life that you come across in the industry.
Who else did you know in your life before music who is a part of the music scene?
Well Jake from the Cairos, James Lyell, or Jimmy2sox from Flight Facilities I went to school with him back in the day. I went to uni in Brisbane at the Queensland University of Technology And Megan Washington was in my course. The bass player and drummer from The Trouble With Templeton did the same course too.
Maybe it’s just you, and everyone you touch turns to musical gold.
Oh I’d like to think so (laughs) I even went to a show in Melbourne and they had a horn section, and I went to uni with the flute player. It’s odd.
So what’s on the agenda after the East Coast tour?
Well I work at a school and Jamie the guitarist works at a school so we kind of still get school holidays. The plan is just to take that time and write as many songs as we can, get as much new material as we can and hopefully bring out an EP or an album, we’re not really sure yet.
Are there any plans to take the band into any particular musical direction?
We just kind of write whatever comes out, and if that requires more electronic sounds or strings or horns we’re open to that. We kind of just write the song and then base the sound around what works best for each song.
If you could have any musician in the world’s babies, who would it be?
Would that mean I’d have to be a woman?
No it would be more the like movie Junior with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Oh ok, well I would go with Miles Davis. He’s just like the king of cool. He pretty much invented cool jazz so I think it’d be a super cool baby.
And then that baby would grow up, go to uni, and everyone he met would become famous.