Although they may still be vastly unknown to this point, I recently had the distinct pleasure of interviewing the wonderfully talented Los Angeles collective, Batwings Catwings. Vocalist Dana Poblete and drummer Clay Johnson are the loveliest people, and in the following interview we're given insight into how the band operates, the whole SXSW experience, and what we can expect in regards to what is sure to be an exciting future for Batwings Catwings. Special thanks go out to Erin Richardson over at We Are Solid Gold for organizing the interview, and just for being the best press contact.
First and foremost, thank you so much for allowing us the time out of your schedules to interview you. It may not be the most original question to have you answer first up, but ever since discovering Batwings Catwings I've been intrigued as to how you managed to come up with such a unique band name. Is there a story behind it, or was it merely something you conveniently happened to stumble upon?
Clay: Thanks for this; this is rad! Well, as far as our name goes, we were just texting possible band names back and forth until someone said Batwings, then someone replied back "Batwings Catwings". We liked that because it's a little dark but also a little bit silly.
You released your debut EP titled, Peacock Collection twelve months ago, and you've recently followed that up with a stunning and equally successful 7" via Gravy Records in November. From an outside perspective, it all seems to be coming together musically for the band at a wonderful rate. How did the band form, and was writing and performing music to audiences something that you always aspired to do?
Dana: When I was a kid, I always dreamed of moving to California and singing in a rock band. When I finally did make it out to California, I was really lucky to fall into a music community that is so active. I would go to shows a lot and watching my friends make music and perform really inspired me to start my own project. So I started this minimalist ethereal punk band called Puppy Dog just for fun. We were stoked because we were playing a lot of cool local shows with a lot of our favorite bands. Then Clay saw me sing at The Smell one day, and both of our bands happened to be splitting up around the same time, so he asked me to join him and we started Batwings Catwings. It just felt like the right timing and I felt a synergy with him from the beginning, so that was the start of everything. It felt like a natural progression from where we were both coming from in our previous bands.
Clay: I've been playing non-stop in bands since I was fifteen, but they never quite had the right chemistry. I finally have it, and it's exciting. We're more than willing to make this a career.
Your recent release features the first single, "Radio", a track that is striking in many unique ways. Can you disclose the meaning behind that track for our readers? Likewise, you just shot the music video alongside it. Not only is it visually gorgeous, but it also looks like it was a blast to create. Is there any interrelation between both the song and video?
Dana: The video was really fun to make! We shot it in two hours outside of Los Angeles in the desert of Victorville where people go off-roading and stuff. The video is definitely related to the song. When I was writing the lyrics, the track inspired me with its simplicity. I was just thinking about how I couldn't relate to a lot of the music that was coming out. I just didn't understand it, and I felt kind of stupid trying to get into it - because when you're involved in making music you kind of feel obligated to listen and know what's out there. I felt like I was kind of losing myself by trying to be interested in things that I couldn't relate to. That feeling made me want to simplify and revert back to old radio songs by Janet Jackson, No Doubt, and Neptunes tracks. It felt comfortable and reminded me of who I really am - I'm simple, I don't claim to be "arty" or whatever, but I do aim to express myself, like most other musicians and artists.
With the video, the idea is the same. He's wandering, lost, really bummed out because he can't find anything that excites him. So when he sees the radio, he gets so stoked to finally find the one thing that makes him happy, which is music. When the "mirage" comes out and he sees the younger, truer, happier version of himself, he realizes that he's just a shadow of that real person that he always has been. That happier version of himself takes over because he realizes that he's still that same person.
I ask you this question out of curiosity, and it's purposefully vague. How does the band go about the writing and recording process?
Dana: Usually it will start with a skeleton based on Ray's guitar riff or Clay's drumbeat. From there we build the instrumentation together, infusing it with elements of our own individual styles, which are kind of varied and it makes it interesting. Once we're all happy with the music, we demo it and I write the lyrics to it. If I'm really feeling a particular track, I write on it pretty fast. Lyrics are really important to me, personally. Writing lyrics is a cathartic process, and also a lot of fun. The music represents all of us but on top of that, I also want people to be able to relate to our music through the lyrics since that's something I crave in music.
I was reading your press release just recently, and there was a certain section in particular that caught my eye regarding the inspiration for your track, "Early Exit". Am I accurate in saying that it touches upon themes involving the NBA, but it can also be interpreted in a relationship capacity? Can you tell us a little more about that? Also, just for reference, I'm an enormous Rajon Rondo and Celtics fan, so who do you both support?
Dana: Oh my gosh. I love you. I'm a Celtics fan too! Rondo is so gnar, I love that dude. But I live in L.A so I get mad hate. Clay is from Minnesota so he's a Timberwolves fan, but also Lakers and Clippers. We go head-to-head.
Clay: Celtics blow, but Garnett is still my man.
Dana: "Early Exit" is actually about the Boston/Miami 2011 Eastern Conference semi-finals. I was really hopeful that Boston would pull through and beat a younger, more athletic Miami team, but if I was going to be really honest I kind of knew it wasn't the Celtics' time to shine. Around the same time, I was going through similar feelings in my relationship. The lyrics are a metaphor for wanting to hold on to something that is really important to you, believing in it while struggling with an inevitable outcome - whether it's a loss or breakup.
You were at the SXSW Festival last March, do you plan on returning once again in some capacity this year? What is the whole SXSW experience like for an act such as yourselves?
Clay: Yeah, we are going again this year. It's so much fun and we had such a blast last year. The drive and the whole experience builds band comradery, I think. We became really close after we all had to endure the butthole of the USA in West Texas together *laughs*. The shows are always rad and they have free beer which we don't seem to mind much.
This year is looking to potentially be a fantastic year for Batwings Catwings. I read that you're aiming to tour Europe at some point during the course of the year? Do you have any other tours and/or shows planned and in the works at this relatively early stage?
Clay: We're going to SXSW like you said and we'll be going to Europe in April. Our 7" on Gravy Records was released in the UK so we decided that we would go over there to support it. I'm not sure what other countries we're going to yet, but the UK for sure. Maybe Amsterdam, Paris and some other locations though. Other than that, we don't really have much but that's fine for us. We're always writing new stuff.
Speaking of new material, are there any plans for a debut full-length or will you instead be focusing on smaller, more concise recordings such as EP's and more 7"s?
Clay: Man, that would be sweet! We are looking around for a label first to help us out with it, but if we can't get something going with that then maybe another EP or 7" of some kind. We have stuff to put out and would love to do a full-length! No matter what, we will have new music out this year.
For our readers who are interested in learning more about you, communicating with you, and hearing more of your music, where should they go to find you online?
Clay: You can go to our blog for almost everything. It's a blog that I've been doing for a long time and it eventually became the band blog. I try to keep it up with new stuff and update it as often as I can. It has all the links to free stuff, where to get our music, and our other sites like Bandcamp, Twitter and Facebook.
I've essentially given you serious questions for the entirety of this interview, so how about we end it on a playful note? Out of any current NBA player, who would you choose to make a pressure basket from outside the perimeter to save your life? You cannot choose Brian Scalabrine though because there's just too much talent to work with there.
Dana: Dude, I'm glad you asked. I'm going to have to stay true and say Ray Allen.
Clay: Best interview question ever! Scalabrine... awww hell no! Allen is a good answer. I would've said Kobe [Bryant] but he's slowing down this year, so I think I'm going to go with Chris Paul. He's my new boyee in LA.
Thank you both so very much for your time. While we've still got you, is there anything else you would like to add, or a closing comment you would like to make?
Clay: Thanks, Absolutepunk! Keep one foot in the gutter and one fist in the gold! *laughs*.