music

« May 31, 2013

Damned, Damned, Damned

Chaos in Tejas, forever extreme
By Greg Beets

The Bats

Thu., 12:30am, Red 7

Few 31-year-old acts put out new albums that equal the vitality of their best-known work. So how did beloved New Zealand proto-indie quartet the Bats crank out 2011's Free All the Monsters, a front-to-back triumph that more than holds its own against mid-Eighties Flying Nun classics like "North by North"?

"I don't feel it has any particular link to earlier recordings," says vocalist/guitarist Robert Scott of Monsters. "We try and look forward more than back."

For history's sake, the Bats coalesced in 1982 in the wake of the Clean's (temporary) demise. Scott and the Clean had relocated from Dunedin to Christchurch, where he met bassist Paul Kean, drummer Malcolm Grant, and guitarist/vocalist Kaye Woodward. The Bats' lineup hasn't changed since.

Scott, who continues to perform with the Clean and has a solo album called The Green House coming out later this year, attributes the band's longevity to long breaks and longer fuses. "When we get back together it's fresh and fun," he says.

Nor has the Bats' songwriting formula changed. Scott comes up with chords and a vocal idea, then the band develops the song collectively. "We always try and go for a good, natural sounding take," Scott says. "Go for the essence of the tune."

The band's penchant for melancholic, guitar-driven melodies met its visual match last year when they filmed a video for "Simpletons" in Christchurch's city center, which was closed to the general public after a devastating 2011 earthquake. Although Scott now lives back in Dunedin, the destruction in the so-called "red zone" affected him.

"Seeing what the damage was like was quite scary to say the least," he says. "Depending on who you speak to, there's a range of answers as to how the place is doing, but I do think the people have found the strength to deal with it and carry on."

BACK TO TOP ^