A good indication of the kind of act The Battery Farm are is the title of their new EP, ‘ENDLESS UNSTOPPABLE PAIN’, formatted to include a knowing smiley face at the end of its title.
The Mancunian punks are a bitter, abrasive act, but with a lot of fun wedged between their slamming musical verdict on modern British society, and the rise of the hard right.
As they launch their debut EP, I asked vocalist Ben what it’s all about…
There’s something very openly morbid about your music. See ‘Maggot Line’ and ’97/91′ in particular. Talk me through what side of your personalities brings that out…
I’m prone to finding myself in pits of absolute black despair sometimes. Proper no-hope stuff. When I’m in those moods it causes me to really dwell on Human Beings’ capacity for animalistic brutality and the ways in which that brutality manifests itself. I also end up dwelling a lot on the bleakness of the situation we’ve created for ourselves. I’m a right laugh at parties.
Anyways, all this stuff manifests itself in a desire to create something stark and visceral. It drives me to try and articulate a lot of the fear and anger I feel about the present and future, and what’s been robbed from us as a generation, in the most unflinching way possible. Sometimes that ends up in an utter horror show like 97/91. It’s not intentional nihilism, it’s just an attempt to be honest. It’s all catharsis as well. It makes me feel better to put this stuff into words.
There’s obviously a certain worldview behind your music. What is the perspective you feel you’re writing from, mainly?
This is completely contrary to what I just said but I think we’re writing from a perspective of hope, ultimately. On the surface a lot of our stuff is really bleak but we write about what we write about because we hope that better is possible and want better to happen. More kindness, more equality, no corruption, an end to the parasitic wreckers in business and politics destroying everything for all of us. We want better. We all deserve better. We’re angry that we never get it.
I think we also write from the perspective of four lefty snowflakes watching the rise of nationalist populism. When all the values you hold dear – community, democracy, truth, equality – are being nakedly trampled on by bad, bad bastards it gives you plenty of desire to fight back. I suppose this band is how we do that.
The videos aren’t the subtlest messages either. Are they DIY? Where do the ideas come from?
Yeah, they’re all entirely DIY apart from the Maggot Line video, which is only mostly DIY. We got Trust a Fox Photography to film us arsing about for that one. They’re all filmed on phones for the most part and put together using Windows Premiere. Our guitarist Dom does it all and does an amazing job with the tools we have.
It all comes down to that desire to create something stark again. There’s a time for subtlety and these aren’t subtle times. Imagery is a vital part of what we do and we love using motifs and symbols and characters to get a message across. So we generally start thinking about an image and what that means in relation to the song, then expand the concept from there to the point where it starts to mean more than its original intention, to us at least. Like the Watcher character in the 97/91 video is meant to be a metaphor for the way we blindfold ourselves to atrocity and violence happening on a global scale as a means of self-preservation, which is part of what the song is about, but it became more of an exploration of mental illness and imprisonment in fear.
I love that, the way ideas evolve, and I always find symbols a really useful jumping off point so I suppose thinking about it in that way is where ideas come from.
How is a Battery Farm song constructed?
Usually I’ll write the lyrics and Dom will write some music, then we’ll get together and see what works before bringing it to Paul and Sam (our bassist and drummer respectively) as a fully structured song. Sometimes I’ll write a song entirely on my own or sometimes we end up working on it in the practice room all four of us, with me cycling through lyrics I’ve written until something works. We’ve started working that last process more recently, with ‘While the Black Smoke Rise’ from the EP being a particularly good example. Me and Dom used to be really closed off in our writing process, but there’s much more collaboration going on now which I’m really enjoying.
What can you tell me about your live show – when it exists, of course?
It’s brutal, relentless, vicious and intense. It’s an absolute exorcism and ultimate, collective catharsis. A big, chaotic, furious sweatbox. We leave a piece of our souls up there every time. We fucking miss it.
You’ve got an EP out in a few days. What’s the story behind that?
We have! The EP is called ‘ENDLESS UNSTOPPABLE PAIN 🙂’ which basically comes from the fact that I thought it’d be funny to think of the most petulant, melodramatic phrase I could think of and whack a smiley face emoji next to it.
I wanted the EP to be a reflection of our experience as millenials looking to a future that is in many ways grim and terrifying. Climate crisis is starting to take effect, populist monsters across the world are furthering an agenda that is ultimately designed to end in more pain, more poverty and further inequality. We’ll never own a home. We’ll never be able to live truly comfortably. The things our parents took for granted are out of sight for us. Our future is being desecrated and stolen from us, nakedly and remorselessly. ‘ENDLESS UNSTOPPABLE PAIN 🙂’ is our reaction to that and our attempt to make sense of it. It’s an angry, violent record for an angry, violent time.
How far off is an album, and what would you be going for I could see you guys doing a concept-type thing.
I think whatever we end up doing would be loosely conceptual, certainly in terms of themes, but I don’t think we’d do an out-and-out narrative concept album. Not yet anyway.
An album is probably a year or two off yet. We want to continue releasing new music quickly and an album wouldn’t allow for that. We will be doing one at some point though. If we have to release it ourselves we will do.
Tell me about Manchester’s punk scene…
It’s amazing. There’s a diverse range of bands doing innovative and exciting stuff and they’re popping up all over the place. It’s certainly the friendliest, most inclusive, most communal scene I’ve experienced. You’ve got bands like Witch Fever as your figureheads, who are genuinely incredible. Then at and around our level there are bands like XUP, The Red Stains, Tinfoils, Richard Carlson Band, Slap Rash… properly wonderful bands coming together to create a really vibrant, vital scene.
Outside of the punk scene it’s great as well, with bands like Heavy Salad, The Maitlands and Bones Shake doing really exciting stuff. From top to bottom, in all facets, Manchester’s scene is more fascinating now than it’s been in 20 years.
How are you spending lockdown?
Getting ready for the EP release really, which involves a lot of emailing and thinking of #content. It also involves a lot of drawing and a lot of writing lyric sheets as we’re doing that stuff as extras with our vinyl. On a personal, me and my wife have just had our first child so I’m enjoying spending quality time with him. That makes things a lot easier.
What are your hopes for the future?
Just to be able to play live again without fear to be honest. Beyond that, I honestly just want to continue making art that has some value while enjoying doing so. I think we’re all at a point where if we stop enjoying what we’re doing we won’t grind through it. Gratification is the main objective now. If it’s no fun what’s the point?
We also want as many people to see what we’re doing as possible as well because I think we’ve got something important to say. So we’ll just keep chasing that one day at a time.