The past few years have not only seen an uncountable plethora of contemporary artists exploring the beauty of 90’s alt rock, but an equal plethora of 90’s alt rock’s best outfits reuniting for the first time in quite a few years. And these two worlds are currently on display on Veruca Salt’s first tour in nearly two decades, which features Portland’s Battleme in the support slot. The Volcano Girls, Nina Gordon and Louise Post, are back together and joined by founding members Jim Shapiro and Steve Lack for the first time since 1997 on this year’s most personally anticipated reunion tour, which includes a July 22nd stop at our very own TLA. Matt Drenik’s Battlme will be opening the evening with a set that is likely reminiscent of those bands that Gordon and Post shared stages with the first time around. Battleme’s sophomore effort, Future Runs Magnetic, was released this March, which they followed-up with a tour supporting the Toadies. Future Runs Magnetic is a sassy, riffy rocker that would’ve likely had numerous numbers finding stardom on Alternative Nation, had it been released twenty years previous. I recently got a chance to chat with Matt Drenik about Battleme’s latest, which he considers to be a huge step forward, and his connection to the 1990’s.
Izzy Cihak: You’ve been quite busy in 2014. What have been the highlights of the year for you?
Matt Drenik: Well, it’s really been the year of touring… It’s tough to say if there has been a certain highlight moment over another. I feel like it’s been a blur, but would probably go with our new record’s, Future Runs Magnetic, release in March and then the launch of the US tour. The session I did at Powerhouse Factory in Cincinnati was definitely a highlight on the tour, as well as playing First Avenue in Minneapolis and skinny dipping in Ft. Lauderdale post show with a 14 foot Great White cruising in the area. We found that out the next day and awkwardly laughed.
Izzy: How do you feel like Future Runs Magnetic compares to your debut, both sonically and in terms of the writing and recording process?
Matt: I think Future Runs is more of an organic band venture. I wanted the record to feel like a band in a room recording a rock record. The first record was much more of an individual expression with no real band in sight. So instead of holing up in my basement and writing another record, I wanted this one to feel more cohesive, using the band I’d been playing with live in the studio. I’d work up the skeleton versions of the songs and bring them in and see what happened when we all started playing them together. Sometimes they’d fall right into place, other times we’d labor over parts, sections, arrangements, until it felt like the song was going somewhere.
Izzy: Do you consider the album to have any particularly significant influences?
Matt: Not really. I guess it sounds like the stuff I was listening to when I was growing up. I’m a child of the 90’s and I loved that era of rock and pop with noise and shake. So to me it just sounds like an extension of what I was really into as a fan.
Izzy: You relocated to Portland a few years ago. How do you feel about the local music and arts scene? I’m quite a fan of a lot of what’s coming out of there and I actually spent a lot of time in PDX a little over a decade ago.
Matt: It’s great. I love it up here. I think there are some really brilliant artists roaming the streets and I love how Portland and, more broadly, the Pacific Northwest embraces that. Hopefully things will keep on a steady pace up here where art can live and breathe. I just hope the big condo people don’t crush the cool like they always seem to do.
Izzy: You’re touring with the reunited Veruca Salt, whose original lineup is on the road for the first time in more than 15 years, so I have to ask your thoughts on the Chicago band. Were you previously a fan? Are you excited to get to see them every night for a couple weeks?
Matt: Yeah, Veruca Salt was a big deal when I was growing up. That whole movement of bands was really part of country’s subconscious back then and made you feel less alone if you wanted to be different. So to be able to come full circle and look at my career and go out and support them for a few weeks is a bit mind blowing.
Izzy: Actually, on that note, you recently finished touring with the Toadies. What are your thoughts on being paired up with these all-stars of 90’s “alt rock?” I’m 29 and fell in love with music in the early 90’s. It seems as though in the mid-90’s there were more progressively interesting artists being embraced by the mainstream than at almost any other point in the history of popular music.
Matt: It’s great. I love rock n roll with guitars and hooks and that era was one of the best for that format. I wish there were more bands doing that now. Maybe there will be soon. It seems like there’s enough room nowadays for it all.
Izzy: How would you characterize your live show? What can we expect? What would you tell old school Veruca Salt fans to get them to come out early to catch your set
Matt: High energy, fun, uninhibited rock show. I like to sweat it out up there. Get there early.
Izzy: And how do you hope and plan to spend the rest of 2014? Can we expect any more music videos or headlining dates?
Matt: We’ll be continuing to tour Aug, Sept, Oct to round out the record cycle. Headlining dates and loads of videos very soon to come.