Battleme: Seeing The Light

Battleme

Matt Drenik’s vision quest manifests in the bedroom-pop sensibilities of Battleme

The name might suggest some kind of internal struggle, but Battleme tries to keep things intuitive, says bandleader Matt Drenik. “Other people have these interpretations of the name: ‘Are you trying to battle yourself with your pop songs and your loud songs?’“ Drenik jokes from his home in Portland, Ore. “I’m like, ‘Not really. I don’t know what I’m doing.’”

When listening to Battleme’s latest, Future Runs Magnetic (El Camino Media), the idea that Drenik doesn’t know what he’s doing sounds far-fetched, with his bedroom-pop sensibilities somehow finding common ground with the record’s brasher rock songs. But the first Battleme tracks were very different. While still a member of Austin stoner-rock band Lions, Drenik recorded some country/folk songs under the Battleme moniker for Sons Of Anarchy.

“I was always the bedroom-pop kid in all the bands I was in,” says Drenik. “I was always the dude who was writing the softer acoustic songs at home, and every once in a while I’d get some guts and show up at band practice and show it to them. Nine times out of 10 they’d go, ‘Oh, that’s not the band. We can’t do something like that,’ then I’d go back to my little hole and write more.”

Before Lions fizzled out, Drenik met his wife while passing through Portland on tour. By 2011, Drenik was living in a new city and had been diagnosed with uveitis, an inflammatory eye disease that can lead to blindness. The scariness of the diagnosis lit a creative fire, and Drenik cranked out some 30 songs that summer, 11 of which ended up on Battleme’s much more psych/pop-leaning self-titled debut in 2012.

“I cut eight songs that were more acoustic, bedroom-y stuff, and I started to get really bored, so I just started writing different kinds of songs,” says Drenik. “The cool thing was I didn’t have an audience, so I wasn’t really writing for anybody but myself.”

Drenik’s uveitis is under control now, though he did lose some vision in his left eye. He credits the ordeal with changing his outlook on life and music. “I’ve gotten into trouble overthinking things before,” he says. “That was one of the things I didn’t want to do when my eyes started going bad. I really wanted to push myself to make different kinds of records.”

—Matt Sullivan

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