Highly Charged - The Battery Farm
On a cold fire escape outside Fuel Bar, I finally get to chat to half of one of the hottest bands around the Manchester scene at the moment, The Battery Farm. Brothers Ben (guitar/vox) and Dom Corry (Lead Guitar/vox) remind me of Jay and Silent Bob from the Kevin Smith films, except that Ben is far from silent both on and off stage and Dom is far more demure than Jason Mewes ever was. This sonic foursome are completed by Paul Worrall (bass) and Sam Parkinson (Drums), whose work commitments prevent them from joining us tonight.
They describe themselves [taken from their Facebook Biog] as a “Gutter Punk four-piece from Manchester playing visceral, punishing rock music infused with pain and passion. A guttural cry against a violent world, whose songs are borne of that violence. Part nihilism, part hope. Part rage, part joy. Trying to make sense of ourselves in a time that does not make sense at all. Life's a battery farm.”
As that pretty much describes what the boys are all about, a smarter interviewer than me might decide that no further words could improve on it. Good job I’m not that clever!
Having just released, what will undoubtedly transpire as one of the tracks of the year in Crude Oil Water, which has been gaining rave reviews from everyone who hears it, The Battery Farm are neatly positioned to ramp it up in 2020.
So what’s behind the name The Battery Farm?
Ben: The Battery Farm comes from where we were in our lives when we formed the band, 'we' being me and Dom. We were in a dark place having just seen our last band of 8 years crash and burn. With the world around us seemingly on fire and our respective mental health failing, it felt like life was closing in and suffocating us, like a battery farm. The band was formed as a way of lashing out against that, a way of exorcising all the bad shit that had built up around us and a way of kicking out at a world going badly wrong.
You're another band formed in 2019 [March]. What's going on in Manchester right now?
Ben: I don't know, it seems that a load of bands have come out around the same time as us March/April last year. Us, Loose Articles, Tinfoils. There seems to be a real community and scene popping up proper real innovative artists.
And whilst it is a scene there isn't any tangible common thread to speak of.
Dom: No, that's true
Ben: You're right. It's not another Madchester thing, it's people doing what they want fuelled by, I don't know, there's a lot of disenfranchised people, picking up guitars again or instruments or whatever and making music with their gut again. And it's sort of as you were saying, making for really interesting music, there's a whole kaleidoscope of things going on. It's also really original stuff and really human and exciting and real. It's good to be a part of.
Have you been in any other bands before?
Dom: Me and him [Ben] were in one band for a 8 years and it sort of fizzled out.
Ben: Now we're here
Dom: This is a direction reaction to that happening.
Ben: By the end of that first band we were sort of jaded. Fed up and everything
Resulting in a change of musical direction?
Ben: Yeah, but it wasn't really a conscious thing. We were sort of doing it because we felt like absolute shit and felt angry and disgusted at everything including ourselves. It was sort of born out of that. The early Battery Farm songs are a purge of all that stuff and an attempt to articulate all that horrible stuff, all that poison, which came from not only the end of that but things in our personal lives converging. So that's how it's come about really.
This certainly goes a long way to unpicking and understanding the visceral thrill of The Battery Farm's music, which despite the accomplishment of the recorded output, is really best experienced live. One piece of advice I would give is stand back from the stage, otherwise you will find yourself up close and personal with one of the Corry brothers, who regularly make excursions in to the audience.
So not even a year in yet. Will you be playing an anniversary gig?
Dom: No, we just keep steam rollering on.
Ben: We should do. Cold Water Swimmers have. Something to look in to.
So it's February the 1st.......
Dom: ........a chilly February the First
........a chilly February the first, the morning after the night before [previous evening at 11pm the UK limped out of the EU]. Last night where I live there were fireworks going off.
Ben: Fucking hell.
Manchester was a strong Remain area. Is this part of the disenfranchisement you mentioned earlier?
Ben: Yeah, it's a takeover by legitimised fascism to me. It's been a slow and insidious thing, a slow project where the far right have sunk their claws into mainstream politics and the mainstream consciousness, which has emboldened certain factions of the public to believe in shit like Brexit and ideologies like Brexit, because Brexit is a racist ideology after all, are acceptable and become mainstream options. Last night in Ashton where I live there were no fireworks, despite it being a solid Leave area. I saw it on Facebook with people putting up celebratory posts and I just thought is that what we've come to.
Dom: The interesting thing that you said about over the last year and bands popping up out of nowhere,I think that most of them will tell you that's the reason they started...
Dom: ......yeah, yeah
Filling a void?
Ben: Yeah exactly. It's a generation that's been fucking abandoned, it's a generation that's been sold out and had its future torn away from it and that's not hyperbole, that's exactly what it is to me. You know, you've got an impending climate emergency going on where we've got 10 years now or something like that to turn things around and no-ones doing anything about it, now matter how hard the message is sent. You've got a government who want to turn Britain into a tax haven for elite foreign nationals. Brexit will ultimately result in all of us being poorer apart from the people who can afford to be......
The people who have already moved their money off-shore.....
Ben: Exactly, yeah yeah The Cayman Islands set.
So how does that influence your song writing, either directly or indirectly. Is it by process of osmosis?
Dom: It naturally makes them more aggressive I think. We've discussed in length about what sort of music we want to produce further down the line but because the climate that we're in, how pissed off people feel that the music we want to make is naturally in that vein. People want their music to be loud and passionate and that's what we feel we have to express. It's the only thing we can do!
Ben: We call ourselves a 'gutter punk' band but we'd like to be in a position further down the line, where we're not a gutter punk band because everything is better. It's the old Johnny Cash thing of 'wear the black' you know, until the world's alright I'm gonna wear the black and I guess that's what we feel like at the moment.
So what musical influences brought you together?
Dom: Obviously we're brothers, [actually guys not that obvious as you look nothing like each other!!] and I'm 18 months younger and we shared the same room and I watched everything he did. He was in bands from the age of 13-14, and I was 'I want to fucking do that, I want a day out' and I'd be like 'Ben I've got an E-minor here'!
So what records where you picking up on at this time?
Ben: The Smiths.....
Dom: .....Manics, basic sort of great guitar acts.
Ben: Yeah you've got your bread and butter great guitar bands and we branched off into things like the Everley Brothers, The Walker Brothers, Roy Orbison.....
Dom: .....Billy Fury
Ben: Billy Fury, all the old greats.
[Now normally at this point I'd be smelling a rat and think they were taking the piss but I want to believe them because they seem nice guys.] So was this your parents record collection you were raiding?
Ben: It was my Grans [now I'm starting to smell urine and not because of their Gran either].
Dom: There'd be countless times where we'd just be sat with our Gran, on Thursdays...
Ben: ......still goes on to this day dun it? [mmm pissy rat time!]
Dom:...when we should have work in the morning getting pissed, listening to old records
Getting pissed with your Gran?
Ben: Yeah, she loves it. Gets the old wine out, she's got a stockpile of it...
Dom: ...she gets The Dubliners on or something...
Ben: Yeah, the Dubliners or Foster and Allen [one for the teenagers to Google again], Billy Fury..
Dom: Connie Francis!
Have you got Celtic heritage?
Ben: Not really. Some people in our family insist that we do but there's no sign of it.
Could come in useful after Brexit, an Irish passport! Are there any more contemporary influences?
Ben: There's been a great wave of punk bands over the last couple of year, that are still even know finding their feet in the wider world, that really emboldened us to think that what we were doing wasn't fucking corny or stupid, bands like Witch Fever, Strange Bones, Idles. Idles in particular.
We're huge fans of Witch Fever at MANCANDI! They're amazing aren't they?
Ben: Oh god, what a band! They are getting better and better as well. Love them.
I find them so interesting to watch. You've got Amy (Singer) and Alex (Bass) who are just so out there, visually and performance wise and then you've got Alisha (Guitar) and Annabelle (Drums), who are just so solid behind them but without the flamboyant posturing. It's almost like 2 bands within one!
Ben: It's like the old Morrissey/Marr dichotomy, where Marr was the straight man and Morrissey was the flailing clown for want of a better phrase. [NB: To clarify, Ben is not suggesting for one minute that half of Witch Fever are 'flailing clowns'!!] And it's a similar kind of thing with a split down the middle of the band.
One thing I have noticed about bands like Witch Fever, which was obvious at last years Confessional Festival in Blackburn is that most of their fans seem a lot older than the band themselves. I said to them afterwards that I thought it was the wrong way round and they should be watching us 50 year olds on stage. Where are the kids I asked? And then last week I found them! I went to The K's sold out show at the Ritz and it was just rammed with 14-18 year olds. A real party atmosphere too. Not just a downstairs 'sell out' either as sometimes happens at that venue, when ticket sales aren't enough for them to open the upstairs. A proper rammed to the rafters affair. Three great young bands without an album between them selling out one of the larger venue in town, phenomenal effort. I was blown away by the main support Narrow Margin.
Ben: Narrow Margin, they're fucking great. Superb band. I don't know much about them. They seem to have come out of nowhere in the last month or so. Yet to see them live, heard them but I'm going to for sure. Local band from Hyde too! Warrington [The K's home town] and Wigan seem to be bringing out the goods at the moment, with The Lathums, it's exciting.
The cold February wind is taking its toll on the boys and so keen to wrap things up, in both senses of the word, I ask them what the story is behind the lastest single Crude Oil Water, which if you have heard it, you'll know it is pretty surreal.
Ben: Err, yeah [to Dom], it was your dream, wasn't it?
Dom: Yes I had this recurring dream since I was a 5 year old, which used to wake me up terrified, and I used to have to run to me mum, 'ahh, I've had that dream again'! So basically the dream was I'm figure, basically drowning and trying to scarper to get to the surface of this water that was like thick black oil and there was like a Batman searchlight going over the surface and every time it went over the body got more contorted and just as it got to the the face, I woke up everytime. In retrospect, why was I having these dreams at aged 5? Was it some kind of impending doom thing? And then I told him about it the sort of dream....
Ben: .....and I totally appropriated it and turned it into a song.
So who gets the writing credit then?
Dom: He has!
Ben: I put the words on the paper! I appropriated it into talking about the way human beings objectify each other for shallow entertainment. Not just in a televisual sense but life in general. The way that people find it so easy to disconnect from someone's humanity and see them as a husk to be laughed at or manipulated or whatever, so I added a character to Dom's dream and essentially the whole thing is that whole concept filtered through the prism of someone watching strangers drowning in a crude oil pit.
Wow. It's great, thanks for adding some context. It's got that real darkness to it and I love the opening guitar work, which sounds like a Dalek and not a guitar at all.
Dom/Ben: No problem
So we hasten back inside the warmth of the aptly named Fuel Bar in Withington, where later on that evening, they would take the stage as part of one of the rather wonderful Deco Records live extravaganzas and lay all to waste before them, but hey that's another story.