Double The New Breed

9 April 2013 | 2:55 pm | Michael Smith

"I actually lost both my parents to cancer about six months ago, so a lot of the lyrics came out of that."

Based around the core of singer, songwriter and bass player David Rogers (who also moonlights in Jonathan Boulet's band, with whom he did South By South-West) and keyboards player Josiah Eastwood, what began as a bit of fun recording a couple of songs they released as Nantes has become a five-piece touring band – featuring guitarist Benjamin Morgan, synth player Timothy Adamson and drummer Mathew Gardner – with a debut album, BeingsBeing.

Another now Sydney-based (though all originally from Queensland's Sunshine Coast) four-piece Battleships – featuring singer and guitarist Jordan Sturdee, fellow guitarist Nato Hannaford, co-songwriter, bass and keyboards player Jonathan Bowden and drummer Dan McMurray – launched themselves last year with the single, In Retrospect, lifted from their debut seven-song mini-album, To You, which managed to score some radio love in the UK. Having successfully lifted two further singles off To You, the boys are now heading out on a co-headlining tour with Nantes promoting new single As You'd Begun.

Perhaps the “connective tissue” discernable between the two bands that makes them complementary touring buddies is each band's obvious passion for a textured sound, each creating an identifiable sonic fingerprint.

“We've played with some bands that have been really different to us,” Battleships' Sturdee admits, “but I think we fit well with Nantes.”

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“I've been friends with Dan, their drummer, for a while now,” Rogers explains, “and I thought it would, like, be a great experience and a great idea to tour together…”

“And we couldn't really say no,” Sturdee finishes the sentence.

Regarding the sound of the Nantes album, which took a year to write and record, Rogers suggests, “we didn't want to live off past successes.”

As well as plenty of local airplay, tracks from their eponymous debut EP have been picked up by various US college radio stations, registering spots in the CMJ College radio charts. “We just thought we wanted to do just exactly what would make us happy. Whatever vibe and whatever idea that we had, we just wanted to pursue that, and just through writing and recording, we kept trying different little avenues and different textures and ideas, just to get what we wanted on the table.”

That said, they included previous singles, Unsatify and Drones, “which were always kind of destined for the album. They fit really well with the mood. We didn't really want to tie ourselves down, but we wanted to do a concept album of three different albums, but then we thought we'd do what we do. I guess after the first three tracks that we had that were kind of working together, we listened back to some older tracks and even though they were quite different, they were kind of fitting with the mood and the kind of sense of where the album was heading. From there we built a couple more songs around those kind of ideas.

“I actually lost both my parents to cancer about six months ago, so a lot of the lyrics came out of that. It is a much darker album, lyrically, just because that's where I was at the time, so that's where most of the album emerged from that experience.

“We're already planning on recording a bunch of songs that are ready, with the idea of having a three-album kind of project. We wanted to have three albums by this year done – it's not going to happen – but hopefully we'll have another one out by the end of the year.”

“We're sort of at the other end, I guess,” Sturdee admits. “We just put out, at end of last year, our first ever recording, so we're now touring on our fourth single,” he chuckles. “I'd recently moved to Sydney, in Bondi, so [I was] sort of in the thick of it as well. So the record is I guess a lot of, like, just trying to work out where I fit in and that sort of thing. Also I think a lot of our writing were more, like, personal observation and people that we know. I co-write with bass player Jonno; the whole time with the band, and well before that, when we were trying other things, we were always writing together – even when I was living in Queensland and he's living in here in Sydney. We're Skypeing all the time, writing songs and mucking around. When you're sharing, when you're co-writing, you sort of have to relinquish some of that control, or some of that stake in it. That's always interesting – especially when you've got different ideas sometimes.”

As mentioned earlier, like Nantes, Battleships – who have also pencilled in the release of a full album by the end of this year – have been lucky enough to pick up some overseas airplay, in the UK in particular. Elbow frontman Guy Garvey gave the band a head's up through his BBC6 radio program, as have other UK stations – Amazing Radio, Q Radio and BFBS Radio among them – and Right Chord Music billed them Band of the Week, while Q magazine included them on their Top 140 Songs To Download Now 2012 list. There's also been some American action courtesy UK-born, LA-based DJ Sat Bisla's internationally syndicated import radio show, Passport Approved.

“It sort of happened accidentally as well,” Sturdee continues. “We didn't really push it, but someone found it and played it.”

“Getting that kind of attention from where you're not really flogging anything is a great thing,” Rogers suggests before adding, regarding Nantes' international “surge”, “just the internet – word of mouth.”

As for how the two bands are going to run things as co-headliners, Battleships definitely see themselves as the supporting act, which turned out to be something of a surprise to Rogers, but, as Sturdee puts it, “it's co-headline, but someone's got to go first.”

Nantes & Battleships will be playing the following dates:

Wednesday 10 April - Beach Road Hotel, Bondi NSW
Thursday 11 April - Transit Bar, Canberra ACT
Friday 12 April - Yours & Owls, Wollongong NSW
Saturday 13 April - GoodGod Small Club, Sydney NSW
Friday 19 April - Northcote Social Club, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 20 April - Ed Castle, Adelaide SA