batteryboy's Cobey Rouse: I just wanted to write a pretty song
Photo courtesy of the artist
It is probably impossible to find a band filled with people as nice as the ones that play in batteryboy. Frontman Cobey Rouse seems eternally surprised that anyone is taking an interest in the little band he started -- this was, after all, a dream he walked away from eleven years ago.
"I just moved on with life and work and everything," says Rouse from a sunny table at an Uptown café. "And when I started writing again, I was super scared to play solo, but I thought, 'I'm just gonna do it. Play at a coffee shop, see what happens. Let fate take its course.' And that's what I have been doing the whole time. There is no plan."
Ahead of his band's release show this weekend at Icehouse, everyone got together with Gimme Noise to discuss how the dream was reborn.
Rouse has a very earnest way of talking, clear-eyed and grateful for everything--it's touching just to listen to him talk about his work. batteryboy has been an active project for Rouse for just over a year, and in that time, he's seen it evolve from fledgling status to full-blown band -- thanks, in part, to his bandmates. Rouse has found two very capable comrades in guitarist/keyboardist Eric Carranza and Cloud Cult's violinist, Shannon Frid. Originally, Rouse and Frid connected when Rouse reached out to her via Facebook to see if she would be interested in adding her violin to the solo guitar and kickdrum sounds he'd been working on.
"[Rouse] had been a fan of Cloud Cult for a while and he mentioned that to me right away, and I find that anyone who likes Cloud Cult is, a lot of the time, a really good person," says Frid, laughing. "It's totally true! Anyway, we just started playing music, and we meshed really well. He lets us do our own thing as far as creating our own parts, which is wonderful."
"We became friends, and then we were recording, and we were like, 'We need something else here, there's some kind of sound missing, some kind of layer,' so we brought in Eric -- he brings keys, slide guitar, ukulele, all these layers," explains Rouse. "You know, I always wanted to write a pretty song. Just one song. I love Sigur Ros and what it does to you. I just wanted to write one pretty song, and I wrote all these things, and it just wasn't where I wanted it to be. But then these two came on, and it was like, 'Oh, okay, I can, I just need these two to do it with me.'"
The result of that serendipitous partnership is the incredibly intricate debut full-length from batteryboy titled Up For Air. The eleven-track album is a delicate collection of gentle folk orchestrations, a record filled with just as much sadness as it is with inspiration. Rouse's vocals provide a strong backbone for the album, though they are simultaneously tremulous: such is the subtle nature of his songs. Frid's violin and harmonizing round out the songs perfectly; the sound she adds to "Beautiful" will make your heart ache. What is doubly impressive is the difference that batteryboy offers Frid from Cloud Cult.
"Cobey didn't have a set violin part in mind, whereas Craig [Minowa, Cloud Cult's frontman] does have a set violin part. So with Cobey and batteryboy, I had the freedom to start with my own violin, and it's allowed me to be more creative in the way of writing my own parts," offers Frid. "Also, after being with Cloud Cult for over six years, I've always either sung back-up vocals or played my violin... since playing with batteryboy, I've discovered that I can play more instruments, I've picked up the harmonica and the glockenspiel."
"I've also realized that I can kind of emotionally step outside of Cloud Cult," continues Frid thoughtfully. "I love the people in Cloud Cult, we have such a spiritual and emotional connection to each other, and part of me was like, 'I don't know if I can be outside of Cloud Cult. I don't know if I can get emotionally invested in other music.' And it turns out that I can, and it feels good, and it's okay."
To hear them tell the story, batteryboy has been the project that Rouse, Frid, and Carranza have all been waiting for--but there was no one who needed it as much as Rouse did.
"I think for the first time in my life, I feel like maybe I can do music with my life. And these two, that is their life. And I've always been kind of on the outside of that, just wishing that I could do that," explains Rouse. "Now it's like, 'Maybe I can do something with this. Maybe it's real!' I'm still kind of scared of that."
Those are palpable emotions that are clear themes throughout Up For Air. "If you dare, something's bound to make it's way/into your heart, if you can make the space," sings Rouse on "The Possible." It's easy to imagine those lines as a mantra for batteryboy--after all, it's those open-hearted thoughts that has made Rouse's band successful. Up For Air is an achievement for batteryboy--and Rouse in particular--in a lot of ways, but perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the record lies in the power that Rouse has found within himself.
"A record is a stamp. This was you at that time," says Rouse as he thinks about his next steps. "I feel really fulfilled with what's on it. I think it's beautiful. I'm super proud of it. I can't wait to share it... and I'm interested to put some new ideas on the next one."
batteryboy will be releasing their debut full-length this Saturday, June 22 at Icehouse along with Bethany Larson and the Bees Knees. Tickets are $8. Doors at 10:30 p.m. 21+. Info here.
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