'Songwriting is too important to be frivolous' for ambitious indie-folk locals Batteryboy


Batteryboy Provided

The spirit of wisdom dwells in Batteryboy, and they intend to share it on new sophomore album Before the Silence Breaks

Time seems to linger as the encompassing and expansive album passes. By the end, the orchestral indie-folk quartet leaves listeners gasping for air.

Before Batteryboy’s album release show Friday at Icehouse, lead singer Cobey Rouse shared the moments that went into making the new album, and why he think every decision we make counts.

City Pages: What's the meaning behind the album name?

Cobey Rouse: Each song on Before the Silence Breaks is a snapshot of the moment right before a person breaks the silence and changes their life forever, from childhood to old age -- not in order on the album.

Every decision we make in life is important, even the small ones. They all change your life in some way. But some of them impact our life so significantly, whether we are aware of it at the time or not, and I wanted to capture the moments those happen.

These include finally finding the courage to cry out for help; proclaiming a commitment to sobriety; convincing a friend to find comfort through hope; a child telling you it's time to let them go. They're all pretty deep, but songwriting is too important to me to be frivolous when it comes to meaning in my lyrics.

The opening lyrics of the first song, “You don't need to disappear,” set the stage for the album: "Just before the silence breaks / Just before the second that you take / A single breath before you start to scream ..."

CP: And the demos for Before You Start to Scream?

CR: This is a digital companion album for the first 200 orders of Before the Silence Breaks. It includes a self-recorded solo demo of each song from the new album, plus a few live versions with the band.

For the most part, what flows from my mind is what I believe is meant to be for a song, so I scribble it down and edit it to a point where it supports the intent of the piece. Then I record a demo of that right away, and those recordings are what I'm sharing on Before You Start to Scream. Some pretty intimate stuff there, and just less than 100 of the free companion downloads are left. You can only get it direct from us.

CP: You say your writing has changed. How do you think you pushed yourself to be a better writer on this album? Was it difficult for you?

CR: I want every song to be meaningful to or connect with people in a way that makes them think or feel differently than before they heard it. Writing songs like that is never easy, and the process makes me doubt myself often.

The thing that made this album more full of hope and energy than [our first album] Up for Air is that I wasn't writing these songs from a solo artist's perspective. I knew going into it what talents and instruments were at the table with me, so I could dream a little bigger and make those real in the studio.

The other major difference on this album from the first is that the majority of these are written based on observations people and the world around me. The first record was super introspective. This one is more about building a connection and creating catharsis for listeners rather than for myself.

People keep telling me Before the Silence Breaks sounds so much more uplifting and hopeful, which is awesome because that's the intent.

CP: What do you think pushing yourself has brought you and how do you think you've benefited from it?

CR: I pushed myself, but was also encouraged along the way by our producer, Eric Martin, and my cohort Eric Carranza. I also ditched alcohol nearly two years ago, which cleared my mind and made me a lot more present and aware of the things around me.

When you put all that together, it brought me to a place that is much more confident and self aware. It made me less afraid to try things, but also willing to work within my own limitations to focus on telling the story in a song through lyrics and the support of the talented people in the band, versus trying too hard to do that all by myself.

CP: You feel that everyone can make a personal connection with this album, but what story did you want to tell?

CR: That we can't lose hope, in ourselves and in each other. Whether it's about dealing with depression, addiction, and big struggles like that, or the everyday struggles like raising caring kids or making relationships work. On top of that, everything about our world feels so divisive right now and it would be easy to just give up. If we do that, we defeat ourselves and the people we care about.

The album is probably summed up best in “For Once in Your Life”: "Hope is stronger than you know / Hold on to someone close / Wait for clouds to roll and pass/ Comfort will come at last/ For you."

CP: Is it a goal to write something that is epic and life-encompassing?

CR: No, that's a super lofty goal for even the great artists. I just wanted to create the best piece of work that we could, and something that would be meaningful for people to listen to and connect with.

Songwriting is too important, and you only get a few chances in your life to make art that matters, so I take it seriously. If someone finds it to feel epic and life-encompassing, that's awesome. But I would be frozen looking at a blank songwriting page for years if I put that sort of goal or responsibility on myself.

CP: What song do you connect with the most on this album?

CR: I'd have to say “Time to Go”, but for personal reasons. I don't like to reveal what songs mean because I think everyone deserves to have a song mean something unique for them. Whatever they need it to mean at that moment or point in their life. So, unfortunately I can't tell you why, but I do tend to get a little choked up singing the closing chorus of that one.

CP: Tell me about the 11 video vignettes that you're putting together of the next few months.

CR: Based on the meaning behind the title before the silence breaks, we're working with our friends at Bock Media to create 11 music videos that are abstract interpretations of the songs. The first one was released a couple weeks ago, for “Soil Underneath” featuring talented songstress Katy Vernon in our lead actress role. 

CP: What are you excited to share at the album release show?

CR: We're really looking forward to meeting more of the people who appreciate and support our music. This will be the kickoff of a tour with our brand new lineup, and we'll also be joined by our friend and former bandmate who recorded on the new album, Cloud Cult violinist Shannon Frid-Rubin.

Then we head to Duluth the next day for a release show at Red Herring with Superior Siren and Black Diary, and hit Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska in the weeks ahead. Hopefully starting to break out of our “local” band shell a little bit and share the music with more people.

With: The Ericksons
When: 10 p.m. Fri., August 5
Where: Icehouse
Tickets: $8-$10 door; more info here