It’s part musical project and part musical persona, but Battleme is definitely a new way of doing things for Matt Drenik.
Drenik was singer and guitarist for the hard-rock act Lions in the late 2000s when they had songs featured on “Sons of Anarchy,” an FX drama about a California biker gang. But when he wrote “Burn This Town,” to be used on the show, it didn’t seem like a Lions song. Lions went aggressive guitar-wise, Drenik said, but this track leaned toward country.
“I thought it was appropriate to release it under a different moniker,” Drenik says, and so Battleme was born.
The Battleme sound was different from the music Drenik had recorded before, but the roots to the new style could be seen in some of his songwriting and performing. He had a talent for writing “bedroom pop stuff,” he says, crafting a song on an acoustic guitar and singing it with a voice that was altogether different from his vocals for Lions. The sound would reveal itself in solo gigs, or at tribute nights for Elliott Smith or The Flaming Lips.
“I didn’t really necessarily think it had a lot of legs to be financially successful, I just thought it would be a different outlet as an artist,” Drenik says.
“Burn This Town” was used in the second-season finale of “Sons of Anarchy” in 2009, and his music went on to feature in subsequent seasons of the series.
He wrote and recorded Battleme’s six-track EP Big Score of songs with a similar folk sound – it was just him on the recording, with some sparse instrumentation.
Battleme may have been a created identity, but that didn’t make it a fixed identity. The sound turned more toward rock when he was making his full-length debut, 2012’s Battleme. He had been touring with a band at that point, which expanded the sound of his music.
“It was more band-sized material,” Drenik says. He toured on the album with the band, as he has with the follow-up Future Runs Magnetic, which came out this March. This week Drenik and his band embarked upon a tour that includes a stop at the Black Cat on July 21. When playing with the band as Battleme, Drenik leaves behind some of his earlier “Sons of Anarchy” tracks in favor of the things he’s recorded on his full-length albums
“I like to say that it’s fairly uninhibited. And it’s rock and roll,” Drenik says. “I love noise, and feedback, and the spirited energy.”
With Future Runs Magnetic now out, Drenik says he’s given his full focus to this project and that he sees positive development in his Battleme songwriting, that songs from this album show he’s getting to the right place, musically.
“I think that I’ve always been a fan of trying to get great at one thing rather than trying to be good at five things,” Drenik says. “Especially with the Battleme stuff, it’s that I’m still working. I still look at it as a progression. I don’t feel that anything has peaked yet, and I feel that I’m slowly coming into my own as to what I want this identity to be.”
• For more information about Battleme, visit battleme.tv.