Written by Jordan Reisman
Photo courtesy of Bambara.
If there were ever another place as efficient as Brooklyn in producing the strangest musical prodigies, it would be Athens, Georgia. This relatively small college town near Atlanta has a long-standing history with indie rock from R.E.M to Neutral Milk Hotel and now, Bambara. However, this noise punk outfit splits their time with Brooklyn, making them quite possibly the hippest band alive.
Bambara just released their second full-length entitled Dreamviolence in April, and as the band explains to BTR, some pretty weird dreams inspired the songs. Bambara is comprised of two twin brothers, Blaze and Reid Bateh, originally from Atlanta and a third Athens friend, William Brookshire.
While there is a lot that is unconventional about Bambara, perhaps most impressive is how long they’ve been around. They technically started the band when the members were in 7th grade, back in the nu-metal reigning days of 2001.
Blaze said about their ability to stay a band over time, “It was just constant, we never took a break or anything, we were constantly changing. I guess in college [University of Georgia] is when we formed officially in ’09 as Bambara. “
Athens was what gave the band its musical momentum as the town itself has such a prominent scene. Though the town has cemented itself as progressive, it still has its Southern roots. The band noted a recent Titus Andronicus show where they played a song off their Civil War-themed concept album, The Monitor, and an audience member raised the Confederate flag, prompting the lead singer Patrick Stickles to go off on the crowd.
Though the band grew up on Elephant Six Collective bands (Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal, Olivia Tremor Control), they mention a whole other side of Athens music that most probably aren’t aware of with post-rock bands like Maserati and harder math rock like Cinemechanica. But like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, Bambara decided to up their indie cred ante by moving to Brooklyn. The three settled in a house in Bushwick where Blaze’s drum set rests right next to his bed. A cramped set-up indeed but it allows them to practice and record in their own home.
Living in Bushwick has allowed Bambara to be in the midst of all the DIY action that’s been going on. They knew about what was happening in Brooklyn even back in Georgia.
“We were familiar with it somewhat just from being on tour here. We would usually play at Death by Audio in Williamsburg but since we moved here, it’s been almost two years and everything has moved out here a little bit. We live one block away from Silent Barn, Market Hotel was a block away.”
With their latest record, Bambara can’t really pinpoint one single influence that was responsible for its existence despite a profile of the band in Vice Magazine that pointed to Swans and early JAMC. However, Blaze cites vocal noise loops as “the glue of the whole record.” He says that a lot of critics say in the reviews that they use a lot of synths, but they’re actually vocal loops.
As if the confusion wasn’t eerie enough, the band has been known to sample porn in their music too. Most of this was Reid’s doing for their 2012 six-track EP called Rings.
“I just watched a bunch of videos trying to find the best moan, there was one that was too porn star-y. I just found the best one and recorded it, chopped it up and downloaded some sampler off the Internet,” says Reid of the process. “All the basic tracks, that’s all straight up vocal noise too, improv vocals. I was in Athens just fucking around with my stuff originally and so it was all just vocal noise, loops and things like that. Then after the fact I went in and put a girl in there.”
The identity of the porn star remains unknown as Reid claims it was “just some amateur thing.”
The significance of the title of their new record Dreamviolence, however, is known. They both agreed that the world “dreamviolence” best describes the album sonically.
Reid said, “A lot of the images in the album are based off of dream images but more, things that can be serene but with an underlying violence to them. That type of dream state.”
Blaze weighed in on the title, “We just thought those two words pretty much summed up how the record sounds.”
The cover of Dreamviolence depicts a blonde girl screaming, a still from the French film Pola X, and Red states that the mysterious femme fatale is a presence throughout the whole record. He says that she came from a reoccurring dream he’s had for awhile where she gives him teeth, but that her face is a composite of others.
Reid says about this presence, “She’ll give me teeth and it’ll be an inspiring thing. When she gives me a certain tooth it will feel like an accomplishment.”
He sounds like he’s watched Mulholland Drive one too many times, but hey, if it gets the record done… Fellow Athens legends Neutral Milk Hotel wrote a record about a dream, so why can’t they?
The brothers are acutely aware of the significance of the “teeth falling out” dream symbolizing fear of change in life or facing a dilemma. But Reid’s dream is the opposite, receiving teeth. Perhaps this means good omens for the future of Dreamviolence?
Check out the latest edition of Discovery Corner for more with Bambara!