Bambara’s music is dark and mysterious. Their live performances feel like satanic rituals—but damn, if these guys don’t know how to have a good time.
I was fresh off shotgunning beers with Native Sun when I met the lords of darkness who form Bambara at SXSW. I told Reid Bateh (vocals), Blaze Bateh (drums) and William Brookshire (bass) to buckle up for an interesting interview. But instead of judging me for my ever-so-slightly slurred speech, the trio joined in on the fun, each with beer in hand.
Bambara got to Austin the day before and were gearing up for two shows that night. Luckily, when we caught up we were all already day drinking and enjoying live music—like one does at SXSW—and immediately started laughing about the scooter situation in Austin.
“I think I’m gonna hop on a scooter as soon as we’re done,” Brookshire jokes. Blaze adds, “that’s why we’re here—we’re actually here for the scooters.”
The Bateh brothers are fraternal twins who’ve known Brookshire since they were kids. The three have played together since middle school. Though their current sound is similar to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds or Swans, their initial sound was much sunnier.
“Definitely more like Blink-182 covers and shit like that,” Reid says. “[But] it’s harder to express yourself in the construct of a pop-punk song the older you get.”
The band has been hard at work on demos for their next album, locking themselves in their Brooklyn basement studio for 12-hour recording shifts. So, SXSW was a break for these guys. Their last album Shadow On Everything was released just last year and they’ve supported it on U.S. and European tours with bands like Idles and Nothing.
Though the band can have anywhere between eight to three people on stage at any time, the Bateh brothers and Brookshire are Bambara’s permanent members. They’ve been through a lot together.
“William stole one of our Beanie Babies when we were little kids,” Blaze says. Reid also chimes in, laughing, “I’m not done with this anger, it was Radar the Bat—he gave it back, [but] I don’t accept [Brookshire’s apology].”
Whether or not Beanie Baby theft inspired Bambara’s dark magic, one thing is clear: the magic is powerful. Reid’s angry and echoing baritone vocals boom over eerie synth and menacing drums. Live, Reid paces the stage until he drops to his knees or shoots his hand up to the crowd like a preacher on judgment day. Blaze says “José Tries to Leave” from Shadow On Everything is a good introduction to Bambara, as it eases you into the grittiness and hurricane of darkness their music brings. Reid, however, says “An Ill Son,” from 2016’s Swarm, is a good “entry level” tune.
After our chat, we shotgunned a beer and I caught Bambara’s riotous act later that night. Currently, they’re working on recording new music back in NY and will be touring to four spots with Daughters June 14-17 and playing Brooklyn Bazaar with Pissed Jeans June 30. In the meantime, tune-in to The Music Meetup to hear the entire drunken interview in all its glory and listen to Shadow On Everything in its entirety.