Sweeping and cinematic, Hudson Valley band Battle Ave.’s self-titled EP is a bold return in the form of an intimate and emotional release of tension: Understated and dynamic, fresh yet familiar, it’s a nuanced upheaval of stirring, evocative alternative music.
for fans of The Neighbourhood, Band of Skulls, Cage the Elephant
Stream: “My Year with The Wizard” – Battle Ave.
With a band name like Battle Ave., a listener might expect to tune in to some kind of fight (metaphorical or otherwise) playing out in song; there’s an air about these words that conjures up a sense of passion and confrontation – of drama, inside and out. This is certainly the case for Hudson Valley’s Battle Ave., who engage with their demons and reckon with their shadows through stirring, evocative alternative music. Sweeping and cinematic, the group’s new self-titled EP BATTLE AVE is resounding: A bold return in the form of an intimate and emotional release of tension. Understated and dynamic, fresh yet familiar, it’s a great way to reacquaint ourselves with the band as they head fearlessly into their second decade.
my year with the wizard was a long one
you act like a friend, but you’re the wrong one
i call on the phone, i need an answer
why don’t you want the truth?
my year with the devil was a sad one
you look for yourself inside a bad one
and everyone knows that this is nowhere
how do you sleep at night?
my year with the lovers wasn’t worth it
i asked for too much, i think i cursed it
i asked for the kill, but not the question
what do you want from me?
Independently released October 8, 2021 and produced by Kevin McMahon (Titus Andronicus, Real Estate, Swans), BATTLE AVE is gorgeously grungy and ripe with feverish feeling. Battle Ave.’s eponymous five-track release arrives in the wake of six years of silence following their sophomore album Year of Nod, itself another expansive and moody overhaul worth exploring.
These intervening years have been a period of personal growth and awakening for the band, which currently consists of guitarist/vocalist Jesse Doherty, drummer Samantha Niss, andJohn burdick, Peter Naddeo, and Adam Stoutenburgh. It’s been a mixed bag as members learned to navigate parenthood, graduate school, and in Niss’ case, a cancer diagnosis.
Life hits us in ways we’ll never expect it to, and in some a sense, that’s the “mission statement” of BATTLE AVE: “Shit happens, let’s figure it out.”
“The EP was really Frankenstein’d together after the recording sessions we did for our as-of-yet unreleased new record,” Jesse Doherty tells Atwood Magazine. ” I was doing a lot of editing and overdubbing of those songs during lockdown, trying to cut down the track list to maintain some sort of emotional through-line, and between the songs that ended up on the cutting room floor and new songs that we wrote and recorded once lockdown started I realized we had enough songs for an EP. It almost feels like we’re doing it backwards – releasing the “b sides” first, followed by the record.”
“Honestly, there wasn’t any real vision, at least not during the composition of the EP — mostly because none of these songs were written with this collection in mind. Some were written for a totally different record, some were written and demoed really quickly, some are over a decade old… When I threw the EP together, it was primarily because it’s been nearly 7 years since our last record was released, and I guess I wanted to get people used to the idea of us releasing music again before releasing our new full length. I really don’t want to just throw that into the void and have nobody notice, because it’s taken so much time and energy to finish, so the EP was, I think, meant to remind people that we still exist.”
“The EP covers a lot of different musical ground and hopefully gives the listener a good idea of the things we like to do. I don’t know about our artistry… it always feels like we’re just stumbling along, to be honest. I do think I’ve gotten better at singing since our last release, so hopefully that helps people enjoy it. After our first record, a bunch of press people sent us rejection emails that all essentially said “great music, your singer sounds like a troll, truly awful voice” and we used those quotes in subsequent press releases. Take that, haters!”
In Doherty’s mind, this is an ideal eponymous record as it showcases Battle Ave.’s many musical sides.
“It’s true that the five songs on the EP really encapsulate the different musical modes we tend to live in, and I’ve called the release something like a primer or intro to us and our music.”
“But also, I think the thing about self-titled releases is that it’s a free pass. Every band gets to have one free pass when they can’t think of a good title (or, if you’re Weezer, you get like, 10). If I’m being honest, every other title we were thinking of wasn’t very good.”
From the churning, radiant lead single and EP opener “My Year with the Wizard” to the epic and emphatic eight-minute finale “There Can’t Be Love,” BATTLE AVE hits hard, takes its toll on our emotional psyches, and exits stage right.
“My favorite song on the record is ‘Fear Of’ because of how freaky the juxtaposition in that song is,” Doherty says. “Our bassist John’s great piano feels like Hunky Dory Bowie, but then you have this crazy Nashville pedal steel over the whole thing… And then, at the end, this huge, echoey, harmonizing guitar solo comes in, like Thin Lizzy robotripping.” A warm, comforting tune layered in sweet instruments and buoyant harmonies, “Fear Of” is a hypnotic enchantment that proves both catchy and cathartic. It peters out in a smoldering glow of sonic afterburn that washes over the ears, leaving us in a contemplative daze.
On the topic of favorite lyrics, Doherty admits, “I actually never care much about the lyrics when I listen to music — a strong melody will always absolve dumb lyrics for me — but I agonize over my own lyrics, sometimes for years.”
“I think my favorite lyrical moment is in ‘There Can’t Be Love’ when I say, “Can’t let go, the little things I didn’t know I owned, but how could I begin to know?” Not sure why I like it so much… interesting syntax, good assonance, fun to sing.”
and my heart, i can’t stop it from falling all apart
woke up in a parking lot, coil around my rocks
i’m alright, i threw it all into the void last night
blowing out the pilot light
i’ve been dreaming without feeling
on a straight line, there’s no reason
can’t let go, the little things i didn’t know
i owned, but how could i begin to know?
how can something come from nothing?
i will love you without reason
there can’t be
there can’t be love
there can’t be love in
there can’t be love in everything
BATTLE AVE is soothing, poetic, and deeply resonant:
A short collection no doubt, yet one that undoubtedly leaves us hungry for more Battle Ave. – and more there is to come! Doherty says the band’s third album is set to release sometime in 2022.
For now, he hopes BATTLE AVE can be a sort of reintroduction.
“I’m not sure I want listeners to take anything specific away from any of our releases; I think I just want them to take something away from it, so releasing it isn’t just an exercise in futility,” he shares. “As for what I’m taking away… the press has been really nice for the release so far, and it feels nice to know that anyone cares about what we’ve been doing.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Battle Ave.’s BATTLE AVE with Atwood Magazine as the band goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their eponymous release!
:: stream/purchase BATTLE AVE here ::
Stream: ‘BATTLE AVE’ – Battle Ave.
:: Inside BATTLE AVE ::
“My Year With The Wizard”
This is one of the easiest songs I’ve ever written. Normally both music and lyrics take me years to finish, but I think Wizard took me about 30 minutes. I’d been recording songs with friends over the internet just to pass the time during lockdown, and while using Garageband for that project I found this guitar preset called “cheap studio time” that made my guitar sound like it was out of a Guided By Voices song, so I just leaned into that. When I sent the rhythm guitar and vocals I recorded to the rest of the band I had no idea what they’d add, but I think it turned out really great. I had loosely conceived of these characters – a wizard, a devil, “the lovers” – as representative of all these past relationships and friendships I’ve had and lost over the years, but I’m never really sure what my songs are about. I don’t tend to care if my lyrics are about anything in particular, as long as they’re evocative and complement the music.
This song came to me in a dream. That’s corny as fuck, I know, but I swear it’s also true. I had a really terrible fight the night before and woke up feeling bad, but also I had this tune stuck in my head. I grabbed some coffee, went outside, and started singing into my phone before I forgot it. I have no clue what my dream was about – I never remember my dreams – but maybe some of the imagery in the lyrics, birds and rivers and people sharpening knives, was part of the dream? Who knows. This song was recorded in a really warped way. Our bassist John wrote this really beautiful kinda honky-tonk piano line as a base instrument, and then I sent it to everyone else. Everyone wrote and recorded their parts not knowing what anyone else was doing. I think this makes the song feel woozy, like everyone is lost in a fog, which is perfect because that’s where I was at when I began writing it. Full circle, baby.
“Kingston South Cuties”
This isn’t really a song.. it’s just a riff I’ve been playing around with for about 12 years. Our producer Kevin once told me about “ostrich tuning” where every string on the guitar is the same note, and that night I started playing around with it.. I think this is actually A-A-A-e-a-a, so a little different than ostrich. I’m not a very good guitar player, and I’m really terrible at lead lines, so I’ve really tried to develop a style of rhythm guitar that isn’t boring to play.. Most of my more recent songs started with an acoustic line where I’m playing chords and a melody at the same time, and I think Cuties was the first time I ever did that. I named the song after a strip club that used to exist in Kingston, NY, where most of us are from. I never went in, though. It’s just a cool name.
This song is so weird. Sometimes I listen to this song and think “Hell yeah, this is weird as hell and I love it” and sometimes I just skip over it. I wrote this in my head while driving on the thruway. I just started singing it acapella and had to get my phone out of my pocket and hit record while going 70 (don’t text and drive). No clue what I’m talking about lyrically, but when we were in the studio I really wanted the song, which initially was just acoustic guitar and vocals, to have this clattering cacophony in it, so our drummer Sammi recorded all of these wild percussion overdubs, and then Kevin and John did a bunch of yelling vocal takes, and now it’s just this big chaotic jumble. Writing about it, I’m really happy with the song, but it can be exhausting to listen to sometimes 🙂
“There Can’t Be Love”
This song was very hard to write and even harder to record. I wrote the second half first (“there can’t be love in anything”) but I knew that it couldn’t stand on its own as a song and needed something before it. Initially, the first half was a totally different arrangement; it had sort of a Neil Young & Crazy Horse vibe, very bouncy, but after a few weeks listening back to it I realized I hated it. It felt fake, like we were trying to become a caricature of a classic rock band. I wrote a totally different first half, which we ended up having to record twice because the first time it was too fast. The final version is just this patchwork of different recording sessions; if you listen, you can easily tell when the drum sound shifts. I didn’t want to sing this one alone, so Hannah Mohan from And The Kids agreed to sing it with me and did an amazing job; the additional vocals really lift the song up (and distracts from the fact that I’m reaching for a lot of the notes). This has some of the most transparent and plainspoken lyrics I’ve written… I was just really focusing on feeling like I’d lost the ability to attain any of the dreams I’d had for myself as a teen, and I think this song is a way of trying to remind myself of the things I do have, and also tell myself that failure in one thing doesn’t mean failure in all things.
:: stream/purchase BATTLE AVE here ::
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