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OKG Newsletter


Topic: Blackwatch Studios

OKS Chatter: Steven Battles

Chrome Pony’s ringleader needs something totally contrived to be genuine.

Anybody who follows him on Twitter knows Steven Battles to be a funny guy. A recent tweet: “According to research just conducted, I can sing at the top of my lungs on an airplane for 45 seconds before a stewardess asks me to stop.”

Likewise, anybody who’s seen Chrome Pony perform knows that Battles is not only funny, but willing to go so far over-the-top as to suggest that he might think he’s under the lights on Broadway or in a gigantic bowl amphitheater with tens of thousands of star-struck fans egging him on. It’s a sight to behold.

So when the prettiest Pony and I sat down to discuss his most recent project, we wound up talking about a lot of other stuff, too. Like nightmares and his friend Ryan Lindsey, who was kind enough to join us. Read away:

OKS: So what is Chrome Pony, exactly? Because it’s not a set band. And it’s not you, exclusively. It’s something else.

Battles: People don’t understand enough that Chrome Pony is a person. He is his own person. Chrome Pony is not a band. People get that wrong a lot.

OKS: How would you describe it?

Battles: It’s more of an alter ego, but also, he’s his own person.

OKS: You don’t have a lot of say in it?

Battles: No, not really. He actually came to me in a dream. It felt really real.

OKS: Was it more of a nightmare?

Battles: It was kind of a nightmare. It started when I was writing this song called “Chrome Pony,” and then I had a dream about him. I really don’t know that much about him. I just learn a little bit along the way.



OKS: So he’s this alien guy who likes to dress in nice suits and wear sunglasses at night.

Battles: Yeah, the sunglasses is, like, when he’s on.

OKS: Every time I’ve seen you play, there’s been a different lineup. It feels like a circus sometimes when you have so many people onstage.

Battles: That’s a good description.

OKS: How do you keep that many musicians all on the same page? Or do you?

Battles: So much of Chrome Pony is tracked music. That’s the way I shift the show dynamically is by adding or just going through a rotation of musicians. There are people I’ve played with more often, who are core members.

OKS: Do you ever write music with a certain player in mind?

Battles: The only people I’d really written music with are either producers or — the only other person I’ve ever sat down and written stuff with is [Broncho guitarist] Ben King. But he’s a producer as well, he’s produced a lot of stuff I’ve done.

But yeah, I rotate musicians because everyone brings something different. They all write their own parts and things shift dramatically when you change a drummer or add a guitarist. It’s a nice way to counterbalance the repetition and generate some new tracks.

It’s totally a circus. That’s the fun thing. It’s fun to have different friends onstage with you. Some people bring a darker energy, some people bring a lighter energy.


OKS: How many people have played guitar for Chrome Pony?

Lindsey: I played! Me, Jarod [Evans, Blackwatch Studios], Ben, Derek Lemke [Depth & Current], Derek Knowlton [The Pretty Black Chains], Brady [Smith, Gentle Ghost], Brine Webb. Kind of.

Battles: He just grabbed a guitar and got onstage at Norman Music Fest. He’s supposed to play with me some time, legitimately. We didn’t even talk about it. He just jumped up there.

OKS: For a lot of the music that’s made around here and Oklahoma City, I’d say Chrome Pony’s pretty unique. You’ve got some electronica, but that’s mostly DJs. You’ve got Kite Flying Robot in Tulsa, who make electronic rock, but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head.

Battles: I don’t feel like what I do is a whole lot different than what a lot of my friends do. The stuff I write comes from the same place as what they do. I just happened to choose a lot of synths and big beats because it’s cheesy and it’s fun and I like that stuff. I feel like it’s a little cheap and I like it.

One of the more unique things about my music — and it’s not necessarily a positive thing — is that I just go for it. I like to go for a big, pop sound. And like I said, it’s cheap. And I don’t exactly take myself seriously.

I feel like a lot of people around here making music, especially new bands, are kind of afraid to just go for it. You’re in Oklahoma; you have to go for it.

Lindsey: Songs like that are more genuine, anyway.



OKS: The first time I heard “You’ve Got to go Through the Darkness,” I just thought, “What the hecccccck? This is totally different.” It was you making a big song just because you can. That’s the kind of song you wouldn’t have written if you weren’t taking yourself seriously and decided to just go for it.

Battles: I actually wrote that song in high school. But it was completely different. It was the wussiest little song. I did it really fast at first and recorded a different version of it later, in college. I slowed it down and that was, like, a redemption song, so I had to go big.

It was funny, ’cause I was having a hard time [in college], and wound up drunk at a piano and just started belting this song out. I was like, “Yeah, that’s how this song’s supposed to go.” Duh-duh-duh, duh-nuh-nah. That was the redemption part.

OKS: Ryan, you said songs like that are more genuine, anyway. Is it because you’ve got less inhibition about it?

Battles: Yeah, I feel like if you lay yourself out there, there’s something innocent about that.

Lindsey:That’s the art that I see as being genuine. When a person doesn’t let back. It can be subtle. It doesn’t have to be a huge production.

Your first show at Norman Music Fest, the year before, is still my favorite. ’Cause Steven had been working on this project, none of [his close friends] had heard any of it. He was being secretive about it. We were sharing a room, and Steven was just getting quiet about stuff, taking off here and there, going to work with people on stuff. We knew, “OK, he’s got this show, he’s playing after us, so maybe we’ll find out.” And sure enough, Steven shows up in this suit and trench coat, er, a black duster and shades. And it was nighttime and it was hot.


So I figured he’d had something up his sleeves. And then I found out that he’d had something up his sleeves for two months. He was being pretty shifty around the house. It blew my mind. All of us that had been dealing with Steven in that way, we were all surprised. I remember looking at Ben [King] and Chad [Copelin] and smiling so big. And Jarod [Evans]. We all just knew; we didn’t have to say it: “So this is where Steven’s been the last two months.”

Johnny's on Istiklal (Feat. Crystal Vision) by Chrome Pony

OKS: So it sounds like you really need the inauthenticity and the grandiosity of the character to get yourself out there.

Battles: Exactly. That was how I got myself to do it. Since I could hide behind this made-up thing, I could go for it. I’d been nervous, but I’d been in the dungeon working on it with my friends B [Bryan Bryanson] and Katie [Wicks, both with Chrome Pony, Crystal Vision], and that was my hangout for about three months.

Lindsey: It was good for me to see somebody working hard at something, turning down hangouts that I normally wouldn’t turn down to go work on music. That’s just the way Steven does it. When he knows he needs to work, he won’t let his friends distract him. Or keep him up until 6 in the morning so he loses the next day from being worn out. Or the next day because he slept all day. [Laughs]

Battles: I was really nervous because I got that slot. There was a lot of nervous energy. That first show, I hardly moved, I just stood up there at the mic. [Laughs]

OKS: Tell me about this connection with B and Katie. It sounds like that’s what started Chrome Pony.

Battles: My original idea was to start a music project where I didn’t have to have a band. Because I don’t like carrying gear. And the less people in the band, the less you have to split the money. [laughs] I don’t want to carry anything, I make more money, I can get drunk and sing.

I got to know them through Tate James [Delo Creative who directed his video for "Love in a Genocide"]. He hooked us up. I just Facebook-messaged them for a bit. They were running Dance Robots, Dance! at Opolis. I showed up there one night and Katie just attacks me. Gave me a big hug and I realized, “This is gonna work out.” Then I met B and learned he’s the sweetest guy in the world. I went over to their house and showed them some songs I had, and we talked about some stuff I was working on.

OKS: Was it hard showing them those in-progress songs?

Battles: Yeah, it was. I had some songs I’d recorded at Blackwatch, which were “Everything All the Time” and a few others. I didn’t think I’d use those. But those wound up on the album. It got a lot easier as we worked together, because we got to be really close friends.

Everything All the Time (Feat. Crystal Vision) by Chrome Pony

Originally, we were just going to make these songs, and then they were going to spin them, but I eventually decided, “Hey, I kinda wanna play.”

OKS: So you were writing them with the thought that they were just going to be for DJs?

Battles: Yeah.

OKS: So how do you write now?

Battles: I usually start on piano or guitar. Then I start building it in Logic and try to make it as dancey as possible. Also, I do a lot with different producers. I’ve been kinda spoiled by working with them, though. When you start playing shows, it kinda distracts from the writing process.

OKS: Yeah, especially for an act like yours where a lot of planning goes into the performance.

Battles: Yeah, I focused on building the show for a while. Now I’m kind of in writing mode, and I’m shifting that into producing new songs. I’m working on a bunch of different projects right now.

OKS: What else are you working on?

Battles: I’ve been writing a soul/gospel album with Ben King. And I’ve been working on some other, smaller electronic stuff with Costa [Stasinopoulos, of Dead Sea Choir] that’s pretty weird. I’m getting money together to track the soul/gospel record with the Blackwatch guys. And I’m working with a producer named Will Hunt, from Fort Worth, that I’m working on some stuff with. It’ll be more like the darker ’80s hits, pop stuff.

Chrome Pony will play with Lindsey’s band, Broncho, and Stardeath and White Dwarfs on Friday, on the east lawn of the University of Oklahoma. Battles says he’s lining up a Tulsa show in September. Follow him on Twitter because he’s hilarious.

Chrome Pony photos by Nathan Poppe

by Matt Carney 08.25.2011 2 years ago
at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
 

VOTD: Ol' Savior

Ain’t heard of them? Well that’s because they’re a local band that currently only sort of exists.

When Blackwatch Studios’ Jarod Evans speaks, people listen. The guy’s worked with all the best local musicians around, and — with partner Chad Copelin — regularly works with regional and national-caliber talent. So when I woke up to find a Facebook message from Evans saying that Tulsa jack-of-all-trades artist Nathan Price has developed “2 or 3 records’ worth” of material with Broncho bandmate Ben King over the last two years, well, I got pretty excited.

Evans said that they’re looking to get an Ol’ Savior album out in early 2012. He also was kind enough to upload two unnamed tracks to Vimeo, which you can hear below. They’re soulful and steady, mostly acoustic, rich with grand piano and just a hint of synthesizer as some spice. Price sings low, and King sings high, and they complement each other beautifully.

I just can’t really get over how talented these guys are, especially considering how starkly this stuff contrasts against the punk music they’re gearing up to tour behind.




You can follow the band on Twitter and like them on Facebook for further updates.

by Matt Carney 08.30.2011 2 years ago
at 08:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
 

Christmastime in September

Now it's October. But the video was shot in September. And the song's due in December.

I was lucky enough to get to hang out with Okie singer Samantha Crain recently, as she recorded her contribution to this year's Fowler Volkswagen Christmas compilation. You might recall last year's edition — of silly cover — which was recorded by Chris Harris at Hook Echo Sound and even spawned a really great free holiday concert. 

This year's edition currently is being recorded at Blackwatch Studios, and owner/producer Jarod Evans says the album will feature Colourmusic, Sherree Chamberlain, Chrome Pony, Ol' Savior and more, including Ryan Lindsey singing the wonderfully titled "I'm Coming Down Your Chimney." Nathan Poppe's been tapped to shoot a promotional music video for the album, and he subsequently tapped yours truly to help out.

Watching Sam work on her Oklahoma-themed girl-crush seasonal song with Jarod and Daniel Foulks, her friendly fiddle player was a delight. At first, they considered doing a Lucinda Williams number, but decided it'd be more fun to layer a bunch of vocals over a steady, crackling-fire beat with plenty of sleigh bells, like a '60s girl-group song. Of the tracks I've heard, it's my favorite so far. Looking forward to picking up a copy come Christmastime! Watch video of her and Daniel recording their parts. Apologies for me being a bit of a wobbly videographer. Musicians make me nervous:




by Matt Carney 10.03.2011 2 years ago
at 01:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
 

Dear Diaries

A new Oklahoma City band pushes for a gigantic sound and spectacle as it prepares for a big U.S. tour.


Music

Matt Carney

Modern Rock Diaries with Chrome Pony
8 p.m. Friday
VZD’S Restaurant & Club
4200 N. Western
vzds.com
524-4203
$8 advance, $10 door

 
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Empire state

And there stands And There Stand Empires, one of Tulsa’s best new bands.

Bumping around at Norman Music Festival 4, Tulsa rock photographer Jeremy Charles told me not to miss indie-rock dudes And There Stand Empires. In all the buzz and hubbub of about 8 million bands all playing in three days, I completely blanked, which I now regret, having viewed the video below.  

The band releases its self-titled album Dec. 16, and you can bet that I’ll be looking for somewhere to purchase it when I return home to Tulsa for Christmas. The video includes snippets of songs and plenty of footage of the band hashing them out in-studio. Jarod Evans and Chad Copelin of Blackwatch Studios both appear to have produced it, but the thing to watch for here is just how many notes (guitar, xylophone, piano) they can squeeze into a single section of music.

And yes, the act’s sound is as epic as its name.

by Matt Carney 12.15.2011 2 years ago
at 01:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
 

MPFree: It’s Christmastime in the OK!

Download a bunch of free music for your holiday season.

Sorry to have waited so long to provide you, noble OKSee reader, with quality tunes for your Christmahannukwanzika season, but I figured that the Blackwatch Studios and Nice People compilations would tide you over until I could find a spare couple of minutes to compile all the festive stuff that’s filled up my inbox like a stocking since about mid-November.

Highlighting this little collection is a pleasant surprise that The Nghiems’ front man, David Nghiem, just sent, called “Holiday in the OK.” He recorded it at Blackwatch with Will Hunt, James Nghiem (also from The Nghiems), Tyler Hopkins (The Nghiems, Black Canyon), Chad Copelin (Blackwatch) and Gazette contributor Becky Carman. It sounds like a lazy, perfect  holiday spent with your family. Love it.

Flow Machines — “I Was Born on Christmas Day”
For those who want to celebrate Jesus’ birth with a little tribal electro-pop.

DJ Von U-Kuf — “I Love You Mr. Grinch” (Laura Warshauer Remix)
Imagine Dr. Seuss wrote his famous book about a sultry pop singer with a crush on the angry, old Grinch. And then some dude made a drippy, electronic remix for it.

Caitlin Rose and Keegan DeWitt — “You Never Come Home for Christmas”
A sad, wistful folkie number: “They bring me no cheer, cause you’re never here / Just like the year before.”

Cristina Black — “When I Think of Christmas”

Another sad one, a throwback doo-wopper Christmas kiss-off.

Guided by Voices — “Doughnut for a Snowman”


I don’t give two snowballs about anything else in this song, it’s by Guided by Voices and opens with the lyrics “Start off the day with a Krispy Kreme doughnut / Sweet as life can get.” New favorite for the holidays.

Phil and the Osophers — “Brutus the Backup Reindeer”
Phil and the Osophers (get it?) offer a properly childish addition to Rudolph’s legend. It’s just one of several such tracks on “It’s Christmas Time with Phil and the Osophers,” which you can stream at the band’s website.  

Red Wanting Blue — “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch”



I really, really, really want to hear Tom Waits take a stab at this one. I suppose Red Wanting Blue will have to do.

Merge Records — “Winter Sampler”
OK, none of these songs appear to have anything to do with the holidays, but they’re from Eleanor Friedberger, The Mountain Goats, Superchunk, Wild Flag, Archers of Loaf and the rest of the usual Merge suspects. And oh, lookie there — you can nab free Christmas tunes from She & Him and Julian Koster down at the bottom of the page!
by Matt Carney 12.16.2011 2 years ago
at 11:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
 
jacobabello

How ‘Bazaar’

Hear awesome local music AND save your money this New Year’s Eve.

Too poor to catch the Flaming Lips' Yoko Ono-assisted New Year's Eve Freakout this year?

Then join the rest of the 99% at The Abner Ale House in Norman (121 E. Main St., aka McNellie’s), where Blackwatch Studios will be gettin’ down without a cover charge, at their New Years’ Eve Bazaar.

Norman native Jacob Abello (pictured) is in town from Austin, Tex., and will ring in the new year along with Chrome Pony, Evangelicals’ Josh Jones, and more, from 9 p.m. until close. Rumors of a dance party and karaoke are currently swirling.

Must be 21+ to enter.


by Matt Carney 12.29.2011 2 years ago
at 08:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
 

Dead alive

Despite personal setbacks, the leader of Tulsa-based Dead Sea Choir sees waves of optimism in the band’s near future.


Music

Joshua Boydston
Dead Sea Choir with Brother Bear
9 p.m. Saturday
Opolis
113 N. Crawford, Norman
opolis.org
820-0951
$7
 
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

VOTD: Ben Rector wants to feel the heat with somebody

The Tulsa singer pays tribute to the late Whitney Houston.

You’d think playing all the instruments on a single track would be intimidating enough, but former Tulsan Ben Rector took it a couple steps further at Norman’s Blackwatch Studios. Per the video below, Rector commands six different instruments (seven, if you count that man-pretty voice of his!) on a cover of one of a much-beloved late diva’s most-beloved songs. That being my favorite Whitney Houston jam, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”

Compare the two for yourself. Would love to hear opinions in the comments:





by Matt Carney 02.24.2012 2 years ago
at 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
 
 
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