Birds & Batteries
Mike Sempert (songwriter, musical director), Christopher Walsh (guitar), Jill Heinke (bass and synth).
Electro-funk art-pop. Discography to date includes Nature Vs Nature (2005), I’ll Never Sleep Again (2007), Up To No Good (2009), Panorama (2010) and Stray Light (2012).
If you’re looking for an innovative and intriguing example of genre cross-pollination – which still retains an overall pop sensibility – you will find it with Birds & Batteries, who have been thrilling fans with their synth-backed, dreamy, harmonious awesomeness since 2005. Lead singer Mike describes their sound as “Randy Newman meets Gary Numan. Funky and dancy, but also really focused around song-craft and arrangement.Future music.”
To look to the future, however, we also have to analyse our roots. How did the band get together? “Each band member came on board at a different time,” Mike explains. “I think in each case it was just through the grapevine. I write the music and am the musical director for the project. Christopher Walsh plays guitar and brings an endless supply of positivism as well as adaptability and skill. Jill Heinke plays bass and synth and brings a lot of focus and professional intensity into the project. They both have a real passion for live performance and bring more to the project than I can really explain.”
Such a harmony-fuelled working relationship has led to a great momentum; a continual sense of development. “Each album has its own sound and its own vibe,” Mike muses.“I think we all grow and the songs get better with each release, but there's also a sense of time and place for each album.”
So: where did this all start? What were the influences which compelled a bunch of young musicians to pick up their instruments? Unsurprisingly for such a genre-hopping act, it’s a fairly diverse list: “Talking Heads/ David Byrne, John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, ELO, P-Funk, Joe Jackson, Milton Nascimento. David Byrne included us on a playlist for MOG, which was pretty cool.” Their contemporaries are also similarly far-reaching – Mike feels they share common ground with the likes of “Laarks, Peter Wolf Crier, Telegraph Canyon, Dirty Projectors, Tartufi, Yesway and Geographer”.
Not that it’s all been plain sailing. “Compromise is often a part of moving foward business-wise,” Mike reflects, “and it can sting a bit in retrospect. Its better than the alternative though, which would be waiting around for everything to magically fall into place.”This doesn’t detract from their defining moments, however. “We played 8 shows at SXSW. I think we all felt quite proud of that.”