Bootleggers, or Lack Thereof, and D.C. Hardcore Faves BatteryFred Pessaro |
By the '90s, D.C. hardcore was primarily focused on the identity of Dischord Records and some affiliated bands, all using the blueprint of hardcore to create the building blocks of indie rock. Bands like Jawbox, Fugazi and Lungfish were deemed the center of DCHC, and yet there was still an undercurrent of outfits who worshipped at the altar of the forefathers, building on the exploding NYHC scene with a distinctly D.C. awareness, introspection and consciousness. Among those very few bands was the short-lived Battery.
Battery started as a project with vocalist Brian McTernan, who recorded material that would comprise their debut 7". Shortly thereafter, McTernan was shipped away to a mental hospital to undergo treatment, and the rest of the band continued on to become Worlds Collide with new singer Matt Burger. One day after returning from the institution, McTernan was in a local record store and noticed a CD copy of the first 7", which he assumed to be a bootleg. During the time that McTernan spent in the hospital, Battery had become stars in Europe, watching that CD edition of the 7" (We Won't Fall) explode in popularity.
With the “new” release doing well on the heels of Lost & Found Records’ popularity, a tour (and subsequent quitting of high school) followed — the new version of Battery contained original guitarist Ken Olden, along with new members Ben Chused and Alec Rosenberg. A series of two LPs and other releases on fledgling European labels followed, culminating in a compilation of them all, followed by the eventual LP on Revelation before the band called it quits in 1998. After eight years, Battery only had one readily available domestic release.
Cut to 2012, when Battery reunited to play Revelation reunion dates and a single warm-up show. “I'm not really into the whole nostalgia thing, but I wanted to do the Revelation thing because I just loved Rev and felt like it was important,” says McTernan. “I wasn’t excited about it for a lot of reasons, but it went really well and was the beginning of putting things back together for me.”
Now in 2017, Battery are back again, this time to play Damaged City Fest in Washington, D.C., and the Rev Fest on the West Coast in late June. But why the return? Why not let sleeping dogs lie? McTernan speaks about the importance of the current scene: “I’ve been going to D.C. hardcore shows since 1987, and I’ve closely watched this new era of D.C. hardcore being born. It’s been so exciting to watch it grow, and it’s great to see something that Chris Moore and the fest is fostering that was so key to me growing up. This scene has given me a life, a family, a career, a roof over my head and so much more. I’ve worked with several bands on the bill, including Praise, Angel Du$t, Fury and more, so it’s great to be playing alongside them. So, the idea that Battery, an older band, is being asked to play amongst this younger generation is very exciting. I just feel so differently about this than the Revelation thing.”
Drummer Jason Hamacher agrees, saying that, “This IS hardcore. This is what is going on now. So, to be associated with this in any way is a total honor.”
Chris Moore, organizer of Damaged City, feels that the return of Battery to play the fest is something he’s wanted for a while: “When they did those reunion shows a few years back, the D.C. show was basically word of mouth ... I think having them play a legit D.C. show and giving people who care about them the time to plan a trip was cool. That era of DCHC doesn't get represented too much these days. I was too young to see them in their heyday, but if you ask anyone who was around then, they will tell you that their shows were wild. What better way to see them then at the infamous St. Stephen's Church in D.C. with some of the best current hardcore bands?” (Hamacher echoes that last statement, saying, “We grew up playing and going to shows there, so it’s going to be incredible to play there again.”)
The gigs come with the announcement of a new compilation of material that precedes the Revelation LP, gathering up all pre-1997 material into a single package called For the Rejected, by the Rejected, out TODAY on Revelation (stream it below; get yours at iTunes). Much of that material appeared on the 2002 comp Final Fury, but not in the way that the band intended. Hamacher laughs and explains, “The spine of that said Final Fury, Battery: 1900 - 1997. I was like, ‘What is this?!’ I’d much rather have something more permanent on Revelation where we control it.”
McTernan adds, “The other comp that came out, Ken did that with some dude in Spain and none of us knew anything about it. I wasn’t happy about it at all, because it looked like shit and sounded like shit. So, this Revelation comp is closer to a presentation that we would want, because for the duration of our career, we never really picked out our art or anything like that.”
And though that first release was repackaged for the infamously bootleg-friendly Lost & Found Records, McTernan insists that the original was actually authorized by the band after all. “Up until a month ago, I thought the CD was a bootleg. It was until then that I was told by my brother [Damnation A.D. vocalist] Mike and Ken [Olden] that they had sent them a box of 7"s and had given them permission to repress them in Europe. The funny thing was they were a really good label to us. When we would go to Europe, those tours were incredibly well-promoted. We never received any royalties, but I had no complaints whatsoever … we were playing huge festival dates with Run-D.M.C. and Pantera.”
Regardless of the status of any of the older material, the release will be a welcome item to any fan of that era of hardcore. “You can’t find that stuff anywhere unless you’re a record collector or just dig through YouTube constantly," Hamacher says. “No one had any of the masters, so this was methodically put together piece-by-piece with a 24-page oral-history from our friend Roger Gastman. Brian went through all of the songs, remastered and sequenced it.” No longer available for just the Diehards, Battery may finally get the due that they deserve.
Limited edition LPs of For the Rejected, by the Rejected with hand-screened covers will be available at Damaged City Fest. Battery play Friday with Angel Du$t, Fury, Red Death, Stand Off (last show), Praise, Unified Right and Line of Sight. Tickets are still available.
Battery play the multi-day Rev Fest Saturday. Single-day tickets are sold out, but Saturday VIP and 4-day passes are still available.