Battlehounds chat about songwriting, touring and the golden toilet

Words by Patrick Martin

After almost 12 months away from the stage lights, Battlehounds are back with their debut EP, Damn Demons - five tracks of lashing, uncompromising rock and roll.

With a run of national dates coming to an end with a hometown show at the Exeter Hotel on Saturday afternoon, Yewth touched base with Battlehounds' lead singer and guitarist Alex Rajkowski to see how things were shaping up. 

Yewth: How does it feel to have your debut EP finally released for the world to hear?

Alex: It feels really great. We're incredibly proud of what we've put out, it's something we've been so close to for so bloody long so to finally be able to share it with everyone is a great feeling. 

The band took a significant amount of time away from playing live to produce and record this EP. How did the songwriting process change when playing live was less of a focus?

It was a really slow process for us, but it gave us a chance to really think about what we wanted to do. 

Right from the start the plan was to craft something we were going to be proud of. It gave us a chance to really pick each song apart, and see what bits were working and what weren't. We had a whole stack of demos that didn't make the cut and we had to be ruthless. There was no point putting on anything that was half-arsed. We didn't want to rush anything because we didn't feel there was any need.

The songwriting process itself became a lot more collaborative. In the past I'd just demoed stuff in my little studio and sent it to the guys, but now we're writing together. I'll come up with an idea and then we'll all try and flesh it out as a band. I'm still writing lyrics and melodies but as a process, it's definitely more of a team effort now. 

Damn Demons has an uncompromising dark tone, with tracks like 'Good Man' seemingly commentating on the issue of masculinity in a way similar to bands like The Peep Tempel. Are the tracks inspired by personal events or are they more influenced by the world around you?

There's a definite darkness to our music for sure, but we're not dark people. I've been very lucky in that I've never faced much 'bad shit' in my own life, but I definitely know people who have. I take a lot of influence from the world around me and 'Good Man' in particular is one of those songs. 

'Good Man' definitely deals with the issue of masculinity, but it's actually part of this collection of songs that are surrounded around this character I have in my head. He's charming, very loved, but also terrifying with real anger and aggression behind closed doors. I had an old boss who was one of these guys so he's kind of based on that, although 'Good Man' is actually from the perspective of one of his kids, but he pops up in Mr. Darryl, which is from his perspective. It's kind of happened unintentionally but I actually wrote the third part last week, so we'll see him again.

I guess at the heart of all of it, I really love great writing. The Peep Tempel are one of our favourite bands and have been big supporters of us so I really look up to Blake as a songwriter, he paints these incredibly vivid narratives with his writing and makes suburban Australia sound like a wasteland. 

An old adage suggests that you shouldn't mix friends with business, but the recording process for Damn Demons was full of friendly local connections. How did you find working on the mix with friend Ali Wells? 

Ali is an incredible talent and a great friend. Everyone should be mixing with him. He has a brilliant set of ears and is great to work with. The only thing is we're on opposite schedules so he loves to sleep late and party on Mondays. But we love him and his fucked up schedule. His golden toilet (he spray painted his bathroom gold) is fantastic also. 

With a run of national dates almost finished, how does it feel to be on the road and playing live again?

It's been really really great. The response to the EP has been brilliant and we're starting to get people to shows who aren't mates or family. It's crazy to see people you don't know singing along to your songs who aren't your 60 year old mum. Sydney at Frankie's was awesome, although my pedalboard completely shat the bed. We played Wollongong for the first time, which was really cool, I'm all for 'The Gong' and I think we'll be back. We're really looking forward to Melbourne and especially Adelaide, hopefully the post tour blues aren't too bad this time around. 

With the final show of the tour in Adelaide at the Exeter on Saturday afternoon, what is planned for the rest of the year for Battlehounds?

We've got some stuff coming up we can't quite announce yet, but we're lucky enough to be playing A Day of Clarity again which will be bananas and we're planning to be touring again through August/September. We've also got some demos in the works for the next release so we'll try and finish them.

Catch Battlehounds at the Exeter Hotel this Saturday from 5pm.
More details here.