We recently covered Battle Tapes in one of our Music Monday posts about Music in GTA V. We shared that the band is based in Los Angeles, California. The band was launched in late 2010. We wanted to know more about the band, and we’re sure you did too. So here it is, the band consists of Frontman Josh Boardman, keyboardist Riley Mackin, bassist Stephen Bannister & formerly drummer J.J. Bower, who’s moved on to other projects. All members bring a different set of skills to the band, making up a very unique sound that meshes into a cohesive blend of electronic synth driven alternative enjoyment! Instead of plucking around on the web to figure out who they are.. We asked for ourselves. Come along for a GTA V inspired Question session with BATTLE TAPES! So we reached out, and got in touch With Josh and Riley, to get some terrific insight into what BATTLE TAPES is all about.. Check it out!
RSN|Q1| One of the biggest questions that people probably want to know is, what was your excitement level when you learned you would be featured in GTA V’s Music Station lineup.
Josh Boardman: I was in a bit of disbelief at first. Just seemed like something I’d always thought about offhand, like “How cool would it be to be on a GTA station!?” Never really thought it would actually happen. On top of that, to somewhat rep a fictitious version of our neighbor (Echo Park) in a fictitious version of our city (Los Angeles) is a huge honor. That being said, it’s been really exciting to be a part of something so culturally impactful.
Riley Mackin: I was stoked! I totally grew up playing GTA ever since GTA2 was out on PC, so I was thoroughly pumped. It is completely surreal and the first time I heard our song while playing GTA 5 was unlike any experience I’ve ever had.
RSN|Q2| Do you follow traditional chord progressions when writing a song or do you just go with whatever feels right? For instance are you using a VI-iii-IV scheme or just go wild with chord progressions?
RM: For me personally, the word traditional doesn’t really work in regards to my creative process. I spend a lot of time forcing these really wacky ideas and odd chords together, and then once in a while there is something in there that strikes my ear as “pretty good.” Then I usually show it to Josh and he starts helping me make some sense of the Frankenstein I’ve created.
JB: Yeah, “traditional” almost sounds like a bad word. I might end up with a 1-4-5 situation but it’s not something I usually start out reaching for. It’s hard to lean on those types of musical concepts and not hear something Tom Petty wrote 30 years ago that puts whatever you’re doing with that concept to shame.
RSN|Q3| What brought about the start of BATTLE TAPES ? What was the common spark that set you all ablaze to start the band.
JB: I’ve been involved with a musical project in some form or another throughout my life, but had kind of put that on the back burner after moving to LA. At the time, I was more intent on focusing on songwriting, producing, remixing, etc. After a few years, I really missed performing and writing for myself. I thought if I could come up with a concept I really believed in, I’d try to put a band together. I had the idea of taking more of a minimalist approach – only allow ourselves to use a limited selection of instruments, hardware and software. I wanted to get back to where I was around when I was 18 or 19 when we didn’t have unlimited tracks and 15 different types of reverbs to pick from. There was just a very limited selection of tools and 8 tracks to work with. So I spent a lot less time choosing and fiddling and more time creating. The band didn’t fully come alive until we all got in a room together and started hashing the songs out. It was important for us to take what we do in the studio and have that translate with the same impact on the stage. We had three basic ideas in mind: keep it simple, make the people dance and do a proper performance. Not just jamming along to backing tracks with the computer doing 90% of the workload. It’s a lot more work and requires a bit more head scratching but it’s that much more gratifying. I think at the end of the day, boundaries and limitations force you to come up with a solution and yield results you might not have come up with otherwise. So that was really the start and foundation of what has become Battle Tapes.
RM: For me, this band started as taking a step towards what I came to Los Angeles to do. I wanted to come out here to become a better audio engineer and music producer so that I could make myself a “super-musician.” After a couple of years of trying to do that, I realized that all the magic of music had been sucked out of me from the audio engineering grind. When Josh approached me about Battle Tapes, it definitely sparked that magic again and now here we are, I am very grateful to have that back in my life. Once I started to feel good about making music again the rest just sort of started coming together.
RSN|Q4| What’s the band scene been like for you in Echo park. Do you pack the house, and get some really cool unforgettable shows.
RM: Echo Park has a pretty great scene. The venues are all super cool and we always have a great time at the shows in that part of town. There are a lot of interesting bands coming out of the area, so it’s always fun to discover new bands that end up on the bill with us. We’ve had some really cool shows at The Echo and over at The Satellite. I think my favorite show in Echo Park was when we’ve played with Omniflux in support of Big Black Delta. That was a pretty packed show, and actually that is when we first met Omniflux and Big Black Delta who are super cool people and we are all pretty good friends now.
JB: The music scene in Echo Park / Silver Lake is a special thing. Like Riley said we’ve played some great shows with some incredible bands. We have great venues that really focus on cultivating a forward thinking, progressive scene, while weeding out the ego rockers that LA seems to be laden with. It feels like there is a genuine symbiotic circle between the artists, the venues and the audience.
RSN|Q5| It’s been a year since it’s release, how has your involvement with GTAV impacted the band?
JB: Its been huge for us. I feel like it’s really put us on the map in a way we never really expected. Since its release we’ve been asked to be a part of some really cool things. And I think a lot of those opportunities are a direct result of the visibility that GTA:V and Rockstar Games have given us.
RSN|Q6| What three things inspire the band’s creative process…
JB: For me, sometimes it comes from the obvious places, but a lot of the time it’s totally random. It can be something as simple as a phrase or an idea that comes up in casual conversation and triggers a chain reaction of thoughts that will lead me to inspiration – or from a place you frequent. One of my favorite bookstores is a place called Hennessey + Ingalls – I always end up walking out of there with a stack of books feeling super inspired and excited about creating. I’ve learned inspiration’s not always waiting where you might expect and that you have to have your antenna up in anticipation for it to reveal itself to you.
RM: New music is huge for my ability to be inspired. I have to find other people making music that gets me excited. Sure, there are some classic older tracks that I love but there is something else about finding a new song with a sound that makes you go, “Holy Shit! That sounds insane!” That’s the reaction I want from people when they hear our music. Other than that, just having fun and not being stressed are the things that keep me creative. It also helps to get some of the tedious things out of the way, like deciding what instruments you’re going to use and the sound you’re going for as well as having everything ready to go. So when inspiration strikes, all you have to do is pick up a guitar or just hit record and start playing the keyboard.
RSN|Q7|If you had time to pick and remix a track from GTA V what one would it be?
JB: My knee jerk answer would be anything from “The Low Down” station. Every song on there is a stone cold classic. Then again, maybe those songs are better left alone. I’m a big fan of Jackson and His Computer Band, Fly Lo and Clams Casino. I’d love to be involved with whatever they have going on.
RM: Probably that Miami Horror track, “Sometimes” from the same Mirror Park radio station we’re on. I’m a big fan of what’s happening over there in that band and would love to work on something with them. Whenever I hear one of their songs, I find myself shaking my hips.
RSN|Q8| What major Concert or City are you looking forward to playing in this or next year!
RM: I’d like to see us get up and down both the west and east coast in the next year. Social media has allowed us to reach some fans really far away and we keep getting messages from people who want us to come play in their city. I would love to make all those fans happy.
JB: I’d like to play more festivals. It’s fun to play and interact with other bands in a large format. I think cross pollination like that is a good thing. It creates opportunity to meet like-minded people that might have a different approach to the same goal you have. Also, turning your fans on to fellow festival performers and vice versa helps push everyone forward.
RSN|Q9| Music tastes and styles change and adapt often. What changes do you feel are in the air for BATTLE TAPES?
RM: It’s hard to say, I feel like JB has more of a grasp of where he’d like to take it than I do. I constantly find myself searching for that next batch of inspiring music that will be my next “spark” of creativity. Whatever happens, it’s going to continue evolving and changing but it’s always going to be whatever we have fun doing.
JB: I think artistic growth is not far removed from personal growth, in that it’s not something you can really see moving forward as much as it’s something you realize looking back. That being said, most of the change I hope to see is with regard to square footage of my living space and the current balance in my bank account. I’d enjoy that. 🙂
RSN|Q10| Have any members of the band managed to get some game time in with GTA V.
RM: Yeah man, I’ve been playing the hell out of it. Pretty much got addicted for a good three week period. I spent an entire week just stealing the fighter jet then skydiving over the Los Santos Airport and stealing the jumbo jet to take me back to the military base to steal the fighter jet again.
JB: Yeah, I think we spent most of those three weeks stealing things from the air force base and coming up with plot lines for a Lamar / Trevor spin off.
RSN|Q11| When can we expect new music from you ?
RM: Soon. We are working on finishing up a full length record. It’s looking like we are going to have 9 or 10 songs on there. With maybe a single and some remixes in the months leading up to its release. We’re really excited about it.
RSN| Have you guys met up with anyone else who has Music in GTA V?
JB: Yeah, a couple actually. I met Flying Lotus while waiting in line at Guitar Center. And let me tell you, that guy is the epitome of what you hope an artist you hold in high regard is like in person. Really cool. Really engaging. We ran into YACHT at one of their shows a little while back. They were super cool. Oh, and I think the dude from Chain Gang and I frequent the same coffee shop down the street from where I live. Though I’m not positive it’s him, so I’ve never said anything. It’s fun being able to run into artists you like but have never formally met and be able to high five about something like GTA:V. It’s an honor and excitement that transcends whatever level you’re at in your career.
I really appreciate the both of you answering my questions. You’re both awesome and deserve some serious respect in the music community. The Rockstar Network Team really appreciates that you spent time answering our questions. We see great things for BATTLE TAPES, keep kicking ass and making music.Can’t wait to hear more music from you guys.. Keep it real, keep it noisey!
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