Interview: BATTS talks The Grand Tour, working with NASA and Outer Space

As you might have guessed we are big fans of BATTS here at the AU. With her debut album, The Grand Tour, released last week we sat down with the Melbourne singer-songwriter to find out a little bit more about the creation and recording of the album, how NASA got involved, and – just for good measure – her top five favourite songs about space.

The Grand Tour, which was our Album of the Week on its release, is an innovative and ambitious release. A blending of introspective, personal and fictional tales with one of the most significant events in modern space travel – the 1977 Voyager mission. Across the album BATTS has included samples from that original mission, placed in chronological order, so listeners can experience the journey of voyager alongside the significantly more terrestrial journey of the album’s cast of characters.

The Grand Tour is an ambitious record, even more so given it’s your debut. Had you always envisaged this sort of project for your debut?

Ha, is it? I think so, I’m not really sure. I’ve always been a really big concept album fan. I guess it just made sense to me to tie it all together somehow. I think most albums are conceptual in some way, whether it’s even just pinpointing a specific moment in someone’s life. I just found a lot of solace and enjoyment in doing it this way I guess.

Beyond the obvious ones, what influenced the making of the record? Were you listening/watching/reading anything that influenced the writing or recording?

There were definitely some major influences throughout the writing/recording/mixing stages. Listening wise, it was The Party by Andy Shauf and Strange Negotiations by David Bazan. I’d say these were probably the two artists and albums I was heavily inspired by throughout all stages.

I was mainly reading a lot of dense science books to be honest, but had a couple of fiction breaks. I tried to write a couple of songs about my favourite book, Stoner by John Williams, but failed.

Visually, I think I was watching all thirteen seasons of Blue Heelers as I didn’t grow up in Australia and my partner told me I had to, so I don’t know, maybe the mourning of Maggie’s death made me write something super sad on there.

One of the things I like about this album is that it deals in both big concepts alongside more personal and introspective elements. How did you go about trying to achieve that balance, and how important was it for you to have that balance on the record?

That balance was really important. I wanted it to feel like you were in the vastness of space, but also in a tiny room with someone telling you a story. The thing in common for me joining it together was that the mission is now heading on into the unknown and I feel like that is just like life.

The songs are so personal or are these very personal tales of fictional characters heading into the unknown and making decisions. I wanted it to feel like each song was its own little world as well, like you walked into a different story land each track, but they somehow all weave together because they are just all part of something bigger.

I’ve read that you found dealing with NASA easier than some sections of the music industry. How did you go about working with NASA, and what did they/have made of your project?

Haha, very true. They were just really lovely and easy to deal with and helped however they could. I just found the right email to enquire about the use of the samples, as there were a lot I wanted to use I couldn’t find.

I found that most people in the science community are pretty keen on the idea of combining science and arts. I’m actually still trying to plan a few more things so still keeping that contact up, I’ll let you know what develops there .

It seems pretty clear that a lot of research went into the making of this record, what were some of the exciting things you discovered that maybe didn’t make it onto the finished album?

The most amazing thing I discovered was how beautiful this mission was for everyone involved, reading multiple books on it and watching a lot of people talk about it, you could just see how this mission has had such an impact on space exploration as a whole. Sample wise though, post interstellar space samples are amazing, but I made the call to end it at the moment it crossed into interstellar space, so I didn’t include any of those.

Presumably there is a lot of material from the Voyager mission to work with, how did you whittle down what to use and what to discard?

I think I got such a clear vision in my head of what I wanted it to be and then did enough research to work out the pivotal parts of the journey, so that really helped. Whittling down the samples to some of the major events, I’d also chosen a specific timeline to cover and then it was just putting it all into chronological order etc. There were also samples I liked more than others.

What are you Top 5 favourite songs to do with Space?

David Bowie – “Space Oddity”
Elton John – “Rocket Man”
The Beatles – “Across The Universe”
Air – “Venus”
Frank Sinatra – “Fly Me To The Moon”

You’re going to be heading out on tour in June, both supporting Sharon Van Etten and playing some solo shows. How do you go about translating the record to the live arena?

Yeah, I’m taking the band for the album tour to Sydney and Melbourne of course. We are actually going to play the album start to finish at the shows. The album was tracked live so it should sound pretty similar, apart from the fact that we now know the songs a lot better. Some of the songs, I would teach to the band on the night or a few nights before recording. There will be a whole visual experience in Melbourne also, definitely worth coming to I’d say haha.

The Sharon Van Etten shows will naturally be so special because we all get to watch Sharon play. I’ll be playing solo and I wrote all of the album songs alone so I guess they started with just me and a guitar anyway. Should be a beautiful time.

What does the rest of 2019 have in store for BATTS?

I hope a lot of touring. I just want to be able to play the album live lots. I’ll be commencing the album tour around Aus in June alongside the Sharon Van Etten shows. I’m then heading to the UK throughout July to play some shows and see my family etc, and a few other things too.

BATTS’ debut album The Grand Tour is available now through THAA Records. Be sure to catch BATTS when she takes the album on tour across June. You can also find BATTS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

BATTS Album Tour

Jun 7th | QPAC Concert Hall – Brisbane, QLD*
Jun 11th | Hamer Hall – Melbourne, VIC*
Jun 13th | Grace Emily Hotel – Adelaide, SA
Jun 22nd | The Vanguard – Sydney, NSW
Jun 28th | Howler – Melbourne, VIC

Tickets available from HERE

* supporting Sharon Van Etten

Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.