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13 Questions

13 Questions with Battery Operated Orchestra

“Initially it was very difficult to feel positive or creative about anything, it was just such a shock to the system.”

From the elusive pop-banger that opens the album in The Getaway, to the brilliantly titled Origami Car Swan and the creeping paranoia of Mr System and Piranhas, Brighton-based Battery Operated Orchestra have gained some well-deserved momentum with Yesterday Tomorrow and You – the duo’s brand-spanking new album.

Consisting of 16 tracks, Yesterday Tomorrow and You is a joyful representation of inventive electro-pop inspired by Kraftwerk and minimalism.

Battery Operated Orchestra skirt on the fringes of New Weird Britain and pop and for fans of The Lovely Eggs, well… you may have just stumbled across your new favourite band right here, for one will be hard-pressed to find a better representation of left-of-centre pop music from these shores in 2020.

In conjunction with the release of Yesterday Tomorrow and You, BOO‘s Brigitte Rose and Chris Black were kind enough to answer some our questions.

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1. Congratulations on your new album, Yesterday Tomorrow and You. How’s the reception been so far?

Brigitte Rose: “We’ve been completely blown away. We do all our own PR so it’s pretty much fan power, radio and reviews getting it out there. We were very lucky to be interviewed by music technology website SonicState.com about our process making the album so we’ve had lots of people discover it through that.”

2. Can you give us a bit of history on Battery Operated Orchestra. How did it all begin?

Chris Black: “Well we met in London and realised that we had a lot of music taste in common and ideas and interests about the world in general, including a love of ghost stories and Cardiacs.”

BR: “Chris had a different band at the time I met him called Katsen, but we hired a studio in King’s Cross and played around together on keys. It wasn’t until we met up in Brighton a bit later after Katsen had finished that we started to concentrate on writing our own material together.”

3. How have you been coping with the lockdown situation?

CB: “It hasn’t affected us as badly as it has affected some people. We’re very conscious that we’re in a lucky position in that Brigitte is able to work from home and we are living in a good-sized space so we don’t get too claustrophobic. However the emotional impact of the world situation can’t be underestimated. Many of our friends have found themselves in extremely difficult situations.”

BR: “…And Chris has lost his job as a teacher after his school fired all but two of their teaching staff.”

CB: “Initially it was very difficult to feel positive or creative about anything, it was just such a shock to the system. But thankfully we got back on our feet and have found the process of writing and recording this latest album to be extremely therapeutic.”

BR: “We’ve both found the impact on the live music scene pretty devastating. Not just on musicians but the lighting professionals, the stage managers, venue runners, theatres, pubs, the list goes on. A huge part of our culture has received a near lethal blow by lockdown.”

CB: “Not helped by a Tory MP recently stating publicly that ‘musicians should retrain for different professions,’ showing how little value they place on culture that is not directly connected to themselves and their grouse-hunting types.”

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4. When did you last get into an argument?

BR: “Eh, we bicker occasionally as you do with people you spend a lot of time with, but I don’t think we have very serious arguments. We definitely have hardcore debates about certain musical decisions.”

5. When did you last shout at the TV?

CB: “We don’t watch TV. Nor should you!”

BR: “Garbage in garbage out. We try to absorb as much nourishing stuff as possible. Sometimes politicians sneak in via Twitter though, like that Tory guy.”

CB: “We like to read ghost stories and poetry to each other. If we need visual entertainment there is nothing better than an episode of Still Game.”

6. When did you last consider quitting social media?

CB: “Generally we only use it for the band.”

BR: “Yeah.”

CB: “Twitter is basically my news feed but we don’t engage beyond that, except to interact with our fans. It’s kind of a requirement when you’re doing your own publicity.”

BR: “It can be a bit of a pressure, it’s a weird medium. By it’s very nature it feels preformative – you’re presenting a certain image. We just try to be honest about what we’re doing and connect with the people who like what we do.”

Battery Operated Orchestra - Yesterday Tomorrow and You


7. Favourite band growing up?

CB: “Um… There’s a very long list but I guess Kraftwerk can go right at the top.”

BR: “Likewise, there’s so much there, we both had a very rich childhood in terms of music. My first proper album was Abbey Road and I was obsessed with The Beatles as a child.”

8. What was the first gig you went to?

CB: “Together? Poly Styrene at Love Music Hate Racism!”

9. When were you last told off?

BR: “We don’t hang around people who tell us off!”

CB: “We’re probably overdue a good telling off.”

10. Funniest band story?

CB: “When we played in Hastings the equipment broke down so we had to talk for a while and ended up telling people not to vote for their local Tory MP. This was pretty well received!”

BR: “God I don’t know the whole thing is pretty funny. Funny things happen all the time, and rubbish things that you can later laugh about. You get some pretty hilarious criticism just by putting yourself out there. Somebody sent us a long letter of ‘advice’ once, down to how I should change my look ‘to be more slutty’ and thought I should be ‘more like Nina Nagen[sic]’ They meant Nina Hagen.”

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11. What’s your guilty listening pleasure?

CB: “Don’t have any. If you feel embarrassed about something you like it’s generally because someone else has told you it’s inauthentic or invalid or just plain stupid and these are not acceptable criticisms. The concept of authenticity in rock music and any music is a bogus shield used by people with no imagination, generally with no sense of humour.”

BR: “Yeah everyone has different tastes you don’t have to feel bad about what you like.”

12. Vinyl, CD, MP3 or Streaming?

BR: “Everything except streaming, unless it’s via Bandcamp or Resonate. The streaming ‘economy’ is a joke to musicians. It only benefits a few at the top and really the money goes to people who have very little to do with music as an art form. I recommend people read Liz Pelly’s articles at the Baffler about what streaming’s really about: data harvesting.”

13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

BR: “If you’re a fan of a musician buy their work from them directly or through a musician supporting website like Bandcamp. I don’t know anyone making a living from streaming services and it’s actually destroying the viability of music being a career choice (and it was already quite tough).”

CB: “Thanks for interviewing us and good luck with the magazine!”

Yesterday Tomorrow and You is out now via 662584 Records DK and is available at Battery Operated Orchestra‘s Bandcamp page.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

One reply on “13 Questions with Battery Operated Orchestra”

BOO’s new album effortlessly takes me into all manner of ‘rooms in the psyche’, which is strangely comforting in this challenging year, and It left me feeling dreamy and uplifted. Musically it hangs together beautifully as a cohesive album, which is not easy to do. They are genuine originals. I think it’s just brilliant, not to mention all the visuals and design, which they completely did themselves. Raw talent.

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