(Editor’s Note: In anticipation of Noise Pop 2011, Feb. 22-27, we’re interviewing several local bands on the lineup.)
San Francisco’s own Birds & Batteries are playing the Noise Pop Festival on February 25th at the Rickshaw Stop with The Concretes, Psychic Friend, and Magic Bullets. I caught up with main squeeze Mike Sempert (vox/guitar/synth) and had the opportunity to further explore the band’s signature little bit country, little bit rock ’n’ roll sound, and delved deep into the secrets of how exactly they maintain their fierce facial hair.
Lynne Angel (LA): The lineup at The Rickshaw looks great! Have you all played Noise Pop before?
Mike Sempert (MS): We played Noise Pop last year at Bottom of the Hill with Memory Tapes.
LA: What other Noise Pop shows are you looking forward to?
MS: Yo La Tango and Dan Deacon are hard to deny. I’d gladly see the Fresh & Onlys and Dominant Legs.
LA: I consider B&B to lean more towards the “pop” side than the “noise.” Are you considering adding a fourteen-minute drone jam to your set to please all potential sides of your audience?
MS: Funny you should mention, I’ve actually been trying to figure out how to add a little more chaos and noise into the B&B set, but mostly for the sake of the festival’s name, which is Walter. So that’s confusing, how do you do that?
LA: Very carefully. I noticed you have been touring quite a bit as of late supporting your latest release Panorama. What are some of your tour highlights and lowlights?
MS: Highlights are playing shows and being able to tour in the first place. Lowlights are all the work that leads up to a tour. That and cockroaches on the face (it happened).
LA: Ewwww. Do you have a favorite city to play?
MS: Boston, New York and, of course, San Francisco.
LA: A grub hub you must hit every time?
MS: Most cities we’ve developed a pretty good routine on where we eat. Eating is such a crucial part of tour that we rarely fuck around. If we know something’s good, we go back.
LA: Do you have a band beard trimmer that you share with Brian?
MS: Gross, no way. We trim each other’s beards with enormous scissors.
LA: Oh. Of course! How about a case of pre-sealed flannels that the whole band dips into daily for a freshie?
MS: Ha ha. It’s actually on all our riders. Skittles and flannel, bitches.
LA: Classy. Your Noise Pop show falls in the middle of a tour that eventually takes you to SXSW in Austin. You could be referred to as veterans of the SXSW scene, as you have played it quite a few years in a row. As opposed to just calling it “South By” like some frequenters to the festival, are you at the level where you just call it “South” or even simply “Soub” (pronounced “sueb”)?
MS: At this point we just call it “us by us.” It used to be Birds by Batteries but we abbreviated.
LA: What is your favorite part about SXSW?
MS: The best is when the van’s parked and there’s free time.
LA: Do you drink Lonestar Beer?
MS: I prefer Shiner’s refreshing bock!
LA: What have been some of the more memorable performances you have seen there in previous years?
MS: Half our band caught Dirty Projectors playing in a half empty park two years ago, and said it was great. I remember this one show where… nope… its gone.
LA: I see you are also slated to play the Mission Creek Midwest Festival. Let’s talk influences. What have you been listening to lately to prepare for all these festivals?
MS: I’ve been really digging Snark Attack.
LA: Let’s talk outfits. What kind of on-stage get-up is a must have for you to be comfortable during a show?
MS: I like to expose a little chest, personally. A V-neck or deep V even, just makes me feel a little more… know what I mean?
LA: Sensual, and ready for a snark?
MS: If I can work a scarf into that situation, even better. I just cut my hair, so I need something flying around up there other than my chest curls.
LA: Let’s talk gear. What do you play on and out of, and why?
MS: I play an American Jazzmaster reissue. The thing has made me a better guitarist and person. It goes through a Twin Reverb and it sounds nice.
LA: If you could no longer be a musician because every time you touched an instrument it turned into a bratwurst, what would you do with your free time?
MS: I’d be into teaching.
LA: Tell me what you have planned for the summer and fall in Birds & Batteries Land.
MS: Working on a new album and keeping it West coast.
LA: Sounds good Mike, thanks.
Check out my personal favorite of off Panorama:Birds & Batteries “We’re an Industry”
Birds & Batteris perform February 25th with The Concretes, Magic Bullets, and Psychic Friend. The all-ages show starts at 8:30pm and tickets are $13.