Battlehooch: No, You May Not Call Them 'Weird'
You can call San Francisco six-piece Battlehooch a lot of things -- experimental, orchestral, freaky, adventurous. But please do not call them weird.
Battlehooch will take you on a fantastic voyage at the Knockout this month.
"I would really like to point out that we are not weird," says the band's Tom Hurlbut, taking a short break from a recent day of recording. "I honestly think that anybody, given the right introduction, the correct Battlehooch song to introduce that individual -- I think that everyone would like at least one Battlehooch song.
It's an interesting claim, especially given the almost ludicrous breadth of sounds this band embraces. A Battlehooch song may feature elements of psychedelic rock, free jazz, avant-garde classical music, or hard funk. A new song, "Organic," even includes heavy bass synth wobbles that sound like an homage to dubstep.
But like a lot of things Battlehooch, that similarity to American TV advertisers' favorite new soundtrack didn't come about by design. "We didn't set out to make a dubstep song, it just happened to be a flavor that came out in the collective stew of writing that," says synth player Ben Juodvalkis. "A lot of people really latch on to that."
In general, the music made by this group of close friends -- all of whom met in their first year at UC Santa Cruz, then formed the band in 2007 -- is as un-trendy as possible. Battlehooch moves all over the map, with a freewheeling energy and occasional goofiness that lead some to confuse the band members for a bunch of careless jokers. They're not.
"Because our earlier beginnings were much more kind of wild, we kind of have a reputation as being like a silly, ridiculous, bouncing-off-the-wall cartoon rock band," Hurlbut says. "I feel like maybe a lot of people left us behind with our first album and haven't maybe checked us out."
If that's true, this month is a good time to catch back up with Battlehooch: the band is holding a Wednesday-night residency at the Knockout. Tonight's show features openers Raw Geronimo and the Love Dimension, and past bills have been shared with bands that play country-rock, prog metal, and psych rock, among other styles.
"It seemed different than doing a one-off show and then just disappearing for a couple weeks," guitarist A.J. McKinley says of the October project. "We have all this new material to try out, so we figured that if we had a weekly residency we'd get a chance."
Plus, he says, the $5 cover means people can come check them out at a lower price than the band's larger club shows would go for. And the members of Battlehooch agree there's something charming about the intimate confines of the Knockout, one of the venues where this S.F. group got its start.
It does seem like the perfect place to test the members' conviction that, given the right song out of its diverse catalog, Battlehooch might have more universal appeal than its brave antics would indicate. "Strange as it might be," McKinley says of the band's music, "It's meant for as many people as possible.
Battlehooch performs tonight (Oct. 24) and Wendesday, Oct. 31 at the Knockout. 9 p.m., $5; www.theknockoutsf.com.