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Space Bats, Attack!

Space Bats, Attack!

Interviewed by
Sam Valentine
Monday 20th August, 2012 10:55AM

The brain-child of ex-Thundercub guitarist Lee Nicolson, and featuring Alizarin Lizard’s Chris ‘Bugs’ Miller, and A Distant City’s Josh Nicholls, Space Bats, Attack! is something of a Dunedin supergroup. Titled ‘Death to You and All You Love, Human’ their contribution to the It Came From the Attic compilation is a fittingly robotic, jamming electronic workout. We sent Sam Valentine to speak to Lee Nicolson to discover the roots of the project.

Hey Lee, how’s it going? First things first, Space Bats, Attack! are a relatively new band. What’s your line-up, and how did you come together?

Good thanks. I met Josh through the Chicks Project, and ended up jamming earlier this year. Bugs had the next room as a practice space and was keen for a recording project, so it was all pretty smooth.

What’s Space Bats member’s musical history like prior to forming the band?

Bugs and I studied music a few years back. I was the year after him though. When I discovered Myspace, I friend-requested his solo project, Feeling Nauseous, which became The Something Quartet. He had a cool song called “The Time I Met A Duck”. Samdrub, one of the drummers of The Something Quartet, I met through uni as well. DJ too. We were in a 5-piece boy band that became Thundercub. They’ve been involved in the compilation too, which we’re very grateful for. I’m not sure if Josh has played in anything other the band he’s in (below), which I find astounding because they blow my mind. They had a different name, but I don’t think that counts.

Do any of you play in other Dunedin bands?

Bugs is a really productive guy, but at the moment is mainly playing in The Entire Alphabet and Alizarin Lizard and Josh is in A Distant City, all very different but cool bands. Far more active than SB too, which surprisingly hasn’t made it difficult to find time for recording. I played bass with Mr. Biscuits recently. I hope we play again soon.

The name Space Bats, Attack! sounds pretty conceptual. Is there a story to go with it?

I got really into an old DOS game called Enemy Unknown and was playing it over the last holidays whilst working in a vineyard, which was mind-numbingly boring. After some time thinking of how spooky-awesome the game is, I thought it would be fun to make a weird noise rock soundtrack to a comic book about alien invasion then make computer game versions of the same songs.

How did you get involved with the Attic?

Some mates happened upon a space somewhere on the main street of Dunedin and were up here for a few months before me. Dan, who I met through Off The Cuff said they were looking for someone else and I turned it down before having a look. I ended up needing a space to make effects pedals so moved in not long after.

Is It Came From the Attic something you’re pretty proud to be associated with?

Heck yes!

What’s your favourite song on the compilation, excluding your own?

'Panther Panther' by Ostrander Aardvark. Their first EP is going to be bad-ass

What’s Dunedin (in general) like as a space to be creative?

It has ups and downs, like most places, I’m sure. Living is cheap. The Chicks Project (now called AMPED) contributes so much to the up-and-coming music scene. By the time these kids are 18 they’re more clued-up on running a band than what’s required for a BMus w/ contemporary endorsement. The cold is a bit of a bummer sometimes. Dan and I spent a lot of the winter working in our sleeping bags, so there’s ways around it. As far as spaces go, there are some cool independent galleries. Venues are thinning out a bit, usually due to unsympathetic neighbours or landlords. We’re very lucky in regards to the latter.

You’re personally deeply involved in the electronics side of music production, designing pedals, experimenting with different sonic approaches, and what you’ve self-described as “weird sounds”. How much does this impact on the music you write?

I like finding excuses to use a weird sound in a song. Or even making a song to demo a new sound, for e.g. the Spacebat pedal with MEGA DEATH RAY switch engaged.

Did I read that Dan Deacon is keen to test some of the prototypes you’ve been making under the name Lighting Bear?

I mailed Dan a while back in regards beta testing and was very stoked that he got back to me. He’s a cool dude and makes amazing music, so I’m a bit nervous. I don’t really want to send it with a half-baked example of the concept. The electronics are analog and can be controlled by an external touch screen, all within the limitations of the software. In its test phase it’s still hooked up to my laptop, but a rough app should be just around the corner.

I understand you’re making an 8-bit video game at the moment? What’s the story behind that?

I’m doing the game music and sound effects. I impulse-bought a broken MS10 and after getting it going, made a stompbox to turn midi audio into a trigger because I couldn’t play in time to the metronome in Logic. It worked pretty swell for getting the computery vibe. Oli from Fat Children happens to be quite savvy with coding, so is working on the framework in his spare time. Tom Garden is doing the visual side of things. He works up in the Attic too, writing his sci-fi comic called System Earth. He’s got some amazing stuff up his sleeve so I can’t wait for the next release.

Was I picking up some Kyuss vibes on the end of ‘Death to You and All You Love…’?

Maybe not intentionally… They were possibly the first band I listened to that didn’t suck. Oddly enough, fellow Attic resident Sam Caldwell showed them to me in high school.

What are your future plans with Space Bats?

Bugs left Dunedin to live in the North Island yesterday, so we’ll be sending tracks through the Internet to get the EP finished. We had recorded it before playing our two only gigs. Might be able to get another done before the next two.

And finally, in seemingly typical UTR fashion, what are your thoughts on the New Zealand music scene at the moment?

There’s a lot of crap. On the other hand there are so many epic musicians that don’t get the recognition they should. It irks me to think that the amazing bands that have played at The Attic like Boxcar Rattle, The Shocking and Stunning and Sunken Seas, are still hundreds of facebook “likes” away from being able to get any help from NZ On Air, yet wads of cash are given to bands that only ever results in a boring music video filmed somewhere predictable like an aircraft hanger with another song that sounds like the Feelers, which yields fuck-all benefit to NZs music culture.


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