Throwin’ You a Hard Rock-and-Roll Bone: The Battery Electric and that Sunday at Slim’s
by Angela Perez
Last Sunday afternoon, it was all sunshine and blue skies outside. I know this because while I was sipping cold gin at Slim’s, I saw golden light filtering through all the rock show flyers and band posters taped haphazardly to the grimy front window. But, as I sat there on the cracked vinyl of that rickety barstool, I wasn’t really paying attention to the world outside. Because something bizarre and wonderful was happening there in the dank bowels of my favorite downtown Raleigh bar. That something was the New Jersey band, The Battery Electric. The rock-and-roll foursome was playing an afternoon benefit show after having already played at two other Triangle music venues on Friday and Saturday. Technically, they should have been slogging through the set, worn out from a weekend of mayhem. But they brought a full-on, we-came-to-party vibe that had the room groovin’. More about that later.
As the rough and rowdy motley band launched into their third hard and heavy song, my buddy standing next to me leans in and says, “What the fuck is this? I’ve never heard anything like it.”
“What do you mean?” I ask, trying to catch the bartender’s attention for one more Cardinal gin and soda. “Don’t you like it?”
“No, it’s not that,” he says. “It’s just…well…I don’t know what this is. I mean. It’s like hard rock. But there’s a lot of R & B and soul to it. And yet it’s not cheesy. It’s great! It’s just that I can’t figure out WHAT it is.”
I’ve thought about his description since then and, after doing a bit of digging into the “Jersey Shore sound” and listening to more songs by this band, I think I know what he’s on to. And why this band is something I’ve been looking for – for a long time. And why you should keep an eye on them.
So, first to introduce the guys who I saw at Slim’s, and who are, I believe, taking Jersey-style raunch-and-roll to a new level. Well, a new place at any rate.
Ron Santee, vocals
Brent Bergholm, guitar
Alex Rosen, bass guitar
Kevin Troeller, drums
I’m not 100 percent sure what the situation with their drummer is – most of their recent press photos and online postings only show Ron, Brent, and Alex as being The Battery Electric. What I do know is they are an Asbury Park band – part of a re-burgeoning blue-collar, hard-working pedigree that has existed from the late 60s ’til now – with waxing and waning periods throughout the decades. The area spawned Bruce Springsteen, the Bouncing Souls, Bon Jovi, the Gaslight Anthem and so on. There’s an endless list of bands who were born and bred here and there are a lotta ways to define the sound – but, by and large, it seems to all boil down to some rock and roll grit with a touch (or, in some cases, a lot) of soul and R & B. How that “grit” plays out lately down the Shore is anybody’s game but let’s talk about The Battery Electric’s game.
From what I saw at Slim’s on Sunday and from some online listening this week, this band operates amidst a musical framework that stays grounded in a seamless fusion of heavy party rock (I kept thinking of KISS), old-school metal (think Black Sabbath) and primitive punk sensibilities (the Stooges if they’d been injecting Fireball shots instead of heroin). The look, the feel, the texture of the band and its music are all solidly and overtly blue collar. This project IS working class at its core. Nothing revelatory here, right? That’s stereo-fucking-typical Jersey Shore.
What’s revelatory about this band is the authenticity of this bizarre, ever-morphing fusion of metal, punk, and soul. All too often these days, genre fusion leads to some pussy way-too-self-aware indie bullshit. But this band isn’t just playing around with their roots (no pun intended) in some self-indulgent circle jerk – it feels like they have their hands in the dirt, digging around probing the dark around those roots, understanding the heart of the rock-and-roll universe they are drawing their life’s blood from. That created them. There are no oh-my-God-what-does-it-mean-to-be-blue-collar indie sensibilities muddying up the project – this music is about having a good time – it’s the quintessential rock-and-roll project – sex and drugs and liquor required.
But there’s more to this fusion than meets the eye.
The overtones, the guts of the music feel like old metal & punk sans the anger, the anguish, the politics, the dragons, the bats, the pentagram, and the witches spewing blood. This enterprise, at its heart, is about feeling good. When you watch The Battery Electric, you know they didn’t come to save the environment, didn’t come for dark catharsis, or to shout at the devil. They came to party. And even if you didn’t intend to, by God, by the end of the set you WILL end up partying with them.
Some of the songs’ lyrics and the lead singer’s antics remind of the days from my 20s when I lived with three guys in three different Raleigh bands in an old house downtown decorated mainly with rock-and-roll instruments, pedals, cheap furniture that someone’s parents gave us or that we scored from Goodwill – or, in one instance – a rug we found by the side of the road. What tied the room in that house together? A cheap-assed fiberboard coffee table perpetually covered in empty beer cans and bottles and overflowing ashtrays and old pizza boxes with a bong hidden underneath. Or not hidden. The Battery Electric’s music is THE anthem for THAT house. For that lifestyle.
Like I said, they are constantly paying homage to the best of several worlds and there’s some real cultural work happening here inextricably bound to the Asbury Park scene. But at the same time transcending it. That transcendence to me comes through in the heavy metal grooves present in most songs, even in their light-hearted or soulful cover songs. There is definitely something heavy and dark in this music that firmly keeps this band from being just a raunch-and-roll band. It’s taking them many steps beyond the Jersey Shore and I think that solid metal heaviness combined with their authenticity and charisma will be what takes them to a national stage.
Oh, and I should mention, it seems that most of the ladies are smitten by the tall, pretty-boy looks of bass guitarist Alex. But for my money, I think that filthy French-dandy looking fucker fronting the band is the one the ladies should be partying it down with. And we should mention, the guitar player in the jean jacket cut is the one kicking metal ass and has great hair to boot. But, truly, all these fellas are bringing something sexy to the table. Because it’s real, it’s authentic, they are down to Earth and they are good at what they do.