Chris Bathgate talks about music in Michigan ahead of his Saturday show at Cause
In a league of gentleman all his own, Chris Bathgate stands as a one man band (sort of).
Ann Arbor hasn't been very submissive when it comes to matters of releasing its wonderful musical prowess to the rest of the world. Maybe that's why Bathgate has long since been one of Michigan's best kept secrets.
Standing amidst the corner street outside of a café in downtown Ann Arbor, Chris Bathgate talks up his advocacy for the local music scene in his town, and how comparative it may be to our own Twin Cities. Amongst his denim obsession and his friendship with Minneapolis' own band Me and My Arrow, Bathgate leaves few thoughts trailing on this particular gingerly, sweet, autumn day. His vocal capacity might be one of the few cryptic characteristics amongst his music.
A shaky-intensity is leveled in his voice, as all of the courage and insecurities come pouring out of the lyrics. You can't tell if Chris's voice is as strong as it seems, or maybe as delicate as you might hope. Whatever the case may be, Chris Bathgate's music certainly has an affinity for fitting into the best of moments. With his popular single, "Serpentine" off of his previous album, A Cork Tale Wake, and now "Big Ghost" from his most recent record, Salt Year, there's no doubt that Chris's music can fit in anywhere. His music isn't afraid to mix folk with his feelings and maybe a layer of electric guitar. Sprinkled with 'The Pixie' kind of dust in there too.
Chris Bathgate had a chance to speak with Gimme Noise prior to embarking on his 22-date fall tour. He'll be playing Cause Spirits & Soundbar this Saturday night with the headlining band, Me and My Arrow.
Gimme Noise: How's the music scene there?
Chris Bathgate: Funny you should mention that. It's weird because the majority of the entire state seems collectively like a scene. Like a statewide Michigan music scene. But, last week there was some sort of meeting put on by this media company called Concentrate, sort of this local place that does stories on what's happening locally, as well as nationally. We had this meeting where they sort of posed the question: "What does it require... Or, does the South East Michigan area have a scene, what is that scene composed of? Does it have a national identity? Does it need a nation identity, if it does need it how we get it?"
It was a long panel discussion, which just brought up more and more questions; I think there's going to be another. There are quite a few bands here that are really healthy, making really good music. But there's a stronger local sub-scene, not so much of a large national scene.
GN: Have you ever made your way to Minneapolis, ever really hung out here?
Bathgate: I have, a couple of my friends moved there in 2005 and tried to engage in the Minneapolis music scene, and I think they had pretty bad luck and they came back nine months later. I don't think they expected how difficult the Minneapolis winters are. Especially with like parking and stuff, the little things that they didn't know about.
But, I've been to Minneapolis/St. Paul once. I played this club there, the Fine Line... It's a decent club; it was very professional and a great room.
GN: So you're playing Cause coming up...
Bathgate: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to that show; my whole band is starting to get excited. Me and My Arrow are playing that night, so we're pretty jazzed about that show. It's going to be one of the highlights of our tour.
GN: Talk to me about the new album, Salt Year. What were the differences you were striving for between A Cork Tale Wake and this one?
Bathgate: I guess the difference is, I left a lot more space in Salt Year. I left a lot more loose ends, in the studio. I like to write obsessively demo songs, upwards of 10-12 times--different versions at home, and then once I've sort of got the place in the studio I tried to recreate that. But every time I did that, something was sort of lost...
There's some sort of magic in demos, where singing something for the first time, or experimenting with sounds or with chords--that no matter how hard you to try to create, or how much time you try to spend to recreate it just never comes across. So I got myself super comfortable with leaving open ends, and leaving the studio, and that space, to keep some of the magic on the final record. So that to me was the difference to me from Cork Tale Wake and Salt Year. It should be a lot more interesting to me to leave that space open.
GN: Are you familiar with any Twin Cities artists?
Bathgate: Ya know, not really, the scene is sort of hidden from me. Me and My Arrow seems to be touring quite a bit, and I've actually always been on tour when they've been around so it's been difficult for me to link up with them. Out there, there are a lot of people that have seen them that are friends of mine, and that's how I got into their music. So, my friend Matt Jones (who actually will drum for me on this tour, and he's an amazing singer/songwriter), was the first one who was like, "Yo, I saw this band at Wood Drifts and they're amazing!"
GN: I read about your denim fascination...
Bathgate: Hahahaha! I don't remember telling anybody! It might be a Michigan thing. Ya know, I don't have the balls to really pull off the full tuxedo. So honestly, that's really all I want to put on. But really, I'm more into deep denims. My whole life I wasn't exactly, I was kind of middle class family, growing up with a bunch of hand-me-downs. So I never actually had owned a pair of like super deep high quality jeans. And there's this point when you're an adult, where you start making your own money and you kind of just indulge in those things that you felt deprived of as a kid. So I was sick of wearing like light-colored jeans and having to hear about it, looking like a goof walking around.-- So yeah, I'll probably bring em' to Minneapolis.
GN: So that's the most fashionable thing about you!
Bathgate: What, deep denim? Ya know, they're actually kind of fading (haha) - I didn't mean that as a pun! A lot of people around here I guess are kind of done with jeans.
GN: I'm excited to see this Michigan deep denim get-up you've got going on when you get here.
Bathgate: Oh, well I'll try not to wear my sweat pant suit then, just for you.