Battleme is the inner psyche and stage moniker of songwriter Matt Drenik. He is also a contributing member to LA’s The Forest Rangers featuring Katey Sagal and Bob Thiele. There aren’t a lot of frills or gimmicks surrounding Battleme’s second album Future Runs Magnetic because, simply put, the music speaks for itself. Bombastic, driving and powerful, the album is a timeless collection of rock anthems.
A few days ago my wife took a leap of faith and hauled me up to Mt. Hood, a mountain and now dormant volcano about an hour outside of Portland, to celebrate my birthday. She scored a cabin that sat just above a creek off Highway 26, hoping to escape the city and more importantly the “drunk birthday shenanigans” that usually happen around this time every year. Sometimes I can’t help myself, especially on my birthday where everyone deems it necessary to shoot shots and roar like raving drunks or, better yet, act like 16 year old idiots trying to forget what it feels like to get old. It’s kind of sad, but a good sad, one where you beat your chest and breathe deep with nothing left but a lousy hangover the next morning. So this whole idea of “getting away” felt good, fresh, and I figured “what the hell?” At least it would erase the normal routine. No TV, no email, no cell phones. Everything off.
So the first thing I did when we got there was make a fire. And the second thing I did was sit and watch the fire. Ah! Nothing makes someone feel more alive than building a fire and watching it burn. Once I got bored, I got up and put on a record. First it was Pet Sounds, then Harvest, then Bill Monroe’s Greatest Hits, and finally, The Everly Brothers.
“I love this.” My wife said, staring at the fire. And I did too. Everything was being erased.The next day I woke up feeling a bit lighter, like someone who had shaved off a few pounds in matter of minutes. I was Rocky. I had some eggs, juice, a banana, and then I looked outside at the creek. It was still going. We were still here. I reached in my pocket and grabbed my phone and like a dumbass, I looked up the wifi code and clicked on the Twitter icon. All of a sudden I was scrolling. Marc Maron was complaining. Next. Guided By Voices met Jay Carney. Next. Jenny Eliscu was being clever. Next. Next. Next. Ah! I was back, a clown in the modern world, an observer, a voyeur. I scrolled quicker, feeling bad about myself for even looking and wanting to get back to my eggs and the creek. Willy Mason – YouTube kicking independent artists off its site. What?! Click. And holy shit if I didn’t open up a pandora’s box of messy contractual jargon littered with major label this and indie label that.
“What are you doing?” my wife asked. “Nothing.” But I kept on and eventually threw my phone on the couch. That rectangular piece of shit took the piss out of my morning and my eggs were cold. My mind went riffing on YouTube and Twitter and how we let it all get so out of control. A free service that someone came up with to make some extra cash is now running the entire show and shaking the world to its knees with threats and informal letters.
By the way, this is a service that pays no money to anyone. Seriously. The money comes from those crappy ads you’re forced to watch before actually seeing what you want to see. But still, we crash and burn with it. We’re the poker player with absolutely no cards that keeps in the game because there’s a chance the other guy is bluffing. I guess it’s that idealism, or sliver of hope, that makes it all worthwhile.
My phone looked dead on the couch, a tiny box of grey and black, a scrolling soul of messy parts.
“Bloody Mary?” my wife asked.
She looked beautiful in the light.
The creek was still roaring. God it sounded like being alive. Maybe I was in a paradise or a sheltered fortress depending on how I looked at it. Either way it was something good. I think my wife knew I was tired of setting myself up for disaster, scrolling, posting, updating.
Writing songs isn’t enough anymore, at least that’s what we’re made to believe. But it was my birthday, my chance to check out on top of a mountain. And if I had any guts at all I’d launch my phone into the creek and watch it float away.
“Bloody Mary.” I said.
Pretty soon I’ll take a stand, I thought to myself. It’ll always be us versus them. It was a good thought, one that made me forget just what it was I was trying to remember.