A melee of sorts is taking place on the beer-soaked floor of Big Snow. A tall, skinny man careens through a sporadic flood of bright light and pitch dark, knocking over one of the many amplifiers crowding the wall to the right of the stage. Some asshole in one of the bands slated that evening is offended. In an uproar, he jets to the security guard to have this man removed from the quaint Varet St. venue. A Bushwick, Brooklyn spot known for its obscure bills and lax attitude towards “fun”. While the majority of the ten or so people slipping and ripping through the pit are displaying a degree of this feeling, it is this particular man, a dude of sorts, that is charging, full force, to the energy emitting from the PA and stacks in and around the slightly elevated stage.
Eliciting the momentum stands Bambara. Locked in, flogging the shadows of the slicked cavity with a barrage of crushing meter and systematic illumination. Unbeknownst to the band, the “dude” is removed. The chasm continues its boil under the spell of the caustic crunch of post-punk and noise. Unfettered, the energy riffles back, assailing the wall of amps. I’m thrust, ass first, into the crowded assortment of equipment, which yields a swollen elbow and a thigh bruise that is still present. Welcome to a show. If you’re worried about your Marshall — or body for that matter — put it flush against the wall, or don’t bring it in at all.
After a performance like this, I can’t help but to seek out the purveyors of my stupor. Who the fuck are these guys, and what are their plans? “The shortest answer is doing the thing.” Thanks, Hemingway.
Following their set, Bambara — comprised of Reid Bateh (vocals/guitar), Blaze Bateh (drums/vocals), and William Brookshire (bass/vocals) — sit down with me in the smokey cellar of Big Snow for a chat about their history as a band, what they’re up to, and the dude that got kicked out for having too much fun.
What’s the story of Bamabara?
Reid: The story of Bamabara…there’s no story. We’ve just been doing it forever. The same three of us have been playing together since we were 13.
Blaze: We’re from Atlanta. We moved to Athens, [GA] for five years, and really formed what is now Bambara. Then moved up [to Brooklyn] a year ago. We’ve been recording in our basement for eight months, now. Should be done [with the new record] at the end of the month.
How long have you been together as Bambara?
B: Since the end of ‘08.
How do you plan to release your first LP?
Will: We’ve always put out our own stuff. We have a group we’ve put together called Emerald Weapon to put our own materials out. But we are going to send this one out and try to get some help for it. We’re definitely coming into our own sound, now, with this new stuff. It’s the first time we’ve fully recorded our own material every step of the way — 100% our involvement. We’re getting the sounds we want, and we’re making a lot of progress in songwriting just recording ourselves.
How long have you been self-producing your music?
B: The first thing we recorded in our basement to go to is the Kate Bush cover of “Running Up That Hill”. That was our first time really practicing recording ourselves. We put that out like nine months ago.
I really dug how you manipulated the lighting inside the drum kit. What brought about that aspect of your live performance?
B: I think we got that from Sigur Rós, orginally. We saw this Sigur Rós show were they just blinded the crowd so bad that everybody had to close their eyes. I remember just trying to hold my eyelids open to enjoy it, and thought it would be fun to blast people in the face.
R: It’s more about the experience, you know? If you want us to play songs accurately then hear the record. But if you wanna have an experience, see the show. It’s lights, brutal sound — it’s people. We can sound like shit, but it doesn’t matter. It’s the experience.
W: It’s all impact, entirely. The lights are the last thing. We figure out where we want to really hit the hardest, and that’s when they come in.
What did you think about the movement of the crowd, tonight?
R: That’s the only shit that I consider a real show. If we play an awesome show and [people] are standing there just watching, then fuck it. I’d rather people just be crazy and we play an awful show. As long as I’m covered in blood and sweat and there’s energy, that’s fine.
W: If the energy of the crowd makes me play harder then that’s a good fucking show no matter how I played.
R: It doesn’t matter how we played. We’ll play songs, but who gives a shit?
There was a guy dashing around the pit. A total fury. Then a guy from one of the other billed bands got him kicked out for basically dancing. What do you think about that?
R: That’s fucked up! I did the same thing. I fell.
W: When you pay $7 you should be able to bust ass.
What’s next for Bambara?
B: We’re just going to focus the rest of the month on finishing this album in our basement. We’re making a lot of progress, right now. We just came back from tour. We did a two-and-a-half week tour. Once [the album] is done we’re going to start playing a lot more in Brooklyn and book a tour for the winter. Then hit it harrrrrd.