35 years after forming, Flying Nun band The Bats have the longest continuous membership of any band in New Zealand, and they’re showing no signs of wear and tear. In fact interest in and affection for the band only seems to grow - particularly from an international audience.
“I think… if you stick around long enough you’re given added gravitas or importance or kudos… just for the fact you've hung around,” says songwriter Robert Scott with self-effacing good humour, though after mild prodding he admits the band’s popularity might also have something to do with what we would call stellar songwriting, but that he refers to as “maintaining some kind of standard in what we do.”
Earlier this year The Bats released their 9th studio album and first in five years, ’The Deep Set’, recorded at The Sitting Room in Lyttleton by Ben Edwards (Marlon Williams, Tami Neilson, Aldous Harding, The Eastern) and described by Scott as “a deep set of songs, metaphysically,” though not reflective of the band’s general temperament: “We’re pretty lightweight actually. We like a laugh and we don’t discuss anything too deep, really.”
The album’s cover, a painting depicting “strange beings down in the basement” also plays on the album’s title (“that’s a deep set down there,” he laughs) and was painted by Scott, who sells his ‘naive folk art’ at gigs for the price of a few records.
“[I paint] the coastal landforms and seascapes around the Otago coast where I live and also the more desolate, arid, windswept parts of Central Otago... I try and capture that feeling within the paintings and hopefully in the songs some of that comes through as well,” he says.
The Deep Set was premiered live at the Sydney Festival in January, but The Bats only now got around to touring here. It might have been a tough wait for homegrown fans, but allowing space between gigs is part of what has kept the band going for so long. That - and the music.
“I guess it comes back to the songs…. We get a new bunch of songs that we like playing, we get enthusiastic about them and luckily everyone’s parts that they come up with are enjoyed by the others in the band, so we’re not fighting over direction… We’re kind of lucky that it’s panned out that way.”
The Bats are on tour in France, Germany, and the U.K. during June.