batsbatsbats ghostghostghost take us to church on new double-sided single

batsbatsbats ghostghostghost just released their newly birthed “From the Void” EP today and The DELI got the scoop straight from the batsbatsbats ghostghostghost’s mouth on the new tracks—available on Bandcamp as we speak and streaming everywhere else soon—a perfect embodiment of BBBGGG’s melding of otherworldly etherial soundscapes and earthy primal-scream-noise-rock-meets-doom-metal-sludge that also manages to capture the vibe of their phantasmagoric live shows which you’ll find some DELI exclusive lo-fi phone camera video footage of below…

…and best of all after the jump there’s an entertaining, informative interview with the entire band lineup (or more like “clergy") of Nicolette Johnson, Katie Ortiz, and Shannon Minor that’ll help you prep for BBBGGG’s official record release ceremony this Sunday night at Purgatory (Bushwick, BK) at which they’ll transform the halfway between Heaven & Hell space into the Church of the Void for the evening with ceremonial rites starting at 9pm sharp, preceded by a cocktail hour with other devotional acts spread across the night for all those with a cross to bear and/or a soul-baring confession to make so read on dear reader or skip ahead a few paragraphs if you’re not so into …

the cinematic sub-genre known as “nunsploitation” which I’m guessing some of the sicker puppies amongst our regular readership know all about already (ok, most of you then!) that had its heyday back in the 1970s and hey let’s face it the Seventies were just cooler and kinkier and more intellectually fertile and more pervasively queer than any decade since—in broad pop cultural terms at least tho’ the 2020s are looking pretty good so far—so we should all be thanking our lucky stars when a musical combo like batsbatsbats ghostghostghost comes along seeing how they tick off the boxes above as well in a 2023 kinda way…

…and oh yeah one of the members of BBBGGG wears a nun’s habit on stage (read more about it in the interview below! more an invocation of a “universal priestess figure” than a literal nun per se but I’m sticking with the conceit for now!) not to mention the band’s overall vibe is strongly reminiscent of the 1974 nunsploitation classic School of the Holy Beast 聖獣学園) written and directed by fêted Japanese auteur Norifumi Suzuki or at least it is in this writer’s mind, a fever dream of a movie that “allegorizes insularity, repressiveness, and patriarchy” but in a sexily phantasmagorically messed up way which is our first potential parallel but don’t worry you’re unlikely to be publicly lashed at a BBBGGG show where any bloodletting is purely of a socio-psychological therapeutic nature…

…a movie relating the timeless story of a very un-nun-like young woman who enjoys video arcades, hockey game, and one-night stands but who nonetheless checks herself in at the remote nunnery where her mother was murdered in order to find and take revenge on the perpetrators and in the process finds out the convent in question is rife with nun-on-nun debauchery (see the “nunilingus” scene above; WARNING: finger-lickin’ libidinous monastics), blasphemous rites and sadistic cruelty (see the “flower flagellation” scene below; WARNING: nudity, bondage, bright red fake blood that still may make you wince)…

…but moving one step beyond the titillation and provocation at the core of any good exploitation flick (or record review-sploitation writeup such as this) Holy Beast is a feast for the senses full of painterly compositions and dynamic tracking shots and ravishing soft-focus cinematography (not to mention the lush atmospheric soundtrack) all of which makes the story feel less literal and more archetypal with critiques of Western-based religious hypocrisy and atomic warfare thrown in for good measure…

…all of which pretty much aligns with batsbatsbats ghostghostghost as witnessed in the opening invocation above performed at a recent live show at the Broadway where the band confronted their audience (not confrontationally!) with no barriers seemingly erected in between and where they set the tenor on the opening number where only Nicolette is playing a traditional musical instrument—a bass guitar cradled and caressed and danced with in tandem as if it’s almost human…

….resplendent in religious garb and bondage gear (the band, not the bass, e.g., silk blindfold, choker, dog collar harness) and soon enough both Katie and Shannon have prostrated themselves on stage and then departing the stage entirely to venture into the audience over the course of a set that concludes with the Katie Ortiz lying flat on the floor in the middle of the room repeating an incantatory phrase, “when you love somebody you gotta watch them bleed," concluding with “I wanna feel f*cking anythingeveragain…” to rapturous applause and by this point I don’t have to tell you it’s a pretty damn intense experience even just baring witness…

…and while everything in this scenario points to heightened bodily presence at one and the same time BBBGGG inform their congregants “you are not your body” and then backed by pulsating industrial beats exhort them to “sacrifice your body” followed by the query, "don’t you hate my body, hate my body?”, with each phrase reiterated mantra-like and it’s impressive how batsbatsbats ghostghostghost locate a charged liminal space between cinematic-style body horror and societal gender-based shaming and faith-based belief in transubstantiation with the latter brought to the fore as Shannon moves fluidly through the crowd during the set opener "Sacrificial Body" anointing every forehead in sight with ashen crosses…

…and hey if this the start of a new religion count me in and even if you’re doubtful why not get in on the ground floor of this thing while there’s still potentially a chance to become one of the apostles or at least someone they regularly put on their guest list cuz their mashup of horror, sexual politics and religious fervor feels in line with the times and could strike a nerve in a mass cult kind of way (BBBGGG-Anon) and hey even if you’re only into them for the music and the spectacle they got some pretty fine hymns to learn and sing plus they’re all about world-building clearly…

…with no true “lead” instruments or single front person to speak of which is bottom-up, little-d democratic (or maybe more like a Ponzi scheme?) cuz you know that when the bass guitar is often the lead part–even when the playing’s as unique and inventive as Nicolette’s, using a slide as both a percussive string-striking stick and as, well, a slide–then we’re talking true equity and it’s kinda crazy that just a few years ago they were known as Meansiders and wrote songs in a more post-riot grrrl style calling out repellent creeps with satirical lyrical jabs and sick riffage so read on to learn more about their history and transformation into batsbatsbats ghostghostghost plus many other tidbits besides… (Jason Lee)


K = KATIE (guitar, vocals)
N = NICOLETTE (bass guitar)
S = SHANNON (drums, vocals)
D = DELI (querying, bloviating)

D: Let’s get the obvious question out of the way. Which would each of you rather be in real life—a bat or a ghost and why?

S: That’s t ough. I can’t pick one. Bats are so cute. Ghosts are so cool.

N: Ghost. If you think about all the benefits of being a bat—you can fly, scare people—ghosts can do all that sh*t too. But they can also walk through walls. Materialize and re-materialize.

S: Plus you live forever.

N: If ghosts exist, wouldn’t everything lives forever?

K: The one thing bats do that ghosts don’t do is that bats eat mosquitos. They’re awesome. They’re good for the environment. I’d be the ghost of a bat.

N: I love how silly and irrelevant our band name is. It’s a good contrast to the more serious side of what we do.

K: With our name…you either get it you don’t. [pregnant pause]

D: What led from the transition from Meansiders to batsbatsbatsghostghostghost?

K: We’ve been playing music together now for a long time, since 2015. It’s been awesome to grow as musician together. That being said, who we are as people, so much has changed since we started playing music together—what feels meaningful, what resonates. We kind of naturally and weirdly started going in this direction.

We’d were moving in this directly already then when Shannon was injured for a while and couldn’t play drums, Nicolette and me started writing a bunch of stuff together. It was cool as an experiment, but when it was the three of us and we kept going with it, it was clearly something really special, powerful. Having to write by ourselves, the two of us, made us reexamine our approach.

N: A lot of the new music was born out of necessity. We had a show scheduled. Instead of dropping it, Katie andI decided to rework some of our set and to write new stuff, to preform with a drum track and see if it worked. Those were the seeds. Once Shannon got back in she added in her perspective.

S: I was stoked about the new direction. I love playing heavy and loud.

D: Nicky, you have an unconventional bass playing style that’s really crucial to the Bats/Ghosts sound. How’d you arrive at it?

N: Technically it’s a slide that I play with like a pick. Instead of using it in my fret hand, like you normally would with a slide, I use it as a pick. But I get more attack than you’d get with a pick, while also using it as a slide sometimes.

D: What was the recording process like?

S: We worked with Jesse French [Tetchy, King of Nowhere] who’s incredibly talented. We’d been toying with different ways of recording this record for a while, had a loss of starts and stops. Once we got in a space with Jesse it came together much more easily, and quickly, than we had planned.

K: We’d been playing these songs for a long time which helped a lot.

S: The performance aspect strongly informed the recording too. We wanted to channel, to translate, the energy of our lives shows into the record.

D: Speaking of live performance, what inspired the more theatrical/performative turn you took in BBBGGG versus Meansiders.

S: The new confiruation was a great chance for me to get out from behind the drum set and to be a little more interactive. And to bring the audience more directly into the show. Pushing out of my comfort zone is a good thing.

N: And who doesn’t love a hot nun?

D: You can say that again.

N: At the outset we had a meeting and picked characters for ourself. All of the lore is building off from this archetypical characters we picked for ourselves. Shannon is the priestess, the religious guide. This went on to Inform a lot of what we do with the performances on the whole. Shannon wrote the opening prayer that we start our shows with.

S: With the newer setup, there’s not a load instrument. It’s cool how we get to all interact together, to lead together. It’s intentional for there to be no front person. It comes from playing together for so long.

K: It’s central to our lore. We’re a pantheon of ancient gods, divine sisters.

N: There’s a lot of religious influence. Visually, there’s some Judeo-Christian influence there. But we make sure it’s not anything too specific. Instead of just riffing on religion or doing it as a parody—making fun of religion or being “Satanic”—we wanted to create something new of our own.

The central concept is that we’re worshiping what came before everything, before there was anything. The actual Void when there was nothing— before time and before the Big Bang, the space that existed before the universe came into reality. It’s a bit of a lofty concept. [laughs]

D: Horror seems like it might be another influence. If that’s true is there anything specific—films, novels, whatever else—that may have informed your approach?

N: Ahhh I went to film school, total film nerd, which in a lot of ways informs what not to do instead of what to do. I’m really into doing new, interesting things that no one has seen before. A lot of the inspiration for the stage show is just us taking what you’d expect at a regular show in Brooklyn and trying to turn the performance on its head, make it more interactive, more artistic. To do something different than what you’ve seen done before, what you always see, informed by all the horror-related stuff I’ve grown up watching and following.

K: We all share a love for horror, and doom, and creepiness. Each of us has a bit of a morbid streak.

N: In this day and age, how you can not.

D: Katie, I was wondering about the lyrics to “Sludge Screams” which feel like they’re aligned with horror or maybe just anxiety. Is there anything you have to say about who you’re addressing in the song, or any more general inspiration behind the song?

K: It’s cool well it fit with the story and Lore that Nicolette had been developing, even thought I didn’t know about it when I was first writing the lyrics. But it became relevant after. It’s most just this sense of being lost in something. Lost in the void of something. Feeling very small and letting that feeling wash over you. And those moments of vulnerability in the song, they get transformed into a force of their own at the end.

D: Thanks y’all! Is there anything we didn’t cover that you’d like to speak on.

K: We’re doing our big release show on Sunday! It’s going to be more of an immersive theater piece than a traditional show. We’re holding a church service for the Church of the Void. It’s going to be unlike anything any of us have ever done either together or individually. And there’s a pre-service cocktail hour.

Now there’s a good incentive to come to church…