Bat Nouveau (ex 13 Bats)
Formed in: 2008
Location: Queensland, Australia
Members: Todd Manion, Alex Palmer
Celebrated as Australian ambassadors of the modern deathrock revival, since their formation in 2008, Bat Nouveauʼs output has run the gamut of dark post-punk and lofi proto-goth stylings. From the icy coldwave minimalism of ʻLiliesʼ and ʻGhostepsʼ, to the swampy grind of ʻHung Highʼ, the jagged neurosis of ʻPortent of a Monsterʼ and ʻDustʼ or the propulsive, unrelenting noise of ʻWreckageʼ, 2014 reveals a band with more than a few new tricks left up their sleeves
Originally known as 13 Bats, the band came together on Australiaʼs Gold Coast in 2008, when Todd Manion approached guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Alex Palmer about contributing vocals to one of Alexʼs home recording projects. The first original that the pair wrote together was ʻThe Cryʼ, a song that quickly garnered underground interest via the bandʼs MySpace from January 2009, and ultimately led to Sydney ʻpunk noirʼ trio Brigitte Handley & The Dark Shadows asking 13 Bats to open for them in August at the Step Inn, in Brisbane. In November, a re-recorded version of ʻThe Cryʼ appeared on French netlabel Zorch Factory Recordsʼ free download compilation, “Zoundbies Volume 1”, coordinated by DJ Alien S Pagan.
13 January 2010 brought with it the bandʼs début EP, “Dust”, which appeared both as a free download (also courtesy of Zorch Factory Records), and a self-released limited edition CD. Embodying the DIY spirit of the bandʼs punk/post-punk and deathrock influences, the EP was recorded entirely in Alexʼs garage with the most rudimentary of equipment, including a $50 microphone and guitars plugged straight into the computer. Mick Mercer called the EP “an intriguing start”, praising the guitar work in particular, and likened the title track to “a wounded Bauhaus being operated on without anaesthetic”.
Threatened soon afterwards with lawsuits from a Spanish psychobilly band using the same name, 13 Bats were forced to change their name to Bat Nouveau. ʻSomniumʼ, a song that appears nowhere else, became the first official release under the new moniker when it was included on the free download compilation accompanying Issue #5 of UK deathrock zine DeathRat Fanzine in September 2011.
Meanwhile, between 2010 and 2011 the band focused on sharpening up the edges of their live performances, and drew a following from Australiaʼs burgeoning deathrock revival scene in the process, with shows at The Cobweb Club in Sydney and Club 1334 in Melbourne. In an effort to expand the bandʼs stage presence, Denise Hodgson joined Bat Nouveau on bass in May 2012. Live highlights for the year included headlining The Bloodlust Ball in August, one of the bigger regular live events for Brisbaneʼs goth community, as well as playing shows alongside local acts like Nite Fields and Cobwebbs.
The bandʼs next EP, “What Has Been Now”, was recorded in a single 13-hour session at Alchemix Recording Studios in Brisbane, and produced by Andrew McLellan of local noise outfit Cured Pink. Including a new recording of the title track from “Dust” alongside three new songs, “What Has Been Now” was released as a limited edition CD on 10 November 2012. While the band celebrated with a live launch gig that night at DV8 Nightclub in Melbourne, the EPʼs arrival was also heralded in the very heart of the Californian deathrock scene, with release parties thrown by San Franciscoʼs Requiem Nightclub and Release The Bats in Long Beach, LA.
January 2013 saw Bat Nouveau opening for Peter Murphy in Brisbane during the iconic Bauhaus frontmanʼs first ever Australian tour. Denise left the group in March, moving to Spain to become an English teacher. With Todd taking over bass duties, on 1 April the original duo recorded a cover of ʻDeathwishʼ by Christian Death. The recording commemorated the 15th anniversary of Rozz Williamsʼ death, and was released as a free download via Soundcloud.
Bat Nouveau continued to gig regularly with local underground acts, including Melbourne deathrockers Masses, and fellow Brisbanites Multiple Man and Occults. Other notable shows included the bandʼs second appearance at the annual Bloodlust Ball in September, this time sharing the stage with Mick Medew of celebrated Brisbane band The Screaming Tribesmen, while 2013 was neatly book-ended with a second support slot for Peter Murphy on the singerʼs return to Australia in December.
In February 2014, a new recording of an early song, ʻGhostepsʼ, was released as a free download from their bandcamp site, and a newly mastered version of ʻThe Cryʼ was donated to the “Assault & BATtery” compilation, a fundraiser for the Bat World Santuary project. In April the band played at Fiend Fest, sharing the stage with Clan of Xymox, Leæther Strip and Covenant, and the following month opened for Gary Numan.
July 2014 saw the release of Bat Nouveau’s new 7” single, ‘Death Mask/Funeral Eyes’, as a very limited edition on purple vinyl. The single represents a departure from the raw, aggressive direction of “What Has Been Now” in favour of a stripped-back, sparse and brittle post-punk approach. Advance copies received a warm welcome from specialist DJs and radio shows during June, particularly in the UK, where Mick Mercer described the band’s sound as “growing in stature; boasting clearer lines, boosted beauty, extra agitation and greater vocal power”. Martin Oldgoth Coles called the single “a perfect three-and-a-half minute slab of darkness, with all the catchy guitar lines you need to keep a dancefloor moving”; with Cruel Britannia adding, “a potent blend of pre-to-mid ‘80s Cure with the sonic presence of Big Black … the sonic equivalent of overworking smoke machines”.
With details currently being finalised for a more substantial body of work to receive a larger-scale international release later in the year, in 2014 Bat Nouveau seem poised to truly come into their own.
2010: Dust EP
2012: What Has Been Now EP
2014: Death Mask/Funeral Eyes 7” single