Interview with Billy Batts & the Made Men
Sean: I came with so many questions, yall are gonna be tired of me. Have you done alot of interviews?
Brody: We've done a few, maybe not a lot of 'em.
S: So can we get the names and ages of the band members?
B: So I'm Brody Wilson, I'm 21. I play the guitar and I do the screaming.
Andy: I'm Nub Nub
A: I play the drums and I'm 16.
S: And you have a bassist, as well?
B: Yeah, our bass player, Stag, he's 20. But for our upcoming stuff, we'll have a different bass player.
S: How long have you guys been playing?
B: So we've been playing together now, it's like 3 or 4 years. Before the pandemic, it was just kinda local stuff, and then we met Rick from GEARED FOUR and he's the one who's been putting us in all the out-of-state stuff, and giving us the push to get where we are now. I'd say we've been hitting it hard since 2021, playing out of state.
S: You've done some tours, too?
B: Yeah, Rick set us up on our first tours. Our first tour was actually with SYMPTOMS.
S: Yes, we saw that one.
B: Yeah, a band dropped off their tour with them so they asked us last minute if we were down to do it with 'em, so we got to do a little week-long tour with them. So now we're playing with them a few times out of the year, its always fun.
S: That was my first time hearing them, they were awesome.
B: They're one of our favorite bands; Wasting My Life is one of our favorite albums.
A: In my top ten.
S: You guys are into such a cool selection of bands who inspired you. When I see you post online about what you're listening to, I'm like 'they listen to better stuff than people my age!'
B: Yeah, we're into that '80s hardcore: HUSKER DU, BIG BOYS, GOVERNMENT ISSUE, CIRCLE JERKS, all that kinda shit.
S: But yall are also kinda diverse, into a lot of alternative rock and stuff. What would you say you're into that would surprise your fans? Like what styles or artists?
B: I really like the GO-GO's, not sure if that's alternative or pop...
S: It's both, or it was!
A: NED'S ATOMIC DUSTBIN.
S: I know a lot of people into them!
B: Yeah, they're one of our favorites. I'm weirdly into all this '80s stuff, like new wave stuff. Or when we do our sets we'll throw in a cover like "Edge of Seventeen".
S: I've seen you play twice and I'm always surprised by the covers you come up with live.
B: Yeah, we're constantly changing our covers. Our songs are so fast and short, we'll normally do like 20-30 songs and try to like 2-3 covers in a set. We constantly try to rotate out different covers. I like when I see my favorite bands multiple times and they have different set-lists.
S: But that's good that you're not letting it get stagnant; the OUTFIELD/ T.S.O.L. medley I saw yall do in Charleston was freaking killing me. I think everybody around me was going "what the hell".
B: Yeah, we love doing that kind of stuff.
S: So, Brody, I noticed your name as a producer on a record?
B: Outside of doing band stuff, I went to school for audio production, so outside of this I do live sound around Atlanta, but I also do recording. So I recorded BLUE RICKY recently and produced their album, that was super fun.
S: I bought a copy and saw your name as producer as was like, wow, ok.
B: Yeah, it's fun to do that and get creative with other people's music, not neccesarily as a song-writer but just to produce. They came up and recorded in our basement.
S: What do you feel like you brought to that album?
B: That was a cool session, cause I think we did it in like 16 hours. They came like at 4 PM Saturday and stayed up all night cause they had to leave like 12 PM Sunday. We recorded it live, we dubbed some guitars, but alot of times nowadays its all recorded remote, so doing it live it sounded good.
S: It sounded great. They have a really unique sound, even though they are playing a style a million other bands have played.
A: They're like the RAMONES on crack. *all laugh*
B: They're a weird band.... cause there's a lot of other bands they could fit into but it's hard to describe their sound. The album turned out great, I don't think there's really a weak song.
S: No, it just slams through, banger after banger. Much like your new record... I got my copy last week, I think I listened to it 5 or 6 times in row. It's so good!
B: Hell Yeah!
S: It's my favorite of yours, for sure. I've heard most of 'em, even put a couple of your earlier CDs up on Discogs.
B: Hell yeah! Appreciate that! When our albums come out, I don't even add it, I wait for someone else to put it up on Discogs! *laughs*
S: I'm a pretty bad completist about everything Larry over at River Monster Records does, so I wind up sticking everything he puts out up on Discogs.
B: Larry's fucking awesome. We appreciate him alot for putting out our EP, and giving us that really good push. Before that, we had our first album RUSS, which I'd say we don't sound anything like we do nowadays.
A: It's alright.
B: It's got some songs that we still play every once in a while, but we don't sound anything like that.
A: It's slow.
B: Yeah, it's slower. We wrote the songs while I was still in high school and I felt like we were trying to get a little too epic on everything and make it more complex and then we listened to SEVEN SECONDS and STIFF LITTLE FINGERS and all these other bands that kinda had simplicity and tried to take that into our next EP and give it what it needs.
S: So you guys have like a super spastic stage prescence. Are yall anything like that offstage?
B: We're like the complete opposite offstage.
S: So you get to play a role onstage or let it out?
B: So normally, if I'm at a show, I'm watching it but I'm not running around going crazy. You get to go onstage, you get to be someone else, you get to put the glasses back on and be Clark Kent. *all laugh*
S: Exactly, alter ego! So what inspired you to form a punk rock band?
B; Well, I've been listening to music ever since I was younger and being in a band was what I always wanted to do, and as you know my father listened to punk and the Ramones, and so naturally I wanted to be in a band that had the Husker Du or Circle Jerks sound.
A: Not me.
B: Yeah, Andy wasn't into music at all. He tried to do lessons and just didn't care about it. And then we went to a WEIRD AL YANKOVIC concert, and then he fell in love with Weird Al. He got obsessed with him, like every word in every song.
A: I went from Weird Al to DAVID BOWIE and then DEAD MILKMEN.
S: The new Dead Milkmen stuff is great, one of the few bands from that era who continue to evolve and stay relevant. So how do yall approach songwriting? Collaboration or does someone take the lead?
B: A little bit of both. As you can see by the weird song titles, a lot of our songs are like the MISFITS without the scary aspect. Movies, pop culture, a Kids in the Hall reference. "Dan Is Awesome" off our new record, is about a local singer who we think is awesome and how he should be president one day. We do a lot of references to pop culture, that kind of shit. Songwriting, normally, I've done the bulk of the songwriting. But a lot of the songs on this new album, Andy would come up with guitar riffs, and we would work on it together.
A: Each of us brings stuff to the other.
B: Like our song, "Weird Al Wrote propaganda Songs", we were just dicking around. We were trying to make a really short, like MINUTEMEN-type song. Like a little short, hoppy song.
A: Like you can windmill your dick to. *both laugh*
S: So what do yall hope to achieve in the future, like goals or impact on fans?
B: So recently, at a Queers show, a guy came up to me and said his kid saw me play at Punking in Tents. Their band was broken up and when they saw you guys, it inspired them to start their band back up. I feel like with punk rock, there's not enough young people out there. And that's the thing with a lot of bands like MINOR THREAT, they were all young when they did it. You can be Husker Du and great at your instruments, but you can also be the GERMS and that's still really cool. I'd say that overall, what we want out of music is to have people sing along, maybe inspire some people to start other bands. We're not trying to get famous or any of that other kind of stuff. Just having fun showing everyone our music and having people come out and enjoying it.
S: So how do you balance the band and home life at your ages?
B: So at school, every semester there's a certain amount of days you can take off. So we plan, we can take off this day to do this show. Or we can be gone that weekend. We do bigger tour runs in the summer, cause thats when Andy is off for break. Winter break, Thanksgiving break. All of our long runs are during these breaks.
A: I'll end up taking a few days off each semester, really.
S: Do you see the punk rock scene evolving around you at all?
B: Yeah, I see a lot of younger people getting into it and that's a cool thing. I'm always happy to see younger people doing it. It doesn't matter if you're good or not, I mean - the Germs, we don't love the Germs because they're great at their instruments. Sometimes I think that makes for more interesting music, because you don't really know what you're doing, just being creative and coming up with whatever comes to mind.
S: Do yall have a lot of interaction with fans on social media? Or maybe more through shows?
B: So alot of our fans we end up talking to online and they'll hit us up there all the time. Mostly we interact through live shows and hanging out with 'em. We've been hitting a lot of the same places, so we've been building up friends and stuff like that and I'd say that's the coolest part of touring is getting to meet people that you would never meet before; A fan becomes one of your closer friends you end up talking to all the time. Cause if all this ended, a year or two down the road, it's cool that you've been able to have all these cool life experiences. Like touring, with Symptoms or SCROOGE MANDELA or these other bands we've played with.
S: You've already played with some pretty big bands!
B: Yeah, in Ohio, we got to play with the Queers, the DWARVES and the JASONS. That was an awesome show. Joe [Queer], we were friends with because he produced our new record.
S: And Joe doesn't live far from yall?
A: Yeah, he's like an hour away.
B: Yeah, and I'll go up there and help him with studio stuff. When they offered us the Ohio show, we were like hell yeah.
A: That's probably our biggest show.
B: That venue was called the Buzzbin and that was the last show ever at that venue. So it was a sold-out show and everyone was going all out. Packed the whole time and everyone was going crazy. We got to hang out with Blag [Dahlia, of the Dwarves] at the show and they were super cool.
S: So have you noticed these older punk guys embracing you? Looking down on you?
B: Nine out of ten times, it's been a great experience. I can't think of any big band we've played with being assholes. When you're on the road, you're gonna play with bands who are dickheads every once in a while, but 9 out of 10 times, everyone's super supportive and really cool. A lot of our friends are from other bands now. Even the Queers are all super cool to us. That's another thing that inspired us with the Queers, is that they don't do the rock star thing. They talk to every fan, they're super nice. In punk rock, that's really important. Not to get that kind of ego, because you're lucky to be playing for people; you're lucky that people even want to come see you. The fact that anyone wants to come see us, I'm always excited about that fact and happy to talk with them.
S: Maybe an obvious question, but I kinda know where your band name came from, but why did you come up with it and what does it mean to you?
B: So Billy Batts is a character in the movie Goodfellas. It's really, like I said earlier, just references to movies and pop culture. Just shows we're big fans of that kind of stuff.
S: Would you say that's the 'theme' of the band?
B: Yeah, like all of our stuff. Like the first song on our new album "Gotta Leave". Have you ever seen the movie Better Off Dead?
S: Oh man, its been a minute, but yeah. *laughs*
B: The song is about the scene where the boy keeps going to the house to get his $2. Just little fun shit like that, all the time.
S: Is there a punk rock scene in Atlanta that has impacted you?
B: Yeah, In Atlanta, there's a really big street punk scene, an Oi! scene, and they were really accepting of us. Bill Johnston threw us on at 40 Fest back in 2019 before the whole Covid thing.
A: That's what put us on the map.
B: Yeah, it put us in front of a punk crowd. Before then we were playing around Atlanta, we were just not playing in front of the right people. And he gave us that, and everyone was accepting and since then, it kind of gave us a jump start to get cool gigs.
S: Do you feel like you've had to overcome challenges?
B: The biggest challenge, to me, is just scheduling stuff. We wanted to play shows and we always wind up finding a way. With school stuff, it's hard to find time but we all really want to get out on the road as much as possible.
S: What's been your favorite moment or experience as a band?
B: Playing with the Queers and the Dwarves was probably just one of hte coolest shows we've played.
A: Yeah. I had fun at that show.
B: The place was sold-out, playing in Ohio, you know a place that's not our home-town. Everyone's going crazy. I'd say the cooler experience might've been when we went back to Ohio playing a different place and we had like 30-40 people coming to see us! People saying they saw us at the last show and we came to see yall again. I know that's just one moment but going back out on the road and people coming back to see you, even if it's just one person, just because they wanted to see US. To me, that's awesome. And probably the coolest part to doing this, is all the offstage stuff. Hanging out with Symptoms or Rick [Burick] from Geared Four Productions. Rick's like one of our best friends now.
S: A great guy!
B: We stay at his house with him in Charleston and hang out with him whenever we're in South Carolina. So the coolest part may be all the connections you're getting to make. So he's our best friend anad we hang out all the time. We got to form this relationship with him and Symptoms. So that's the best part, the community aspect of punk rock.
S: Do you think you can stay true to punk rock and still experiment or push boundaries?
B: I think so. I always think back to like the early punk stuff, like back in the CBGB days, like TELEVISION, the Ramones, BLONDIE, the TALKING HEADS. That's what was considered punk.
A: That's not really what we think of now when we think of punk.
B: But to me, punk means experimenting around and being different. All of our newer stuff is kinda different. it's all still very fast but I'd say our newer stuff is more technical.
B: And fast forward to the newer stuff we've been writing after this last album, that's gonna come out soon hopefully.
S: So where do you see this band going in the future?
A: I plan on writing more music!
B: Yeah, that and keep touring, every time keep getting a little bigger. We want to go for that old-school BLACK FLAG train of thought: they played all the time and that'll help spread our names. Just try to play as much as we can. Keep releasing music, try to do like Husker Du, Black Flag, the REPLACEMENTS did back in the day. Every year, they'd release an album, EP, something and go on tours. And that's what we want to do.
S: You guys are super prolific!
B: Yeah, and I feel like a lot of bands nowadays take too much time in between their releases. Like the CLASH were releasing a record every year. One year they had London Calling and the next year they had Sandinista, and that's like a triple album! That's kind of our goal for the future is to keep putting out music and keep touring like we've been doing, try to keep getting bigger each time we do it. S: One last question: any advice for young punk rock bands starting out?
A: Play a lot of shows and record a lot of music.
B: Yeah, just do it.
A: Handle that shit. *all laugh*
B: You don't have to be the best musicians in the world! You can be the Germs, and that's still awesome. Play music, write music, record your stuff. Do what you can. Everybody in the punk scene, from what we've found, is super open to it. I mean, we need young people to keep the punk scene alive. So pick up a fucking guitar, start a band and write some songs, and see where it goes. If anything, you'll get to meet some cool people out of the experience.
S: I think that's a great way to end the interview. Appreciate y'all and your time!
B: No problem, we appreciate you!
You can get the new BIlly Batts & the Made Men record here at their Bandcamp, (should be streaming there soon) along with other merch and earlier releases.
Sean Knight is a South Carolina native who has bounced back and forth between Texas and SC most of his life. He has been playing music for over 30 years and writing about it for a decade. Always striving to listen, always striving to be heard.