The Battery Electric make rock ‘n’ roll the way it’s supposed to be: fun, irreverent and spine-rattling. A mix of The Rolling Stones, The Stooges, New York Dolls, The Ramones, and Kiss blended with a bit of James Brown and Duane Eddy, The Battery Electric’s raucous, riotous, uproarious rock is too entertaining to miss.
You’ll have plenty of opportunity to do see the Asbury Park-based denim-clad devils in the coming weeks. Frontman Ron Santee, guitarist Brent Bergholm, bassist Alex Rosen, and drummer Kevin Troeller will open for Dramarama on July 15 at Asbury’s The Wonder Bar, then play July 16 with Dentist, Adam & the Plants, Rock N’ Roll Hi-Fives, Overlake, Coffin Daggers, and more at Lucky 7’s Rock n’ Roll BBQ in Jersey City.
They’ll also play July 24 at Roxy & Dukes in Dunellen with The Undead, Dr. Void and the Death Machines, and many more in a benefit for Melissa O.C., a meningitis and encephalitis survivor. On Aug. 17 and 20, they are back in Asbury Park, respectively with The Shady Street Band for the Asbury Park Live series on the First Avenue Green, and then with Crazy & the Brains and Cicada Radio at Asbury Park Yacht Club. On Oct. 22, The Battery Electric are back at Roxy & Dukes for the first-ever Makin Waves Rock Circus Showcase, also featuring The Black Clouds, Experiment 34, The Production, suspension artist Gisella Rose, and aerialist Amanda Zeiher.
Formed in 2012 by veteran Asbury scenesters Bergholm, an original guitarist with the popular Chinese-rooted progressive metal band The Hsu-nami, and Santee, a longtime member of Predator Dub Assassins, The Battery Electric also tour regularly, initially in support of two LPs on their hometown label Little Dickman Records. Now they release EPs on their own, the first of which, Lose Control, features “Modern Girls,” an irresistible cross between a party anthem and an unrequited love song, as well as a rowdy title track that is the subject of a forthcoming live video.
More EPs are coming, the bandmates said, including Got Your Soul on July 20, and by year’s end, they expect to tour Spain. Enjoy this chat from Asbury’s beach bar, The Anchor’s Bend, and pay a visit to The Battery Electric at facebook.com/TheBatteryElectric.
What brought you guys together?
Brent: I always wanted to start a band with Ronnie. I knew Ronnie for a long time. And I knew Alex because we used to work at Quiznos together. And I knew them forever and wanted to do a rock ‘n’ roll band that does punk and soul, so I hit them up. Ronnie’s like my favorite drummer and singer, so that was originally the thing. It was supposed to be a power trio, but the beast cannot be contained for that long, so we got other drummers to take that spot. But Ronnie recorded on a lot of our stuff. The first two records, he played the drums.
Ron: We’re one of the only bands who say they’re from Asbury Park, where we actually are from Asbury Park. A lot of bands are from Freehold or Howell or Wall …
Brent: … Sparta (all laugh). The thing that’s rad about Battery is that I had bands before that were planned out. There’s nothing planned out about this band … It’s unscripted completely. You never know what’s going to happen. And we can go from playing punk to soul depending on the crowd.
Kevin: That was the scariest thing about joining the band for me because I had to learn two albums’ worth of stuff. And then on any given night, they’d be like, ‘Let’s play this one.’
So after Ronnie, has Kevin been the drummer the longest?
Kevin: I’m the only drummer Ronnie let record.
Brent: Kevin fit perfectly.
Ron: And I can talk to him without him getting all pissed at me. I’ll be like, ‘Dude, try this. Do this fill or try this feel.’ And Kevin won’t get all weird, like other drummers would. Kevin knows that we wrote the tunes.
Kevin: I look up to Ronnie as a drummer. Anything he tells me in the studio, I listen to. I joined his band.
You guys have been in Asbury Park a long time, so you were here when it was Downtown Beirut?
Ron: I’ve lived here since 2008.
Brent: I’ve been coming since ’98.
Ron: Same here.
So is the rise of Asbury like Brooklyn 15 years ago or is it going to be become gentrified and homogenized like Brooklyn is becoming and Hoboken did?
Brent: Everyone is pissed about the (Asbury) Lanes getting shut down. But nobody is talking about the abandoned building that was there 10 years behind that they renovated into a nice hotel. That used to be a section 8 house. Nobody’s talking about that. When you change stuff, there’s not going to be as much freedom for people to do a lot of things, but overall, it’s better, rather than having the crackheads running all over the place.
It’s not going to turn into Belmar. At least they’re trying to keep that artistic taste in there.
Ron: If they put a Starbucks on Cookman Avenue, then I’m out. If they put a Baby Gap on Cookman Avenue, I’m out. But I feel like the people who run the town, like Madison Marquette, even people on the council, know what the people of the town who have been locals here for a long time want. The Lanes is a huge disappointment, but it happens in New York every year. Grand Victory is (closing). CBGB is gone. That’s how life is. It comes and goes. The Lanes is a very sad thing because it was the last really cool place in town, and we’ll see what we do with it.
Brent: It’s not going to be like it was, but the rock ‘n’ roll hasn’t died in Asbury yet. The bands are better now. The scene is better now.
Ron: There’s a lot more places to play.
Brent: And more people are coming out to see bands. I would say it’s the best time Asbury has seen in a long time. But at the same time, there may be a town down the road that opens with a new Asbury Lanes.
Ron: We’re proud to be from here. When we tour, we’re proud to say we’re from Asbury. We say, ‘Next time you’re on tour, you come to Asbury.’
Brent: We’re weird. We’re a rock ‘n’ roll punk rock band that plays soul music, and that’s a very Asbury Park thing. Soul is very ingrained in what it is to grow up here: doo-wop and Bruce Springsteen.
So what’s coming after Lose Control?
Brent: We’re going to do three songs with P-Dub. We’re just going to release (digital) EPs. We got a good response to Lose Control. There’s a freedom in doing it yourself. And when we want to release a physical product, we’ll release one.
Ron: We’re going to Spain, and we’re going to show the Spanish women how to rock ‘n’ roll boogie Jersey style.
Brent: We have a European booking agent through our friends in The Dictators. They’ve been very supportive of us.
Comment on the strong ’70s vibe that permeates your music.
Ron: I don’t listen to much after 1977, personally. I’m not speaking for everyone in the band, but me, myself, there’s not much after 1979 that I dig. There’s some stuff from the ’90s, here and there. There’s some stuff from the 2000s, but honestly, my main influences come from the ’50s,’60s and ’70s. That’s me, personally.
But because there’s a punk sensibility to it, it doesn’t sound retro. It sounds new.
Brent: That’s the beauty of that time period. Everything is timeless. Nothing sounds dated in the ’70s. I think the ’70s was just a really cool genuine decade. Everything cool came out of the ’70s. Punk rock, pop-punk, even, like, prog rock, was really dope. I like everything, but for this band, I love ’50s rock, I love Elvis, I love Roy Orbison, I like Motown, I like Otis Redding, James Brown, Sam Cooke. That’s the backbone of everything.
Ron: And The Dead Boys and The Ramones (laughs).
Brent: Elvis and punk rock are timeless. American roots music in my mind, which is soul music and ’50s rock, that will last forever. No matter how you try do to your own version of it, it’s going to sound timeless.
Ron: Let’s actually record real music and do it the real way with real drummers.
Brent: I just think rock ‘n’ roll bands need to grow some cojones and have some fun. I think we piss people off, but they’re uptight people.
Ron: One my favorite bands, The Cramps, said it best. Rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to offensive and dirty and raw and gross. Little Richard seems very OK by nowadays standards. That guy was in drag playing the craziest music that anyone had heard …
Kevin: … In Georgia …
Ron: … And the white girls were going to see it, and their dads didn’t know. And when they found out, those girls got beat.
Kevin: Whenever we see something online that is written negatively about us, Brent always says the same thing, ‘If you’re pissing people off, you’re doing something right.’
So what’s your craziest road story?
Brent: Every time we play down South, some girls tries to fuck us in the ass with a dildo. We’ve played in Alabama, Richmond, Va.; Raleigh, N.C.; Florida; Texas, and New Orleans, and every time, we’re out there, some chick is like, ‘I want to fuck you dudes with a strap on.’ The Bible Belt ain’t that holy or it’s a little too holy if you will.
We played a show in Buffalo, N.Y., and a guy stole one of the bands’ snare drum, broke it, and lied about it. Kevin saw this and let it ruminate in his head for a long time. So we’re at a party, hanging out, drinking, having fun, and Kevin goes up to this guy, and he says, ‘You know what, dude? I don’t like you one bit. You’re a fake and a wussy, and you stole that band’s snare drum.’ And the guy busted out his switch blade, and Kevin takes his knife, kisses it, and says, ‘I kissed your knife. What are you going to do about it?’
Bob Makin is the former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, for whom he has been writing since 1988. He is now the entertainment writer of MyCentralJersey.com, which is part of the USA Today Network.