IN 2011, Matt Drenik, the brains behind Battleme, was living in a new city. His band was falling apart, and he was losing his eyesight. Drenik had been diagnosed with uveitis, a potentially scary inflammatory condition that, if left untreated, can lead to blindness.
"Your eyes think that something's wrong but nothing is," he explains. Drenik manages the disease now with medication, but he's lost some vision in his left eye.
"It was the toughest time in my life. A lot of things changed. My lifestyle changed; my habits changed. Everything I believed in changed. I think once your eyes start to go, you start to want to see things differently all of a sudden. It feels like time is very immediate. It's right there and you shouldn't wait for anything."
So Drenik recorded as many songs as he could—around 30 that summer. Some of those ended up on the first Battleme album, a self-titled record that has bedroom-pop sensibilities, refit with bigger rock bombast. It also marked a sharp departure from the other Battleme songs Drenik had written up to that point.
Prior to that, the Battleme name had first appeared on the Sons of Anarchy soundtrack. At the time, Drenik was living in Austin, playing in a stoner-rock band called Lions. He met the TV show's music supervisor and was asked to take a crack at the theme song. The would-be theme didn't make the cut, but when Drenik met another supervisor for the show, the two struck up a conversation about country music, and eventually Drenik was asked to try his hand at writing a country song for the show.
"They kinda called me out on it," he jokes.
His song "Burn This Town" was used in Sons of Anarchy's season two finale, while a few others appear on the soundtrack, all of them in a folkier singer/songwriter vein. But Battleme's second full-length, the brand-new Future Runs Magnetic, moves even further in the opposite direction, refining the approach of the debut record with a few more psych-rock flourishes, à la the Flaming Lips.
"I feel like people are always categorized in certain roles. If you're a folk artist or if you're an acoustic band, you have to stick in that role. I just never really believed in that," Drenik says. "It's not like I've ever gone to someone's house that I'm friends with and I look in their record collection and they don't have a variety of records. There aren't a lot of people who only have Slayer records. There are not a lot of people who only have Bob Dylan records."