AAA Battery is the new pop group comprised of Joe Maydak on bass, Fred Jeske on guitar and drums, and Canadian pop hero Spookey Ruben on vocals (as well as keyboards, sound effects and splicing and dicing.) All have middle names that begin with the letter “A.”
This long distance relationship of a band – Maydak is based in San Francisco, Jeske in Chicago, and Ruben in Toronto – formed by chance. Maydak and Jeske’s musical partnership, cemented during their post-school days in Chicago, produced numerous recordings and guest appearances under many monikers, while also providing the platform for Maydak to establish his Rescord recording studio and label. Maydak eventually relocated his entire operation to the bay area, but continued to work with Jeske, who remained in the windy city.
Both were already fans of Canadian musician and experimental filmmaker, Spookey Ruben, starting with his underground classic album Modes of Transportation Vol. 1 (TVT Records), through his continuous releases and more recent musical collaborations and film work with everyone from Esthero to Ariel Pink. As Maydak and Jeske began assembling a new group of recordings, they approached Ruben about appearing on one of them, and ultimately got more than they asked for.
As Ruben remembers, “After hearing the tracks, I thought ‘How about I sing on all of them?’” As a prolific solo act, Ruben was already interested in the idea of starting a new project where all of the creative responsibility wasn’t resting solely on his shoulders. AAA Battery perfectly fit the bill, and now the band’s debut album Year of The Woman is scheduled for release on December 3rd, 2013. The record brings together the multitude of tastes, attitudes, and locations that makes this trio of experienced musicians unique and exciting.
“Lots of musicians are collaborating on recordings via the internet these days,” says Ruben. “But, I’m not sure how many bands with three musicians living in three different cities, are making an entire album that way. Many of the songs would ping-pong back and forth for weeks. It was a wild ride!”
For a creative situation so based in technology, Year of The Woman actually sounds classic, but without sounding retro. “My early influences would be 70s-era prog bands,” says Maydak. “Then, there were so many bands I liked from the 80s that I wouldn’t know where to begin, but I loved new wave and the vast expansion of the sound palette that was introduced by those bands. When the 90s rolled in, I was ready for the shift back to a heavier sound. The angst of the era was appealing to me.”
“I was already loving Donovan, The Beach Boys and The Beatles by the age of five,” Jeske says of his own early introduction to music. “Then my brother lent me The Doors when I was seven. When you live in a home with a Mom who played organ, a Dad who loved Sinatra and a brother into Hendrix, you build an array of musical tastes that’s a hair different from your friends.” Jeske also cites disparate artists such as Rush, XTC, Todd Rundgren, Laurie Anderson, Innocence Mission, and The Residents as formative favorites.
And how does this array of influences combine with the quirky and thoroughly modern nature of Ruben’s contributions? The man himself deftly describes the album’s first single “Tea Time” as “Softcore Porno For Pyros. L’eggs Benedict. Boing Me Up, Scotty. Maniac Mansion. Back Alley Beer Tank. Group Hug. Shoulder Kiss Blackout. Psychedelic Fungus Among Us. Rusty Leaves, Branches, Twigs. Jug of Iced Tea. Tenderloin VHS Tape.”
Well, just one listen makes sense of Ruben’s take on the track, although Maydak does offer a more traditional analysis, saying, “For me, the way words sound and fit together is almost as important as what they say.”
Jeske concurs, explaining, “Every word means something for me. ‘Tea Time’ is my dream song, the patriot of my hopefulness. The guitar layering was so damn fun. It just hit me one morning and was one of those riffs that becomes obvious, like it was laying there all along for words to dance along with it.”
“It’s always a surprise,” Maydak concludes of the band’s unusual creative process. “Our songs maintain each of our individual identities as each of us builds their layers. We’re creating a roller coaster ride that we want people to experience.”
Year of The Woman by AAA Battery will be released by Rescord Records on December 3rd, 2013. The album’s first single “Tea Time” is streaming now.