Bats is a musical vehicle for the songwriting of Nashville-based writer, musician, and recording artist, Jess Awh. Back in 2020, Jess teamed up with Citrus City Records to release her debut album, There’s a river up high, a collection of lyrically-driven alt-country, which showed Jess’ ability to fuse traditional Americana with a more modern indie-driven sound. Last week Bats returned with a brand-new record, Blue Cabinet, a richer and more expansive offering, taking Jess’ songwriting to new heights.
The record opens with the scene-setting New Job, Jess’ reverberating vocals joined by a gentle strum of guitars, it seems to find the world spinning too fast for Jess’ liking, as she wistfully sings, “why can’t we just go to the mall, and get our old jobs and work across the hall from each other again”. Elsewhere there’s plenty of room for experimentation across Blue Cabinet, from the Elvis Depressedly-meets-The-Magnetic-Fields tones of We all miss football season through to the lo-fi country of spinnerbait, which sounds like the lost middle ground of Caitlin Rose and Kimya Dawson. Particularly wonderful is Pillow Street, a track that begins life as a classic Banjo-led folk song, before gradually ascending into a wall of fuzzy guitars, vocal samples and increasingly clattering drums, there’s even a touch of the Southern-tinged post-rock of Lift To Experience. An eclectic and intriguing collection, Blue Cabinet is a record that drives Jess’ sound forward while losing nothing of what makes her music so intriguing to start with, these Bats are ready to fly.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Bats?
Bats is my solo project. I’m a 23 year old Korean-American woman born and raised in Nashville, TN. I live in a big yellow house with three roommates and I work as a cabinet maker at a wood shop down the road from it. I spend most of my time working or making music or doing nothing. I think Bats songs are kind of just a diary for me: I look at my life as this like, endearing little series of mishaps and romances and get-rich-quick schemes, and I try to write about them with humor and compassion for my own emotions.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
My first time ever playing with a band was last summer on my birthday. We did a backyard show on my friend’s porch in the woods south of Nashville. I was rip-roaring drunk, like, taking shots while onstage, and I think we played Margaritaville on the fly. But I also remember how exhilarating it was that night to see people dancing, and to hear people I loved shouting the words to my songs. That was also the night I met one of the engineers (Bobby Knepper) who mixed and mastered my new record, Blue Cabinet. I’m surprised he wanted to work with me after that (lol) but I’m so thankful.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I make other art too! I draw all the Bats merch designs, and I did the artwork for Blue Cabinet too. But as for why music is the main thing– I’m one of those people who’s just always been singing. My mom says when I was a toddler she’d do chores in the other room while I played, and she’d know something was wrong if I ever stopped singing to myself.
FTR: What can people expect from the Bats live show?
As I said earlier, I’ve only been playing since last summer, so I’m still learning how to perform live without freaking out. I had insane stage fright when we started, and I still get nervous, but I think I’m improving. My band on the other hand are total stars– Nick, James, and Liam are their names, and they support me on pedal steel, drums, and bass. We’re trying to practice a lot so we can be really tight. Music is all of our favorite things so it isn’t that hard to do.
FTR: What’s next for Bats?
We’re taking Blue Cabinet on tour March 17-27, heading up through the midwest to Chicago and then up the east coast as far as Boston. It’ll be our longest time on the road yet! I’m also starting to write some material for a new album, so hopefully we’ll be in the studio later this year.
They Listen To…
Golden Smog – Until You Came Along
Joe Nichols – Brokenheartsville
Jurassic 5 – How We Get Along
Highnoon – Back To You
Al Green – So You’re Leaving