Even if Matt Drenik isn’t a household name, the singer has found an audience in some nontraditional ways. Fans of the FX show Sons of Anarchy might recognize LIONS, Drenik’s riff-heavy rock band that was also a perennial “next big thing” here in Austin once upon a time. If Guitar Hero is more your flavor, you can actually play along with LIONS’ “Metal Heavy Lady,” right next to Ozzy and Aerosmith.
But Drenik has since moved on from LIONS and Austin, decamping to Portland about four years ago in search of a new start. Battleme became his primary project, and it started out in a much different vein. On Big Score, the project’s 2010 EP, Drenik settled down with an acoustic guitar and a penchant for sweet-but-dark folk. Thomas Turner of Ghostland Observatory liked it so much he signed Drenik to his Trashy Moped label. The singer quickly expanded Battleme into a full band and recaptured his mainstream rock appeal with Battleme’s 2012 self-titled record. Drenik’s songs were soon appearing in video games and TV soundtracks once more.
Earlier this year, Battleme dropped its second full-length album, Future Runs Magnetic, and returned to Austin for a series of homecoming shows. Drenik held court at the Cactus Cafe to play songs from across his lengthy career, but he also found time to bring the full band into Studio 1A. The live session proved that Drenik still knows his way around a riff; standout “Don’t You Worry About Me Tonight” marries ’70s rock with a ’90s slacker aesthetic. It sounds like the sum of Drenik’s career so far: simple rock, dark folk, and a whole lot of appeal.