Matt Batey has established his musical credentials in bands such as Rocky Votolato and Cataldo. But he steps out on his own, under the moniker Ruler, with the Winning Star Champion album — whose single “Petrified” is premiering exclusively below — on May 25.
Batey tells Billboard he started writing the songs for Ruler back in 2011. “I had been in bands before but nothing that I sort of wrote everything for,” he says, “so I started a long time ago just writing songs for this and then the name occurred to me and one day. I wanted to make pop, indie rock music, and it just came together slowly over time.” Finances, he adds, also played a part in Ruler’s long gestation.
“I’m very poor,” notes the Seattle-based Batey, who works days for Alaska Airlines. “Through the years I had to pay for everything myself. Sometimes I had money to spend on stuff, so that’s when I would take time in a studio, and when I didn’t have money it just kind of stopped.” A deal with Barsuk Records, however, “made moving forward a lot easier” for him.
“Petrified” is “a song about being afraid of the future,” according to Batey — a topic that’s too familiar to him. “I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life, and I was feeling especially afraid and anxious about what the future holds,” explains Batey, who’s 30. “I don’t think I’m super old or anything, but a lot of people around me in my life are kind of quitting music and making families and doing other stuff. So choosing to continue to play music at this point is another level of deliberately choosing to do this. When I moved out of my home when I was 18 I was like, ‘Cool, I’m gonna try playing music but I’m not gonna do it for, like, ever. I’m not gonna be one of those guys that just plays in this band forever, even if it doesn’t work out.’ Twelve years later it’s like, ‘OK, maybe I will be that guy…'”
Batey is still a member of Cataldo and will play shows with the band when it goes out again, but he’s also mapping out Ruler dates for the spring and summer once the album is out. “Ruler can go from me playing solo up to a five-piece band, and everything in between,” Batey notes. “We’ve been doing some shows as a three-piece and four-piece recently, which have been really good, so when touring starts to happen it’ll be one of those iterations. It’s hard to confirm musicians and get people’s availabilities, especially when there’s not much money, so I try to make it so I can be available for anything.”