You wanna bleep ‘n fight, punk?

Combine equal parts electro and folk, set mixture in soil, water regularly, and dance.

by Jay Boller

.”We all used to like Ben Kweller a lot. Him and The Faint,” recounts The Battle Royale keyboardist/vocalist Mark Ritsema on his band\’s early influences.

The Battle Royale

Album: Wake Up, Thunderbabe
Label: Afternoon Records
When: 8 p.m., Feb. 7
Where: 7th Street Entry @ First Avenue, 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis
Tickets: $8/$10. Special guests M.G.M.T. & Yeasayer

Imagine, if you will, a sonic love scene between pop-folker Ben Kweller and synth-punkers The Faint. Sparks would fly, synths would bleep, acoustic guitars would be strummed, and pop hooks would fill the lusty bedroom. Post impregnation-and-gestation-period, a bouncing hybrid baby would be born out of the two artists. A fitting name for this folk/pop/electronic hybrid love child? The Battle Royale.

Much more than a metaphorical infant, the band celebrated the release of their second record, “Wake Up, Thunderbabe,” at First Avenue\’s 7th Street Entry last month. Of course, the band\’s actual origins are much quainter than those described above.

In 2005, friends Mark Ritsema and John Pelant (guitar/harmonica/vocals) began writing songs and playing with Grace Fiddler (bass/vocals) and Sam Robertson (keyboards/vocals) in a project they christened “C-Section.” The native Minneapolitans began performing at the now defunct venue TC Underground, as well as at local coffee shops. To be taken seriously, the band felt a name change was in order.

The Japanese teen-death film titled “Battle Royale” served as inspiration for their current moniker; and as the group\’s popularity increased at a staggering rate, the early folksier work transitioned into driving dance songs.

A band named after a death-romp film will logically be inclined to engage in battles themselves. The perfect forum for such a fight came in the form of First Avenue\’s Underage Underground Battle of the Bands, a battle that ended in victory. Their prize? A record deal with local indie label Afternoon Records.

Soon after, The Battle Royale\’s debut LP, “Sparkle Dust Fantasy,” was released. The disc features heavy doses of thumping beats, robotic vocals and sweeping synths. For the most part, it\’s a straightforward dance record with one exception. “Folk Song,” the final track off SDF, revealed glimpses of the band\’s impending and dynamic musical shift, a shift that would include folk infused dance music, an increased use of Pelant\’s soulful lead vocals and an emphasis on using all the group\’s voices together in each song. Momma Kweller\’s genes were beginning to meld seamlessly with Papa Faint\’s.

Despite the album\’s warm reception, in hindsight, Ritsema feels the disc fell short.

“There\’re a few good songs. But there are a lot of filler songs. It was really rushed. We weren\’t ready. I wish we\’d waited longer.”

One of the good songs Ritsema might be referring to is the synth-crazy “Oh Martha.” Immediately a fan favorite, the group even went on to record a video for “Oh Martha” which has since received more than 10,000 plays on YouTube. Fans of glitter covered inner-thighs and provocative banana peeling should be advised to view it immediately.

Ritsema, who also plays guitar for critically adored label mates Mouthful of Bees, feels much more strongly about “Wake Up, Thunderbabe.”

“We like it a lot. John started writing more songs and they\’ve got a folksier feel. Our new songs are kind of folk mixed with dance.”

The record does possess a distinct stylistic divide. Fans of BR, circa \’06, will relish the vibrant electro-dance songs of the album\’s first half. On the second half the band expands on what they started with “Folk Song” as they explore their poppy acoustic roots.

That formula will be delved into further as the band is already in the midst of recording a third LP.

Would it be a massive cliché to state that things look bright for this starry-eyed troupe of Midwestern songsters? It would. Would that cliché also be a perfectly apt assessment? It most certainly would. So, with the fact that Afternoon Records bands seem to be blowing up faster than balloons at an auto dealership, further success for an ever evolving The Battle Royale seems almost inevitable.

Waxing prophetic, Mark Ritsema, drenched in irony, stated his feelings for the future of the band: “Shred the gnarr; Rock \’n\’ Roll will never die.” Amen.