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From home, Battiest brothers provide inspiration to Indian Country

Clockwise from left, “Doc Native” Battiest (vocals), Spencer Battiest (vocals), both in Hollywood; Joshua Daubin (percussion) in Seal Beach, California; Matt Beach (guitar) in Canton, Ohio; and Kazumi Shimokawa (piano) in Culver City, California, perform “The Storm.” The virtual performance debuted May 12, 2020, on the Native American Music Awards’ YouTube channel. (courtesy photo)

Nine years ago endurance and perseverance – both firmly imbedded in the fiber of the unconquered Seminole Tribe – were core traits that Spencer Battiest and “Doc Native” Battiest incorporated in their award-winning song “The Storm.” The brothers from the Hollywood Reservation have performed it several times since its debut, but their virtual rendition in May amid  the COVID-19 pandemic served as a timely and well-needed reminder of survival during difficult times.

“We can overcome. We can get through this together. I dedicate this to all my Native people. Stay strong and we will weather the storm,” Doc states at the start of “The Storm: Live From Home” video.

Inspired by other Native American artists who have been sharing their talents in online performances during the quarantine, Spencer and Doc decided they also wanted to be a source of inspiration and assurance in Indian Country; what better way to spread a positive message than through “The Storm,” which honors the Seminole Tribe’s history of triumph over tragedy.   

“There is healing in music so we wanted to give our people some good medicine through our music and show our support with this performance.  We are stronger together and we will get through this,” Doc said.

On May 12, their performance of “The Storm” – with the brothers providing vocals at their separate homes in Hollywood, Kazumi Shimokawa (piano) in Culver City, California, Joshua Daubin (percussion) in Seal Beach, California, and Matt Beach (guitar) in Canton, Ohio – debuted on the Native American Music Awards YouTube channel.  The five-minute video attracted more than 1,000 views within 48 hours.

“Both Doc and I have been inspired the past few weeks by all artists who have not let this virus stop their creativity or keep them down,” Spencer said. “We wanted to perform for our community and show that even in quarantine we are all in this together.  I pray this song and message of our Tribe’s history inspires hope and reminds us that although we are going through a difficult time right now, we will all be together again soon.  Our hearts are with those who have lost loved ones and with the first responders who are fighting to keep us all safe.”

“‘The Storm’ is an incredibly passionate and powerful vocal and visual delivery that inspires and empowers,” said Ellen Bello, president of the Native American Music Awards.

“Doc Battiest,” left, and Spencer Battiest perform Oct. 16, 2019, in the new Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

With the band members isolated in three different parts of the country, putting together a video virtually was a challenge that the band was happy to tackle. 

“One of the challenges getting this project together was just getting it done in a timely fashion because we all have different schedules and different time zones,” Doc said. “ Even in quarantine we’re all working musicians, so to film, record, mix and video edit within the time frame we needed presented some pretty daunting hours trying to get this completed in the best quality that we could produce. Thankfully our team was up to the task.”

The Native American Music Awards, Canada’s National Arts Centre, Facebook, YouTube and other outlets have served as avenues to highlight virtual performances from Native artists. Certainly, the quarantine has separated artists physically, but it’s also brought them closer together online and provided additional exposure to the vast amount of talent in Indian Country.

“I’ve noticed that there has been an uptick in artists reaching out to one another and supporting each other’s new projects,” Doc said. “This situation has put us all in a bind and kind of tied us down to working in the studio because we can’t go out and perform like we want to, so the next best thing is reaching out to collaborate with our peers and it’s brought forth some beautiful music and some interesting collaborations that might have never happened if we were all still touring.”

Spencer was supposed to perform this spring in the musical “Distant Thunder” at Lyric Theatre in Oklahoma City, but the pandemic has pushed it back to March 31 to April 18, 2021. Meanwhile, Doc has enjoyed success with his new single “Instagram,” which reached No. 1 for two weeks in a row on the Indigenous Angels Radio Deadly 10 countdown.

“[It] has quickly become one of my most streamed songs as a solo artist to date,” Doc said.

Spencer and Doc aren’t just performers; they’re also big fans of the talent they’ve seen during the quarantine, including beyond the borders of music.

“The best part of this whole experience has been discovering new artists,” Spencer said. “Every day it seems people are being more open to sharing their gifts and talents, not just in music but in art, fashion, cooking, dancing. Native people are talented in all types of ways. It seems that all of us are eager to share what’s inside of us creatively.”

The Social Distance Powwow group on Facebook is among Spencer’s new favorites. From singing contests and dancing to celebrations of graduations and sobriety to seeking prayers for loved ones who are ill, the page emphasizes positivity.

“Every day different artists of all fields share their talents as they would if they were at a live powwow,” he said. “And even more so, some who may be afraid to, this has given them the opportunity to come out of their shell and post dances and songs they may have in other instances not shared. It really is a beautiful thing.”

As for music, several artists have caught the attention of Doc,  including Snotty Nose Rez Kids, RezCoast Grizz, Antoine Edwards Jr. and RedCloud, Crystal Lightning and Artson.

“And of course our Mag7 family,” Doc said. “Supaman and his son H.a.n.z.o had an amazing father son collaboration that really inspired me. I could go on and on with all the new music/performances that I’ve really enjoyed as well as PJ Vegas killing it with his new single and we can’t forget the big homie Taboo and the Black Eyed Peas with their new hit ‘Mamacita.’”

Although the pandemic has hurt the music industry in many ways, including throwing production schedules off track and cancelling concerts and award shows, the opportunities for Native artists to be heard and seen online – and grow as a community – perhaps have never been greater.

“It’s been a great time for Indigenous music in this unfortunate time,” Doc said.

Click here to see “The Storm: Live From Home.”

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