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A Day in the Life of Seven-Year-Old Hardcore Frontman Robbie Andrew 

Calgary punk band BatScratch are staying up past someone’s bedtime and there’s nothing you can do about it.  

by Marissa Ruggles

Photos by Marissa Ruggles

A DIY punk show is the last place you might expect to find a seven-year-old child, let alone see them commanding a crowd from the stage with guttural hardcore vocals and menacing theatrics. But on March 24, punks of all ages were packed into Calgary’s Prairie Emporium like sardines, shouting over the feedback of guitar amps and bouncing off each other while waiting to catch a glimpse of Bat Scratch’s miniature frontman, Robbie Andrew. 

With four claps of a snare drum, a chaotic mosh pit breaks out, and at the centre of it all is four-foot two Robbie wearing industrial grade hearing protection and a shirt that reads “Pull My Finger” written in sharpie. A heavy wave of people thrash back and forth in the mosh pit while the young vocalist ferociously shouts his self-written lyrics into the microphone. To the untrained eye it looks like utter madness, but for many in the Calgary punk scene this is a show they wouldn’t miss. And for Robbie, it’s just another Friday night — kind of. 

BatScratch is a hardcore punk band that started unexpectedly over the course of the pandemic, and they’ve been on the rise ever since. From all-ages community halls and sold out shows at the Palomino (a classic Calgary punk destination) to performing live on the radio, BatScratch has accomplished a lot in a surprisingly short period of time, and pint-sized Andrew has been there every step of the way.

A day in the life of Robbie Andrew is not so different from most seven-year-olds; he goes to school, does his homework, makes crafts with his little sister — okay, and he also spins records with his dad and jams regularly with his band — but he always goes to bed at a reasonable hour, only to do it all again the next day. What sets him apart is that Robbie is packed full of energy and cannot be tamed, which comes in handy when he is performing, crowd surfing and getting pushed around in the mosh pit.

 You may ask “Who would let their kid do this?” Well, Jeremy Andrew is the father of this real life minor threat and he never anticipated his son would be such a natural.

“I think one day Jeremy was like, ‘It’d be super funny if we got Robbie in here to do like one song on vocals’ or something,” says BatScratch drummer Javi Riquelme when recalling the formation of the band. 

In the early days of BatScratch, circa summer 2022, it was just drummer Riquelme and Jeremy Andrew, jamming together for fun since they lived so close to each other in Priddis, AB, a developing suburb 30 minutes outside of Calgary. But after Robbie took the mic and simply went berserk with guttural screams and hard hitting growls over a breakdown played by his soon-to-be bandmates, there was no turning back.

“We were like, ‘What the heck did this kid just do?’” says Jeremy. “And we didn’t coach him either. Robbie came up with the band’s name, song titles, lyrics — all of it.” 

Robbie soon attended his first show with his father, put on by the disorderly punk band Silly Bike – an outfit composed of the usual members of BatScratch plus vocalist and family friend Gus Bews. The prospective punk rocker left feeling inspired by the band’s anarchic attitude. “He liked that a lot,” Jeremy says. “I think that’s another reason we got him into it.”

A couple days after the big show, I find myself at Robbie and Jeremy Andrew’s family home waiting for their weekly practice to get rolling. In the hybrid jam-space and playroom, there are what look like hundreds of vinyl records, ranging from funk classics like James Brown to industrial punk acts like Ministry, compiled and scattered in stacks all around me.

Set aside is a stack of records Robbie and his Dad have picked out to bring to CJSW, where the multifaceted kid rockstar and soon-to-be DJ is scheduled to spin and chat while Jeremy’s adjacent band Wallpaper, made up of BatScratch minus Robbie, performs live. 

As the jam session kicks off , the band counts Robbie in and he jumps and jolts around the room, roaring their tracks. After a few songs and some typical jam sesh corrections and repeats, it isn’t long before Robbie gets distracted and starts to tease his bandmates – a constant occurrence, requiring the guys to wrangle the wild buck back into focus. They bust out a few more tracks and let the hellion run free, accepting that their vocalist has moved on for the day and start wrapping things up. 

Of course, they all understand that the average attention span of a seven-year-old is 36 seconds, if you’re lucky. “We don’t force him, and we don’t have to force him,” says guitarist Caleb White. “He does get pretty tired sometimes, though,” adds Jeremy. 

Robbie inevitably takes a seat on the couch adjacent to the drum set and starts eating some candy he had scavenged earlier. Among the seemingly infinite collection of music and instruments in the room are various stuffed animals, crayons, and random scattered toys; a reminder that, despite Robbie’s newfound stardom, he’s still just a kid. But Robbie isn’t your typical internet sensation kid who gets recorded eating cereal and running into walls – the response is real and tangible in the local and national music community. The oddity of it is of course a factor, but there’s also undeniable talent. 

The positive response to BatScratch’s debut has made waves through the punk community in Calgary and has been extending into British Columbia and beyond. At the moment, the band  is preparing to tour with the likeminded Vancouver street punks, Chain Whip. 

“People are taking it seriously, the punks who are coming out to shows, the photographers, the venues,” Jeremy says. “It is unique that it’s a kid, and it draws people in, but it’s just the same typical heavy moshing and punk stuff.”

Since the types of abrasive and hardcore vocals required to thrive in these spaces came so naturally to Robbie, you would think that he must have grown up with similar music. But when listening to music and jamming with his dad, Robbie will mostly pick out oldies. 

We just give him the mic and he just has fun,” says White. A typical BatScratch setlist is always written by their youngest member, graced with his doodles and a list of hit tracks like “Killer Toast,” “Nail Head,” “Tick Tick,” and “Blaster Brain,” all titled by Robbie. 

Now arriving at CJSW on the University of Calgary campus, I am greeted by Robbie, scribbling on a piece of paper while his bandmates are prepping for their live Wallpaper set in the studio next door. Andrew will spend the next few hours playing tracks live on the air, mostly drawing from obscure underground punk bands that he learned about from his dad: everything from The Screamers to The Mummies, while going back and forth with host and new BFF, Helen Young. They discuss their love for making art, getting crafty and their shared excitement for all things punk-pins, studded cuffs, and album illustrations, specifically the work of Keith Caves.

As the radio show wrapped up, the rest of the band packed up and parted ways, while Robbie, Jeremy and myself gathered the rest of their belongings and left CJSW’s studio. We walked together through the University of Calgary’s campus and chatted about their upcoming shows and recording plans. Robbie held hands with his Dad as we navigated the busy halls, once it was time to say our goodbyes, the exhausted frontman and part time DJ gave me a tight hug. The duality of Robbie is night and day, he’s either screaming into a microphone while crowd surfing with his fans and being a seven year old rage machine, or he is the sweetest kid in the world with his hugs, gifts of his wacky art, and his sweet smile riddled with missing teeth. 

Anyone tuning in to the young agent of chaos’ program would have been left with the confirmation of a theory that was steadily developing as more and more of his life and story was revealed: Robbie Andrew is a force to be reckoned with. Whenever they play next, a BatScratch show is something never to be missed. 

Catch BatScratch on tour May 26 at Record City (Vernon), May 27 at Black Lab  (Vancouver).