We caught up with the deliriously dirty Dublin trio Bitch Falcon ahead of their show at this year's Hard Working Class Heroes.
It's both an exciting and testing time for the group who are starting to make noise outside of Ireland. With an invite to one of Canada's most prestigious festivals POP Montreal in their back pocket, the hammer blow of original bassist Naomi Mcleod's decision to leave the group still resonates.
Remaining members Lizzie Fitzpatrick and Nigel Kenny dusted themselves off in true rock n roll fashion, enlisting former I'll Eat Your Face, Altar of Plagues, Them Martyrs guitarist Barry O'Sullivan on low end duties.
And into the deep end he went, making his debut at Other Voices at Electric Picnic, before the group flew to Canada for their POP Montreal debut.
We caught up Lizzie, Nigel and Barry during some downtime in Canada.
You’ve opened for some pretty stellar international bands such as Fucked Up and Les Butcherettes but there is one unusual name in there Glen Hansard. How did that come about? And tell us about the experience?
NK: We've been very lucky and have had support from people like John at Grand Social, Timmo at UMACK and Simon/Leagues at Aiken who have believed in us to open for people like you've mentioned when possibly we've believed we weren't good enough to do so.
Glen Hansard was an altogether different thing. I think it all started on Twitter. He tweeted that he loved the band. I loved The Frames and GH's solo stuff growing up, followed them around the country and even lugged gear for them in America so it was crazy to get a nod from him. After that, he gave us a shout out at his set in the church in Other Voices and came see us when we played an insurer's nightmare of a set (sardines in a tin type thing) in a bar down there afterwards.
After that, he (literally) dragged us in to a bus to a house party at like 4am and later DM'd us on Twitter to join him at Vicar St to play a couple songs at one of his sold out shows at Christmas. Then, a year later, he asked us to play a Mary Janes song at a Mic Christopher night he was doing.
That was incredible! I was lucky enough to see Mic in Roisin Dubh before he sadly passed away and we played Sham. This is a song that has now made it in to our set because we love the song and really enjoy playing our version of it. He really is a top guy and he has been a great support to us ever since!
Nigel occasionally appears in Music Maker’s YouTube videos, most famously with Deftones’ drummer Abe Cunningham. What’s the best tip you’ve picked up from these situations?
That happened by accident. Part of my job at Musicmaker is getting artists outside and inside of Ireland to talk to Musicmaker and Irish musicians about their gear and just playing in general. I had arranged for Oisin (my drum crush from Enemies) to do the interview with our top social media guy Dock (Red Enemy/The Scratch), but Oisin was the most ill I've ever seen him with the flu and he had to pull out. So, I jumped in at the last minute. I was terrified! Abe's snare has been hammering my ear drum for years and I love Deftones so this was a huge deal for me.
I guess the best tip I can give is to abandon every urge you have to gush and tell someone like Abe Cunningham that you adore them and just treat them like a new friend. I just shook his hand, went through the logistics beforehand and asked him things I wanted to know and I thought other people might want to know.
I had so much more I wanted to ask him but time was limited. He was a gent and it was an incredible honour to stand behind his kit, have a laugh and hold his signature Vater Cool Breeze stick in my hands.... HIS ACTUAL STICKS!!
On a side note which is possibly relevant to the question; there was a time where I would've told myself, "I can't do this", and left the opportunity to someone else, but giving in to your anxiety is a fucking sledgehammer to every positive thing that can happen in your life. Just breathe, assess the opportunity and say, "YES!" with a mental closed fist in the air and everything will be okay.
There's always things I think I could've done better in that situation, but if I said no, I wouldn't have had the experience, I wouldn't have had Chino open a door for me (nearly pissed myself btw) on the way in and I wouldn't have had a 30 minute interview with one of my drum Elvis' captured, that I'll be able to review for the rest of my life. In summary, say yes, don't be too involved in your neurosis and just fucking do it!
Who are your favourite drummers at the moment?
Drum magician Mark Guiliana for sure! No-one thinks about music and time like he does. Outside of that amazing drum hurricane I'd say it would have to be Thom Sonny Green because it takes a lot to carry a song without cymbals. I will always love Joey Castillo, specifically, because how he makes hi-hats sound and lately Richard Spaven for the ghosty of ghosties.
Locally, I have so many lads on drums I love! Cian Hanley is ridiculous! This lad gives me a gibbly feeling in my gooch whenever i see him play. Andre Antunes is a monster, Micheál Quinn is so incredibly inventive and the amazing. Ben Garrett from Overhead, The Albatross (see, I included the comma!!) just writes the best bits for his wonderful band. Special shout out to a drummer you might not have heard of for some bizarre reason, Richie Diitrich out of Galway. An absolute superstar in the making!
Lizzie recently remixed one of your tracks. How did that come about?
Well I just made it for the craic really! It all started as a joke but I didn't have the production skills to back it up, so I started looking up techno production techniques in the vast amount in YouTube and it turned into me learning lots of new skills in Ableton. It was half finished and we just decided to finish it and see what people thought!
Can we expect more re-bitched tracks in the future?
And is there anybody you’d like to remix your tracks in the future?
Ah yeah, if we're talking big guns, the dream would be The Knife or NIN. In local terms: Ben Bix, Rian Trench, Bad Bones and James Kelly of WIFE.
It is often said that being in a band is akin to being married to each member. Your original bassist left Bitch Falcon recently to pursue other activities this must have been a very emotional time for you guys?
NK: Absolutely agree with you on the descriptions. A band is another romantic, involved relationship for everyone. It wasn't easy but if Naomi wasn't cool and we weren't all adults about it, it could've been more difficult than it was. Naomi told us she wasn't in to it anymore and we had to accept that even though it sucked. She made the transition easy and even tech'd for Barry's first gig at EP to make the whole transition more smooth. What a pro! It was a setback. We were at the stage where we were about to record a lot of new songs and write a bunch more to prepare for recording and the change delayed and impeded it, but we're through it now and we can look forward to an exciting 2018.
LF: Yeah it's tough as we bonded straight away in writing terms and I met Naomi in looking for a bassist so there was a whole friendship built on that, so it can be distressing for sure to break that apart, but you have to move on. Naomi is definitely moving on to great things and I'm looking forward to hearing what she has coming for us.
How hard was it to find a new bassist? Why did you make the decision you made and what do you feel they bring to Bitch Falcon?
NK: It was difficult because first of all, there was an actual grieving period. We had a couple of weeks where myself and Lizzie didn't really accept it properly and lived in a daze a little. We also didn't really tell very many people except those we were closest to. Then more gigs and opportunities came in that slapped us right in the face and woke us up. We had to start accepting the band was going to change and we needed to just get on with it. During the process, we got to play with some great people; amazing, technical bass players that were so sound and a joy that would have been great additions to the band.
I had played with Barry previously, he has a serious musical lineage that can't be ignored and we knew he was worth trying out. We had initially not even thought of asking him for a jam because he lived in Cork but once we realised that wasn't an issue, we got him in and it worked. After a couple more sessions and pints, it was obvious Barry was on the same level, willing to commit 100% and a lad that could hold his own in every area. Since then, it's been nothing but lols and adventure.
LF: Very difficult really. I found it hard to accept that the set up needed to change and it took me a while to come to terms with that. Hard to judge a new member when you're still not over your ex. We had a good few people in mind and it was hard to find the right person willing to give the same level of commitment as us. When Nigel suggested Barry it was nearly a done deal in my head, as long as he was game!
Question for the new bassist: How are you settling into Bitch Falcon. You’re hardly in a wet weekend and you’ve already played Other Voices at Electric Picnic and made a trip to Canada. It’s a lot to take in, how are you holding up? What’s your favourite BF song to play live?
BOS: It's been deadly and I got settled in right away. From the first jam we were having the craic and the songs got squared away fairly quickly. Getting to play EP as my first gig was amazing, the Other Voices little church was awesome and it was sweet to play to a packed room for my first gig. Also, I didn't fuck it up which was a hot bonus.
Montreal was a serious laugh, both plane trips were adequately blurry thanks to some medicinal vino. We went out each night around the city and caught a banging Blanck Mass gig too. Was so deaf after it.
Panther is my fav song live I think, it's a banger and I tend to get really into it playing. Wish it was about 25 minutes longer.
Who/what are the biggest non-musical influences on your music?
NK: Clare Lymer, Visual Artist, based out of Dublin who has also taken images for us.
LF: Jack Van Zant, Sam Bloodbank and cool Illustrators like Kate Prior.
What music are you guys digging right now?
NK: Chelsea Wolfe,Jambinai, Blanck Mass (after seeing him at POP), Fehdah, Louis Cole & Otherkin
LF: DIIV, Deerhoof, Grizzy Bear's new album, Sheer Mag, Mount Kimbie, Jafaris, Palehound
BOS: Baths, Malthusian, Sleep Thieves, Future Islands, Katie Kim and I still obsessively listen to Kate Bush and Fuckbuttons.
You guys have become a festival mainstay in Ireland and are hugely respected amongst your peers in Ireland, but do you feel like you’ve reached the point where you have to get out of Ireland to push Bitch Falcon on?
NK: Yes! This isn't out of any kind of notions or anything but it's simply because we are a small island with an even smaller population that will like what we do. This year, we have gone to the UK and Canada twice respectively and we've got the bug now. We are grateful and surprised by the support we have in Ireland but part of what makes the sacrifices required for a band worthwhile is travelling, seeing new places and having new experiences and meeting new people from different cultures that can affect your work positively.
LF: I am dying to live in a van for an extended amount of time. I want to see the world in the backseat of a shitty van playing gigs all over, meeting great people, playing gigs, finding new bands, everything you want from a tour!
BOS: I'm mad to get touring with BF. Think it would be great for us to do a good bit of playing in the UK and across Europe. The more people who see you the better, plus I love driving around endlessly in vans and seeing new places everyday!
You had a taste of the international scene playing at the music from Ireland showcase at Canadian Music Week last year with the likes of Barq. What kind of opportunities did that experience bring you?
NK: Outside of hanging with people we kind of knew and getting to know them better, which was deadly, we immediately got asked to do POP Montreal and that exposed us to new audiences, bookers and labels who otherwise may not have known anything about us. The support from Music From Ireland, First Music Contact and Culture Ireland has without a doubt opened doors for us. The experience of travelling abroad and overcoming obstacles and challenges outside of your comfort zone is essential to figuring out if you have a viable band.
You’re in Canada currently for Pop Montreal festival. How has the response been in Canada?
NK: Great! There is a great scene in Canada and I think Canadians are really responding to what we do. We do things a little differently to anyone over there which I think is a direct result of us coming out of a rich, vibrant scene in Ireland.
You’ve racked up over 100,000 plays on Spotify. A lot more than supposedly bigger Irish acts. How do you guys feel about streaming?
NK: Anything that gets people hearing our songs is positive however, most of the streaming royalties paid to artists are paid to a few major labels and a lot of that revenue does not reach the artist in the end anyway. That doesn't seem fair, does it? Streaming gets a lot of bad press but ultimately, what it all boils down to is that people have become comfortable not buying music.
That is not the fault of the consumer, yet the very people who created this situation in the first place - the labels - are the main recipients of the revenue. That seems imbalanced and must be resolved otherwise, more and more musicians will just give up and will have to take the 9-5 cheque.
Don't get me wrong, in that statement, I'm not for a moment blaming the ills of the industry on the streaming mechanism but the ability to live and create is the reason we lose talented people each year (either to going in to the 9-5 or the murky depths of mental illness) and a sustainable living is integral to that; something that this platform won't solve in the short term.
Streaming must be adjusted to address that. In the meantime, if anyone has any doubts, buy your music at the merch table and support the artist in the most direct manner possible. It will also increase your chances of a party by 100%.
In the modern landscape, Spotify is a great way to listen to music. It's how I listen to most of it but I will always still buy a record as well.
We think your riffs would sound great in movie theatres. How do you guys feel about synching your music, is it something you are open to?
NK: Some good sync would overnight change our future. We could potentially dedicate at least 8 hours a day to just music and another 4-5 every evening could be dedicated to all the other stuff that comes with a band such as marketing, admin etc, etc. At the moment, we have to cram in all of that in to those 4-5 hours due to having to work outside of the band to pay our rent and band overheads. Gimme the sync!
LF: I was reading a piece recently how sync is the only saviour to small artists. Trent Reznor was giving out about how it was so lame to be featured in an ad, like you've sold out, but now everyone's dying to be in an ad. Yeah, everyone wants to be able to play music and still put bread on the table. If that’s selling out then I'll sell the fuck out if it means I can quit my day job
BOS: Bring on the Sync, let me quit and tour.
There’s been much debate around the level of support and opportunity the upper echelons of Irish media provide to Irish musicians. Where do you feel they can improve? And what’s the one major thing Ireland is lacking to help its musicians?
NK: Let's do a podcast on this Stephen! On the one side, you have a lot of criticism because Irish acts don't get any mainstream media attention. That certainly isn't true! You've seen us, you've heard us, do you think traditionally speaking, we have any business being in features in The Irish Times or on Other Voices on a live broadcast on RTE?! We play heavy, rock music. We sound nothing like Ed Sheeran or Beyonce, yet we still get an opportunity to be promoted in mainstream media.
The reality is, taste is dictated by what is popular and what is popular is decided not entirely by press but by Marketing and then that makes its way to Radio and TV. If we started telling journalists to fuck off, throwing TV's out windows, slagging off our peers, the media would be all over it. We give them something to sell and in the '90s what sold was bands with a girth of marketing through drug addiction (everyone is straight edge or in rehab now), public infighting, brash egotistical statements about how good they were (Oasis) and then the labels found the next poor four-piece to sell, their competition found the exact same thing with larger teeth and a marketing war ensued around a particular release day.
We had a time that had fucking Soundgarden, Nirvana and Pearl Jam vying for number ones. That didn't happen because some people weren't getting a fair shake, it was decided by the marketing power of companies who were co-ordinated in their approach!
Four key things that could really help Irish musicians:
Establish the Irish Music Board recommended in the IMRO Deloitte report.
Allow proven, committed individuals to pursue music full time while in receipt of social welfare payments.
The fair redistribution of governmental financial support to all genres of music in this country. It shouldn't all be about trad and classical and it has to be recognised that contemporary genres such as rock, pop, hip-hop, metal etc. make massive cultural contributions outside of Ireland. When you look at funding to certain genres and venues in this country, contemporary music is vastly underfunded. Tell me some Irish classical composers that have done as much for Ireland musically and culturally as Hozier, U2, Van Morrison, Kodaline, De Dannan....the list goes on and on, yet there is still a massive imbalance in funding.
The rehearsal space is dying in Ireland and there is a profound problem in Dublin at the moment with the closures of Volt and Creamy Sonic which affected not far off nearly 100 working bands. There's another one about to go next year and there's nothing coming that I've heard of that's going to be able to handle the demand. Whether it's municipal rehearsal facilities being created or land being freed up to develop them, Dublin and other cities in this country need affordable places where bands can store their gear and develop their music.
You’ve released five singles now, is an EP or an album your next move?
In an ideal world who produces said release and where do you record it?
NK: Trent Reznor in Hans Zimmer's Music Lair.
LF: Brian Eno or Karin Dreijer Andersson in Prince's Paisley Park
BOS: Michael Beinhorn in Rancho De La Luna.
You’ll be back in Ireland for HWCH what can people expect from Bitch Falcon 3.0?
NK: You wouldn't believe the things Barry does live. Just need to come to a show and check it out!
LF: I’m gonna make Barry cry with pressure.
BOS: I recently witnessed a most excellent cowboy wearing nothing but a diamonte sock (not of foot) perform a masterful dance at a burlesque show in Montreal. I took some notes and I'm assembling my holster as we speak for the ultimate live experience.
Bitch Falcon play The Workman's Club, Dublin for Hard Working Class Heroes on Saturday September 30th at 11pm.