With international touring and national media attention under their belt, Dublin-based alt-rock three-piece Bitch Falcon are ready for Indiependence Festival. Mike McGrath-Bryan chats with the band about their year so far.
Almost a generation removed from the original grunge and alt-rock explosion of the early nineteen-nineties, it’d be very easy to be cynical about the return of those filthy tones and wider DIY/hardcore influences to Irish music. Indeed, listening to certain major-label entrants to the genre in recent years, one would almost think that these outfits were being courted solely to fill a publishing gap. Enter Bitch Falcon, a three-piece that came together to pay homage to frontwoman Lizzie Fitzpatrick’s riot-grrrl inspirations with gut and gumption, immediately cutting a swathe for themselves through Irish music, with early singles setting the tone for a more hard-rock inflected direction in the past two years, influenced by line-up changes and seemingly endless gigging, including most, if not all, of the rapidly-growing Irish summer festival circuit. These changes have been most readily apparent in recent single ‘Of Heart’, a mid-tempo, grinding rocker delivered with a snarl and buried under a tonne of distortion.
But after putting the effort in on the foundations for growth, the real work begins in earnest, with recording on the band’s first full-length finally underway. Drummer Nigel Kenny digs into the production process so far, a far more involved endeavour this time around than on previous single-oriented sessions. “We completed a lot more pre-production, and brought in Stephen Caffrey from Sun Studios to record and work on demos, so we could get a better idea of how we wanted things to sound before we committed it to “tape”. Once we’d recorded those and figured out what we wanted to do, we brought in (producer) James Darkin to have a listen as we played them in the room. He made some great suggestions in the arrangements which we tweaked and then booked four days over a Bank Holiday in Herbert Place to lash out six tracks. A lot of the work was done before this, due to better planning but then as we started to track, more ideas started to come in and these got thrown in the pot. There was no real large outcome decided for these songs, we had to record two singles and when you put a kit in a room, you might as well get as much down as you can, to get as much value out of the session as possible, so we said we’d record everything that was finished. It was when we heard those six tracks, together with some James Darkin magic over them, that we all looked at each other and said, “this is half of a really good album”. So that’s what we’re going to do.”
This past March, the band’s tireless grind in the live sphere paid massive dividends, as they signed to international tour bookers UTA’s roster for UK and international bookings, sitting alongside such names as Biffy Clyro and Muse. With festivals and touring ahead of them for the foreseeable future, Kenny discusses how the deal has changed things for the three-piece. “A very unexpected happening if i’m honest. A good agent was always on our list, to help us get playing in as many places as possible, but we didn’t expect to get someone of Sean Goulding’s level on our first try. He is booking some of the biggest acts in the world right now, so it was a bit of validation that I think our self-confidence as a band might have needed. We’ve been around for a while, we’ve dedicated everything to it. and when perhaps things haven’t moved as quickly as anyone would like, it can start to niggle away at you. Getting on the UTA roster was a little pat on the back, and a confirmation that they think a lot of people will want to see us play live.” Vocalist/guitarist Lizzie Fitzpatrick is quick to note the major festivals for which the band has been confirmed under the deal. “We have a few dates booked already out of Ireland, namely Welcome to the Village festival in the Netherlands, and 2000 Trees in the UK which is really exciting. Hopefully we’ll be touring as much as possible in the next year, to start capturing an audience outside of Ireland.”
Saint Patrick’s Day saw the band head to London for Music from Ireland’s festivities, as part of a joint effort from Culture Ireland and First Music Contact to ready Irish musicians for UK touring and exposure. A rare acoustic session was followed by a full-band performance in a market of all places. “It was loads of fun. FMC put on a few things outside of Ireland, along with their conference showcases, so getting a gig over in London around then is good, great to catch passers by in the markets. It was baltic, though, my fingers have not forgiven them!”, says Fitzpatrick. Adds bassist and Corkman Barry O’Sullivan: “The first one was an acoustic gig in a cafe, which was great craic. I ended up setting up and sitting in a chair next to two customers in a tiny corner. I’m not sure if they loved it, or if I ruined their day.”
The band played It Takes a Village festival this past April, joining a line-up of predominantly Irish artists in the East Cork holiday village of Trabolgan. The nostalgia factor for the local audience was considerable, but the appeal of a big weekend of tunes in a childhood landmark wasn’t lost on Fitzpatrick, either. “Yeah, I think that festival has such a great potential to be one of the best getaways in Ireland. It’s mad being at a little resort filled with adults being on the piss, similar to being in the Gaeltacht or something, only with no bean-an-tí after you for smoking a spliff out the back” This was followed by a clutch of UK dates in May, in support of hardcore outfit Black Peaks, currently experiencing something of a moment amid a wider audience, which has helped Bitch Falcon find their feet across the water. “Really great band and sound lads. The crowds were really receptive, and it’s the reason why touring with an established band in an unknown territory is so valuable for audience capture. Also being on tour is so much fun, meeting new bands, getting an idea of the scene in different areas, and pulling yourself out of your own comfort zone in Ireland.”
The band’s most recent misadventure saw them play with nineties indie lads An Emotional Fish on the Late Late Show, ahead of nostalgiafest Féile Classical, happening this summer in Semple Stadium. Kenny gives us the rundown on stepping out on the country’s light-entertainment showcase. “(laughs) It was gas. I think my mother texted every neighbour and relation in the world. It’s amazing what going on the Late Late does to a mammy! The whole thing was a bit of a whirlwind. I was getting off a bus in Wicklow to go to my niece’s confirmation party when I got the call asking if we’d back up An Emotional Fish. We hadn’t any time to rehearse, and just had to wing it on the day. Unfortunately Barry had to drive to Cork to go home to vote, so he wasn’t there, but myself and Lizzie had a great day hanging out with Jerry, Dave and Foxy in the sunny environs of Donnybrook. Rehearsals were really well-organised and straightforward. We got three runs on the songs, it felt good, and then we just went off lol’ing around the place. We got a tour of the Fair City set, and interrupted filming with some obscene conversations while trying to find a pint somewhere. Then we lashed it out, got to hang out with Barry Murphy and Ryan Tubridy of course, who is a gent, and stayed suckin’ down that free booze til about 2am.”
Amid all of this chaos, and the sight of milestones blowing past the band, they’re coming back to Cork to play Indiependence festival this August, nestled alongside other quality Irish artists as North Shore math-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar and Dublin doomsayer Kojaque. Fitzpatrick is enthusiastic. “We played Indiependence two years ago, and it was great, nice big crowd in a tent, hopefully we’ll blow the top off this year!” Adds Kenny: “Really looking forward to it. We played it a couple years ago, and were genuinely surprised at the reaction we got. It’ll also be a chance to catch up with some of our mates who are playing down there that we don’t get to see that often.” It’s seemingly prelude to an even more insane schedule over the coming months, as Kenny tells us more music, and the band’s debut album, lies over the horizon. “We’ve just announced support to a one-off The Frames show in September, there will be a tour around October, another release and then we’ll keep writing and recording that album!”