Bitch Falcon: Coming In to Land

Alt-rock power trio Bitch Falcon head down to Cork for a double-header in Connolly’s and Cyprus Avenue this weekend. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks to drummer Nigel Kenny and bassist Naomi McLeod.

The growing pains of any new-ish band are numerous, and a tough slog to varying degrees: finding a sound, establishing a live presence and generally trying to rally any kind of support around you tends to hone your instincts fairly sharply. For Bitch Falcon, an almost-complete change of line-up occurred around founder Lizzie Fitzpatrick, which caused a complete reconsideration of the band’s grunge-recalling sound, according to bassist Naomi McLeod. “I think the tone was set by the initial few tunes that Lizzie wrote with the original members, and we sort of just worked from there. Wolfstooth was the first song written with parts from us three current members, followed by Breed and TMJ, so the sound was largely established between those three songs which all made their way into released singles.”

The grunge/alternative label has, by now, become the stock of household collections, as reunions and reissues have seen the influences of a generation begin to fly over the heads of that generation’s kids, and into dad-rock territory. Has that designation helped, in terms of reaching that wider Irish alternative audience, or is it an awkward pigeonholing from a band as young and vital? “That’s a tough question. While I would gladly embrace the grunge and alternative labels being applied to our sound, I don’t feel we quite fit that, nor do I feel we fit certain other likenesses. I guess it’s hard to measure or give a unified name to our sound from as close a perspective as we have on it. Our music should, and I believe does, speak for itself, regardless of labels, and as such I don’t see it restricting us. Our music is bound to be a bit heavy and a bit thrashy for some tastes, and that is absolutely fine.”

New single Clutch, first streamed via music sites last year but only recently receiving the video/promo treatment, has garnered a serious amount of attention since release. Drummer Nigel Kenny explains the atmosphere and pressure that led to the band emerging with a diamond. “We basically went to a bar that was being converted into a residential recording studio on the Limerick/Tipperary border for a weekend, with a rule that we wouldn’t leave until we had a song written. We brought the volume down, I brought an electronic kit and we just went to town on riffs. On the Sunday, when we were packing up, we hadn’t seen the sun for 48 hours but we did have a song from start to finish and that was Clutch. It was really weird. I’ll be honest, it was a difficult weekend that challenged us all and it wasn’t always a nice place to be at times. We put pressure on ourselves, and that can manifest itself uncomfortably after hour 14, when you’re hungry, and there’s no hook in a song yet.”

The aforementioned video has grabbed press and premieres in UK music media, boasting a lo-fi, gritty feel that riffs on the MTV-grunge aesthetic. McLeod, when speaking of the public reception to it, puts this down to coincidence. “It’s funny, I don’t honestly think anyone in the band consciously had the ’90s, MTV vibes in mind when we were planning the video, but it appears to be how it was received, which was unintended but certainly not an unwelcome label, either. We worked closely with (Dublin video producer) Spiceburger, who shot and directed the video, to realise a concept based on Lizzie’s lyrics for the song.”

The band are on an extensive tour of Ireland throughout March and April, a result of working with major promoters Aiken, the names behind the Marquee. Kenny compares the booking-agency model with DIY touring and self-promotion. “Aiken promoted The Workman’s Club show (in Dublin) but the rest of the tour is booked and promoted by each venue separately, through a management company. Aiken were just really, really sound and included the tour schedule in the promo for The Workman’s, which they didn’t have to do but they did it without being asked, and we appreciate that. Working with Aiken on that was really easy, and apart from our own responsibilities with promoting the gig, it was reassuring to know someone had our back in making sure as many people went as possible. They are an absolute bunch of dotes and we’ve been in love with their people ever since we played Vicar Street for the first time and immediately understood that they are just wonderful people. That was our first sell out. DIY is great, been involved in that for a long time but it is definitely very handy to have the help of pros who can do a lot of work for you. We all work full time and all help is appreciated. Also, shout out to CWB who put the whole tour together for us, and Cat, Ciara and Joe have really made it as easy as possible for us. We tour-manage ourselves, so we still do have a lot of personal involvement with the promoter and venue on the lead-up so all DIY elements aren’t totally lost yet.”

The band hit Connolly’s the night of the 10th, a beautiful venue brought back to life by second-generation promoter Sam McNicholl. Kenny is massively enthused by the thoughts of finally going under the venue’s venerated “hammers” banner. “I have been dying to go here for years. A long time ago, it was this bastion of folk music in Ireland, and everyone always went on about Connolly’s in Leap. Now it’s booking great bands from all genres with the likes of Horse playing there with Hope Is Noise two weeks ago. Mini (singer, Horse) told me it’s probably his favourite venue in Ireland, and I cannot wait to get there. Sure, the porter is amazing the further into the country you go (laughs). It will also be great to see the guys from Paradox again.”

From there, it’s on to Cyprus Avenue on March 11th with Horse, a band that has been in ridiculously good form as of late. It’s a prospect Kenny relishes. “We love Cork, absolutely love it, and Horse are f**king amazing! The love for that band in Bitch Falcon is strong, and we’re mega-chuffed they’re on the bill at Cypress Avenue. There probably won’t be much of a stage left by the time we come on after them, so maybe we’ll go on first.”

It’s a busy few months for the band, and they’re giving themselves precious little time to relax after this swing of dates. “London on the 17th and 18th of March. Girl Band in Castlebar on the 7th of April and then off to Canada for CMW for a week. After that we’re going to do a couple of festivals in Ireland, write loads hopefully and might even make it to the US before the end of the year.”

Bitch Falcon play Connolly’s of Leap tomorrow night with Paradox in support, and Cyprus Avenue Saturday with Horse. See their social media for further info. New single ‘Clutch’ available now on all digital platform.

This Place is Death: Death Becomes Them

Ahead of the beginning of a run of singles for UK indie-label SoundHub, Mike McGrath-Bryan talks with Eoin Leahy, drummer from This Place is Death, about the band’s past, their creative process, and their recent recording excursion.

It’s been a little over five years since This Place is Death started gigging around Cork, quietly but steadfastly appearing on bills all over the city and plying a craft equally rooted in throwback alt-rock and psychedelic rock’s poppier inclinations. Eoin tells of how the band as it is today came together. “In 2007, we got together to play in Frank’s side-project Suburban Circus. Due to other commitments, it didn’t work. In 2011, the three of us found ourselves looking for a new band to form, we got together, had a few practices, wrote a handful of songs, and This Place Is Death was formed. In 2013, we recorded and released our first E.P., Low Light, and did gigs & promotion for over two years.”

Like any band, there’s likely a diverse range of influences from person to person, and TPID are notably the sum of the aforementioned. Bringing them to the table to create something new is a little more intuitive than it sounds. “Our influences range from Nirvana, to Depeche Mode, to Nine Inch Nails, to The Jesus Lizard. It’s a big mix of all different genres. Writing a song happens very naturally, sometimes songs will come just from playing together in jamming, most of the time it starts off with Frank and myself, then when there’s a structure and flow, Barry comes in, and a song is created.”

The band’s graft began to pay dividends late last year, when UK-based indie label SoundHub found the trio after a call for talent brought the band to their attention. “It all happened through Twitter, where the guys in Soundhub messaged us asking to put songs in for submission. We put in Low Light, the guys got back to us through email, liked our songs, and invited us over to play a showcase. From that we were offered a deal that we currently have. In January of this year, we went to SoundHub studios in Belper, UK and recorded three songs, which were then sent to Metropolis Studios in London to get mastered. Tom and Barrington from SoundHub were amazing to work with, very relaxed, creative environment, they treated us like family and we learned so much from our experience. It was amazing.

This month, the band’s first new material in two years releases, with single ‘Caught Inside’ releasing through their new label. What’s SoundHub’s plan for it? “Caught Inside will get released in 120 countries around the world. The label’s plan is for the song to get as much exposure as it can get. Caught Inside will be distributed through (renowned distro company) The Orchard. If all goes well, the plan is to release the other two singles, Sympathy and Crash.”

To accompany the release, a pair of launch shows on the 19th and 20th of August are in the offing, with the band serving up consecutive sets at metal mainstay Fred Zeppelin’s and the Mardyke complex’s basement venue, UrbanJungle respectively. “The first one is our own, headline, launch show. We’ve got The Magnapinna playing support, a new band which consists of ex-members of (Leeside sludge-metallers) Five Will Die. Show two, we’re playing UrbanJungle, and will be hosted by Pethrophile Promotions. These guys always put on excellent gigs, guaranteed to be a rockin’ night. Our single and video drop on that day.”

The question being asked of any grunge-related outfit near Cork at the moment is that of the 25th anniversary of Nirvana’s sole Leeside appearance on the 20th. How have that band left an imprint on the trio as players and as individuals? “Without Nirvana, we wouldn’t be a band, or playing music full stop. These guys opened the door for people everywhere, their music is timeless, and with each generation people find Nirvana, and the cycle goes on. They made it possible that you can form a band, and actually get somewhere with that genre of raw, passionate music.”

With singles ahead, what else is next for the three-piece? “The single is dropping August 20th, with the video too, it’s a little throwback to 80s slasher flicks, shot by the lovely guys at Deep Red Productions. Keep an eye out for that. After that, we will release Sympathy, and early next year, Crash. We’re very excited for people to hear these songs, the production and mastering are something else. And please support the music, local bands deserve every bit of support.”

This Place is Death release Caught Inside on August 20th, with the launch show on the 19th at Fred Zeppelin’s. Available for pre-order now on iTunes Music Store.