Though you may not of heard of them until now, it’s a name you are unlikely to forget: Bitch Falcon. They’re the latest Dublin band turn back the clock and turn the gain all the way up, channelling a sound that is reminiscent of classic 90s grunge and hard rock with a dash of St. Vincent swag thrown, culminating in a live show that is both as raw and honest as it is loud and vital.
Enter Lizzie Fitzpatrick, a nurse from Ballinteer by day and a fearless, guitar slinging frontwoman by night. Bitch Falcon was born when Lizzie, along with her friend Fia Nyhan Kavanagh, and Radmila, a Slovakian drummer with a knack for deadly band names, first got together just last year. Fia and Radmila have since left the band, but Bitch Falcon have since gained two new members in their wake, bassist Naomi McLeod and drummer Nigel Kenny, both veterans of Dublin’s DIY circuit.
We caught up with the band on a warm Sunday afternoon during a rare free moment between work and practice, just before they headed off ‘to get as much playing in between now and 10.30pm as possible’ with performances at Knockanstockan and Electric Picnic looming. The trio chatted with us, quite fittingly, atop the Shaw’s Big Blue Bus to find out about how they use cat references to communicate their musical ideas to each other, what their Mammies think of the band name and why they’re not in any rush to make an album.
Bitch Falcon is the most deadly name for a band, ever. Your old drummer came up with the name right?
Lizzie: Yeah, we were just in our rehearsal space saying loads of stupid names, and our old drummer [name] just came out with ‘Bitch Falcon’ and we thought, ‘That’s actually brilliant!’.
Naomi: It’s also a great ice breaker when people meet us.
Lizzie: My mam loves it! [Switching to Irish Mammy ivoice] ‘Oh, Bitch Falcon? Brrrrilliant!’
Nigel: …and mine always always asks me ‘How are the Bitches goin’?’
Given that the band sort of grew organically, was there an aim starting out to have a certain sound or did that evolve over time?
L: I definitely had it in my head that I really wanted something that I could dance to, jump to, mosh around to, but then also have a lot of melody as well.
How do the band dynamics work in terms of songwriting?
Lizzie: Usually it’s a case of everyone comes with bits and bobs.
NM: I have a reputation for writing the end of songs. Its a bit of a weird one for me sometimes, writing for bass because when you’re writing for bass you are trying to picture a guitar lead going on top of that and a rhythm below it. So usually when I come up with something, the guys will say, ‘Brilliant outro!’ and I’ll be a bit despondent about it because I think, ‘Oh, that could have been an entire song”’… but inevitably it will meld with other riffs and become a song. As Lizzie was saying, we’re never really in any rush. If something isn’t the right piece to make a tune, then we’re not going to make a tune just for the sake of it. We don’t really settle on things. We reach for better parts and then once we have what we feel to be the best parts then it becomes a song.
Lizzie, you’ve played guitar in a few bands over the years, but fronting Bitch Falcon is your first time singing. How did that come about?
L: It was kind of assumed that I would be singing. At the start Fia didn’t sing at all and so I said, ‘Grand, sure I’ll just sing it.’ It just grew from there. But I was really slow at writing lyrics, I still am to certain extent. I was too embarrassed about it, it’s very embarrassing.
NM: It’s not embarrassing, it’s very vulnerable. You really put yourself out there singing, let alone writing lyrics. Riffs are not the English language. Lyrics are so open to harsh judgement and criticism, more so than music itself.
Are there any lyricists in particular that you look to?
L: Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Björk would be a big one for me in terms of lyrics. I love how she takes metaphors for different things and turns them into songs.
And what about performers that are influential? Lizzie, I think you have a bit of an Annie Clark vibe. Although she can be quite rehearsed in her performances, you’re a little more unhinged.
L: Annie Clark is a huge influence on me to be honest. I’ve followed her career since 2009 when I was in secondary school and it’s great to see her change so much. Her performance at Electric Picnic last year was a real eye-opener. I’ve seen her loads before that – I remember seeing her in Oxegen and she was really timid and it was really beautiful, sweet music and there was one song, Your Lips Are Red, it was really quiet and it was meant to be kind of a tough song, but it was still really timid. Then she played Electric Picnic and she was just killing it.
Did you guys have instant band chemistry despite not knowing each other before?
NK: There’s always a blending in period. Everyone has different expectations of what you’re going to bring to it. Quite often it can be difficult at the start because you might have an idea from your style and your background and then someone else has a completely different thing. And then over time you start to learn what the rest of the people you play with like and what they expect of you. Thats one reason why we’re not doing an album, we’re still figuring it out. I feel like with the last three songs that we’ve written, we’ve thought, ‘I think *this* is what we want our band to sound like’. It certainly feels like that, playing it – there’s more to it, there’s more detail and its produced better.
How do you communicate to each other that ephemeral sound you’re looking for when you’re writing, if everyone has a different idea of what they want to achieve in their head?
L: I’m really bad, I’ll have something burning up inside me and I get really frustrated and angry when I can just nearly grab it. You can bring in a riff and people are just not getting what you’re saying. You feel so annoyed and you’re being a diva because you’re not communicating it right. But it’s funny, we’ve learned how to do it, like for example, one day Nigel was saying, ‘Look, will you just tell me in cat facts what it is?’ and the answer was, ‘OK, it’s a panther running through a forest!’
NK: …and all of a sudden it makes total sense!
L: Nigel has a close affinity with cats.
NK: Yeah, I have three cats. They’re great craic.
Annie Clark aside, are there any other artists whose trajectories do you admire?
NM: Girl Band are absolutely flying off the scale at the moment and I think it’s well deserved. What they’re doing is really evocative of ’70s and ’80s punk vibes in a really well thought-out, really tasteful way. I think they’re coming out with really high class music and I admire how they’re going about it.
NK: Another band, for me anyway, would be a band we played with called Torch. They’ve been around for a long time. They have four or five albums and I like them because of their work ethic and they’ve always managed to stay true to themselves. They’ve only ever improved and they’ve never tried to change for anyone. They played gigs to nearly empty rooms despite being an incredible band and then came back and brought more people the next time. It’s a bit like what we’re kind of trying to do: every gig you get bigger and bigger, and more people bring their friends. The word-of-mouth thing has worked great for us as well, and the lack of material online for a while was working to our advantage as well. I just like that slow build and the slog, it’s just honest.
With the lack of material available from you online, do you think that has that pushed people more to go to the gigs?
L: I do, because there’s a buzz going around, rather than throwing everything up online. I think too much information kind of ruins the excitement.
NM: Yeah, it’s a further testament to the live show. For example, we do get a lot of people saying, ‘Aw, I’ve been meaning to see you for ages!’ That’s very confidence-inspiring because it means we’re creating a desire for people to come see us live. It’s encouraging.
Have you guys got any super fans yet?
L: Yeah actually! There’s this guy who follows us on Instagram. I don’t know where he’s from, India maybe, and he’s made these fan videos of himself dancing around in his bedroom to our music and he’s added image processing on them with stars and stuff.
You’re playing Electric Picnic for the second year in a row. How do festivals vary from normal gigs?
L: There’s a surprise element, and then people are just so much more excited. People are just dying to be excited at festivals, they want the buzz. Usually when we are in the room practicing, we try to change the song to make it a bit more festival ready – give them build-ups, give them loads of dynamics, to play with the crowd and get them involved.
Might there be an album on the cards anytime soon?
L: No, not yet. I kind of like seeing albums a piece of work or a concept rather than a bunch of songs.
Naomi: Like an exhibition, where you have to create it properly. Like I think if we were to launch all of our songs into an album it wouldn’t be anything that significant. Whereas later on when we’re a bit more developed, we can bring out a proper album. Our songs so far are reflecting getting to know each other musically. They becoming more concise and we’re enjoying the different advantages that come with that musically.
Bitch Falcon play Electric Picnic on the weekend of September 4th to 6th. Their new single TMJ is out now.
Words: Roisin McVeigh
Photos: Aoife Herrity