When Lizzie Fitzpatrick first formed Bitch Falcon back in 2014, the trio quickly found widespread attention across their native Ireland and the UK. After the release of just a few tracks, the band found themselves gaining massive acclaim from The Guardian, the Irish Times and other national outlets. However, this seemed to cool as quickly as it arrived and since then the band has gone through some rather drastic changes in the lead up to the release of their debut album, Staring At Clocks.
Speaking to Fitzpatrick today, she admits that the attention probably came a little too quickly which explains why we’ve had to wait almost six years for the band’s first full-length record. “I think then we were just playing for fun but got loads of buzz really early on. It all grew really fast and we weren’t really ready for it. I think we simply just hadn’t written enough songs and we were still trying to find our voice a lot.”
The difference between the material on Staring At Clocks and those first few singles is plain to see. Bitch Falcon have widened their sound to a huge degree, now approaching something far closer to shoegaze than the fuzzy, almost punk like attack of early tracks like ‘Breed’. A change in sound is more than expected with two predominantly metal musicians, Nigel Kenny and Barry O’Sullivan forming the new rhythm section. Both have far heavier backgrounds with Kenny listing Abe Cunningham (Deftones) and Matt Cameron (Soundgarden) amongst his influences and O’Sullivan formally touring with black metal outfit Altar of Plagues and various grindcore bands. However with this in mind the direction they have helped the band move in is a little more surprising.
Instead of leaning into those metal influences too much, the resulting sound is simply an amalgamation of those heavier tendencies with Fitzpatrick’s love of acts such as Cocetu Twins, Björk and Beach House. “I’m more kinda into art-pop and kind of weirder stuff so we did end up with a blend of that. We wrote everything together, it wasn’t as if I came to them with a melody – all of the music was made together in the room”. In this regard it really sounds as if the band is a product of their native Ireland, where according to Fitzpatrick scenes are very fluid and often intermingle with each other. “The scene in Ireland is very nourishing in that it’s kind of all one scene but does have it’s separate bits. So you’ll have people who are in an R & B band and in a punk band as well. It’s all interconnected and everyone knows somebody so it’s never too scary to enter into it.”
That sense of freedom really comes across on the album: there doesn’t seem to be any sort of structure or formula to how these songs have been put together in the best possible way. In particular the title track seems to skirt around the edges a little bit with no recognisable chorus but instead gently swells and relaxes before building to an almighty crescendo. It is a record which you can sit with and allow to swallow you up and that was entirely by design. “I think I wanted something really heavy sonically, not so much distortion or fuck off riffs, but I wanted it to be really melancholic and lush so you can kind of bathe in it. I really like that saying and feeling where it just kinda wraps around you,” Fitzpatrick notes.
Of course in 2020, having music which you can escape into has become more important than ever, and while the pandemic has affected us all Fitzpatrick has seen it even closer than most through her job as a theatre nurse. “It’s been crazy! It’s not until after that you realise how mad it was. It was like a sci-fi movie at the peak with the big signs and having to get into your PPE every day.” While musicians having ‘day-jobs’ is nothing new, being able to balance working in a sector which can be as demanding as nursing with the amount of time needed to record, release and promote your music shows a huge level of dedication and love for both occupations.
“I definitely think about that dream of just being a musician and being able to support myself but then during a tour there was one night I was sick so stayed in and the lads had gone out for a few pints. I was looking at videos about open heart surgery and they came back and were like ‘Whoa you fucking freak! What are you watching?’ and I do realise that I miss it a little bit – it is a bit yin and yang.”
With line-up changes, other commitments and the creative process in general, it becomes ever more clear why we have had to wait so long for Staring At Clocks. In fact even after recording the album in the summer of 2019, there was further time waiting for a gap in the schedule of GRAMMY-nominated engineer Alex Newport (Frank Turner, At The Drive-In, Death Cab For Cutie) to mix the record. Then came the small matter of finding a label to release it – luckily the years of touring experience showed its importance once more as the band got in touch with underground veterans InTechnicolour and their label, Small Pond Records.
From the varied influences of their members to the connections and opportunities provided by taking an active part in their scene, like some of the best bands around Bitch Falcon proudly show themselves to be a product of their environment and their experiences. After somewhat reinventing themselves and spending years honing their sound across stages in the underground circuit, Staring At Clocks represents the band formally announcing themselves to the wider world. For Lizzie Fitzpatrick though, that sense of community will always be at the band’s heart, “You can become really obsessed with being the buzz band, but when you’re touring around you meet a lot of people and make some great friends it’s just much nicer to go around in that [underground] scene. You can tour all over the world because of the DIY community and I think that’s so cool.”