A Sinister take on Hardware

Another Halloween and my pitch-perfect J Alfred Prufrock costume still hangs in the closet gathering dust. One of these days, I swear, someone will finally invite me to that esoteric modernist literature-themed costume party that simply must exist somewhere in the folds of civilized society—but, as it stands, this year is looking like another night indiscriminately hurling candy at strange children and ensuring full holiday bookings for all local practitioners of dentistry.

But, to get things started, how about a little Halloween double-feature, beginning with the latest video from Birdeatsbaby. We brought you the first single from the new album back in August and now they’re back with the second (the title track) “Feast of Hammers”. Of course, if you’re already familiar with these Birdies, you know they’re music is always streaked with a dash of the macabre. But with the video for ‘Feast of Hammers’, they’ve really outdone themselves—so much so, in fact, that they’ve produced a censored version of the video. And, out of respect for those readers who may be somewhat prone to squeamishness, I’ll only include the PG-13 version in this post. You can watch the explicit version here. All I can say is, Lars Von Trier would be proud.

Then there’s our old friends from Chicago, The Cell Phones who’ve always had a flare for the darker side of life. They’ve got their own Occultish Halloween epic making the rounds. The only thing missing here is an altar of naked virgins. And, if that’s not enough, they’ve also done a 27-minute haunted house soundtrack (which you can find here) and a brand new EP (Hospital Spaceship) which includes the gruesome, Phil-Spector-does-in-the-Ronettes closer, ‘Husband’.

Still not enough for you? Well, out today, just in time for Halloween, is a free bit of dingy foreboding from Norwich breakcore artist Sukoshi. From exciting new Norwich label Gravy Records, ‘Claw Hammer’ is but a taster of things to come from Sukoshi’s imminent debut on the same label, due in February. In fact, there’s plenty of exciting stuff to look forward to from Gravy HQ, but that’s another story for another day. With his spoken-word samples and dark and dirty, sinister embellishments, it’s easy to imagine Sukoshi as the evil twin of Mr. PSB himself, J. Willgoose Esq. It’s no wonder, then, that Rob Da Bank is such a fan.


New Videos: Birdeatsbaby and Bitter Ruin

I don’t know what it is about Brighton that makes it such a breeding ground for dark cabaret acts. Maybe it’s something in the water, but it’s just about the only image that comes to mind when I think about Brighton – well, dark cabaret and Julia Sawalha as Lydia Bennet. Then again, maybe it has more to do with the fact that I spend so much time listening to Bitter Ruin and Birdeatsbaby (I’ve been especially keen on Birdeatsbaby the last few weeks) that I never have time to explore what else the city has to offer. And today is no different, especially in light of the new videos both bands have release in the last fortnight.

You probably know about the Bitter Ruin video. Tim Minchin shared it over the weekend. Then Stephen Fry tweeted it (and I’m pretty sure 93% of the people who read this blog also follow the Marvelous Mr. Fry), so feel free to skip down to the next paragraph if you’ve heard this one before. After all, they pop up here from time to time – and this particular video is for “Trust”, which is basically the quintessential Bitter Ruin song (it was old the first time I featured them here 18 months ago). But still I can’t get enough of it. There’s something almost Shakespearean about watching Ben and Georgia trade jabs like some sort of sadistic Beatrice and Benedick that adds a degree of vitality to the visceral sensuality that is so indicative of their music.

Then there’s Birdeatsbaby whose “Through Ten Walls” gives us a Gothic glimpse into their upcoming album Feast of Hammers – and I mean “Gothic” in the Revival sense. Recorded in Boston this past spring with Jason Rubal (Dresden Dolls; The Cure), Feast of Hammers promises more of the rich instrumental textures and metric modulations that marked their 2009 debut Here She Comes-a-Tumbling and made their single “The Trouble” a YouTube hit. Combined with Mishkin’s endearingly bleak and cynical lyrics and wry wit, it’s pretty easy to see why Birdeatsbaby would have been Mary Shelley’s favourite band (were it not for that pesky 200-year generation gap).

So maybe you know something about what’s going on over there that I don’t. If you do, please enlighten me. Why are they so good at this? Or perhaps I’ll just have to swing by this fall and check it out for myself. Who knows, maybe some of it will rub off on me. In the meantime, if you’re geographically inclined, catch Birdeatsbaby with the ubiquitous Jason Webley in Brighton on Friday (26th August). [tickets]

Every ashcloud has a silver lining, just ask Bitter Ruin

Photo by Joe Shepherd

That ashcloud over Iceland has been wreaking havoc on a lot of people’s lives lately–and a lot of bands’ tour plans. However, some bands, like Bitter Ruin, have actually managed to benefit from it. They’ve managed to land support slots in the first few shows of Amanda Palmer’s current tour–all thanks to Twitter.  I thought it only fitting, then, to catch up with them and conduct my first ever all-Twitter interview–a Twinterview (ok, so we’re still working on the name). Also, they’re in the UK right now, set to open for Amanda again in London on Thursday night–Twitter is cheaper and easier than long-distance phone calls.

The nice thing about Twitter is that people can follow the interview as it happens. Also, the transcription process is way easier. Let me know what you think of this format. I may do this again. Enjoy.

*Note: AFP = “Amanda Fucking Palmer

TheIndieHandbk: Sorry about the late hour. How are you guys tonight?

BitterRuin: We’re good, busy, tired, but still buzzing from the gigs

TheIndieHandbk: I should say so. You’ve had something of an exciting last few days. How has the @amandapalmer tour experience been?

BitterRuin: Incredible, we still can’t believe it happened

TheIndieHandbk: I believe that. How exactly *did* it happen, anyway?

BitterRuin: Well, we’ve contacted Amanda in several ways before, but we have the ashcloud to thank, she needed support and we tweeted

TheIndieHandbk: Every ashcloud has a silver lining, I suppose. So have you convinced AFP to keep you on tour beyond tomorrow night yet?

BitterRuin: We’ll deffo be making an appearance, but she does have another act lined up too, so we’ll be cut short 😦

TheIndieHandbk: Well, for the record, @amandapalmer, I think you should take @bitterruin with you everywhere, and bring them back to the States with you.

BitterRuin: OH GOD, we do too, we just wanna stay on tour now! But, she has plans and I think we’ve gone as far as we can go 😦

TheIndieHandbk: Maybe for this slice of serendipity, but judging by the activity on your Facebook page, I’d say you have a ways to go yet.

BitterRuin: We’d love to tour immediately, but getting the money/transport/venues and the number of fans will be hard

TheIndieHandbk: So do you have any future tours in the works? I thought I heard rumblings about one earlier today.

BitterRuin: Yes, well, we’ll be gong back to dublin for sure – we’re always in London and Brighton, and Bristol’s not far

TheIndieHandbk: You’ve got a new EP due out next month, don’t you? That should help generate some interest, especially after this week.

BitterRuin: It’s actually our first full length album, recorded in the states with one of AFP’s producers…out 26.05.10

TheIndieHandbk: I didn’t realise it was a full LP. That’s brilliant! How do you think it compares to your other releases?

BitterRuin: Well, it’s been called ‘darker’…It’s so much more dramatic and actually less polished, you know, adds character

TheIndieHandbk: I was going to say. I’ve been reading through the lyric book I bought from you, and they are almost brutal.

BitterRuin: ha ha, the books or the lyrics?

TheIndieHandbk: The lyrics. Though I should add, the books are beautiful. I bought the We’re Not Dancing book as well.

TheIndieHandbk: So, let’s talk about the making of the record. You kept a video diary during the writing process, didn’t you?

BitterRuin: Yes, we tried to, but next time we need someone else to film and edit as we haven’t had enough time to finish them

TheIndieHandbk: I was rather impressed that you even attempted that, actually. What is your songwriting process like?

BitterRuin: Well, we both write seperately and then put the songs through the Bitter Ruin blender, they pop out the other side and TA DA

TheIndieHandbk: Well that Bitter Ruin blender works well. Your songs all have a certain identifiable quality and a definite theatrical streak.

TheIndieHandbk: I suppose that bit of dark cabaret is why you pair so well with AFP. But is that theatrical element intentional?

BitterRuin: It just seems natural for the music. I think our songs would look/sound stupid if we didn’t pull out the theatrics on stage

TheIndieHandbk: Well, your onstage chemistry is brilliant, and it fits the sound perfectly. But how would *you* describe the Bitter Ruin sound?

BitterRuin: Noir beauty! 🙂

TheIndieHandbk: Oh, that’s good. I’ve been thinking “gothic flamenco-soul” all day, but I think the noir reference is essential.

TheIndieHandbk: It certainly captures the look and the photography, which is just intoxicating, by the way.

BitterRuin: Joe Shepherd does all of our shoots. They’re always in bizarre places, latest one, a mental hospital!

BitterRuin: I think gothic tends to put people off, and soul would attract the wrong audience…it’s hard to get it right, suggestions?

TheIndieHandbk: I know, gothic is tough, but it’s gothic in the sense of Lemony Snicket or Northanger Abbey. You know, gothic, but in a fun way.

BitterRuin: Yeah, we mean *actual* gothic not high school gothic

TheIndieHandbk: I’ll let you know if I come up with anything. How does your music compare to the rest of the “Brighton scene” if there is one?

BitterRuin: mmm, brighton is tough, there’s a big music school here, and not much talent in it…ssshh, I’d recommend @birdeatsbaby

TheIndieHandbk: You know, you’re not the first to recommend @birdeatsbaby to me. I suppose I have no choice but to check them out now.

TheIndieHandbk: And, I have to say, I absolutely *love* the mental hospital photo shoot idea. I think it fits your sound perfectly, no offense…

BitterRuin: hahaha, no, it’s ok, we know we’re insane, the madness is what drives the music…it’s the voices, they write all the songs

TheIndieHandbk: Well, I know it’s getting late for you two and you’ve got a show tomorrow, so I’ll let you go in a moment. Where’s the next gig?

BitterRuin: Next gig with Amanda is tomorrow at Koko, we’ll be busking before the show, after that it’s Brighton 26th May/London 22nd May Album Launch

TheIndieHandbk: Well, thanks for chatting. It’s been great fun. I’m looking forward to hearing the new album and seeing you here in the States.

TheIndieHandbk: Though, I have been known to travel a long way for a gig (just ask @theschoolband), so you never know.

BitterRuin: Thanks for having us, see you soon. Night night!

TheIndieHandbk: It’s my pleasure. I’ll get a transcript up tonight for those who missed the live version. Cheers, guys! Good night.