Brighton 4-Piece, Birdeatsbaby are renowned for their theatrical flair and perfectly realised visual style. Their unique melding of crunchy guitars and heavy, yet spiky drums with the classical sounds of strings and pianos has firmly established them as a beacon of musical ingenuity in the UK music scene.
Historically associated with the Dark Cabaret movement, Birdeatsbaby have long since thrown off the shackles of the genre to craft a much larger, yet somehow more visceral sound that never stops evolving.
Thursday 19th September, Birdeatsbaby launched the first single, “Painkiller” from the new album, The World Conspires with a storming headline gig at The Black Heart. Singer/keys player and band leader Mishkin Fitzgerald was looking particularly pensive today, tucked away in a corner at the Lock Tavern as we arrived to meet her for a chat about the band’s musical direction, their fans and of course, the new album.
Mishkin of Birdeatsbaby at The Lock Tavern, Camden – Photo by Jude Benjamin
The band’s been together about 10 years now, right?
Yeah, more like 13 now. We did our first gig in 2006, though it wasn’t really a proper band for a few years.
How did you originally meet?
I was playing in loads of punk bands when I was in uni but getting really bored of that scene. Everything was the same and there wasn’t really a lot of variety in the music that I was going to see. I just wanted to start something a bit different. Because I’m a piano player, I decided, ‘Let’s just do something really weird with piano and drums’ which is when I met the original drummer. Then Gary joined on guitar and bass and turned it into more of a rock band, I suppose. My best friend was a violin player so we brought her in. We just kind of shoved it all together and what we came out with was a different sound than I was expecting.
Birdeatsbaby live at The Black Heart, Camden – Photo by Richard Ellington
You guys definitely have a very striking sound. Is that something that you had in mind when you started or did it come about more organically?
It’s not something we planned exactly. We didn’t really set out with a genre or look in mind. I’d been writing songs on piano from a young age, as it was my only outlet at home, so that sound was fairly ingrained. But it was always just a really weird mash-up of stuff and we came to realise that was the strength of the band. We were a complete mixture and we could go wherever we wanted to. That was really cool.
When we first started we were being labelled as ‘punk cabaret’ because we sounded like the Dresden Dolls. It was piano and drums and quite theatrical, so we got pushed into sort of a corner over there with that dark cabaret scene. Then we started finding our way more into the prog scene. Right now we’re getting called ‘steam-punk’, I don’t really know why.
We’ve gone through so many different genres that I don’t think we belong in any of them anymore.
Birdeatsbaby live at The Black Heart, Camden – Photo by Richard Ellington
So that punk cabaret scene wasn’t an influence you set out to align yourself with or emulate in any way?
No, I didn’t even really know the genre existed until we put out our first music video which was called “The Trouble”. It was very theatrical; I love stage musicals and stuff like that so I guess that’s probably where it came from. I also grew up singing in church and the music was always quite rich and classical with these kind of weird, quirky drums going on.
But as soon as we put that video out, we suddenly had all these fans from Amanda Palmer/Dresden Dolls and that kind of thing finding us. A lot of them were Mexican too. They really liked the dark cabaret scene out there. So at the time, we were like “Ok, cool. We’ll just go with that then”. So we rolled with that on the first album but since then the sound and concept has changed on every single record.
What do you particularly enjoy about the audiences in Camden?
They’re all really weird and gothic, so that’s cool. It’s like Brighton but in London! Camden is the mecca for alternative looks, music, everything, so when we come here, we just feel very at home.
I also grew up here, coming here every weekend to spend time hard-earned money on you know.. goth stuff and going to see gigs. I love everything about Camden. (I wish it was easier to get to from Brighton.) I really hate London, so I feel like Camden is like a little safe place inside London. (It’s nice, I’d like to teleport here, you know?)
What’s your favourite venue to play in Camden?
We haven’t played at Koko yet, that’s one of my favourites to go to. It’s the dream, so if you know anyone…!
Apart from that, our favourite one to play has got to be The Black Heart. It sounds really good, the staff’s really nice, it’s quite central. I like it. It has a vibe.
Your videos are phenomenal. It seems that the visuals are an important element of what you do. Do you ever write with the visuals in mind?
Absolutely. Nearly all the time with the song, there’s already a concept in there. I often dream about it as well. Maybe that’s why our music videos are so important. It’s because they’ve all got a strong concept behind them.
For example, when I wrote “My Arms Will Open Wide”, it was written in the style of a sort of suicide letter, I suppose (…) I always just had this sort of image of jumping off a bridge – the final moments – and I tried to encapsulate that in the song.
Although it’s probably not our most popular video, it just means so much to me. I had this dream about the entire song. I wrote the whole thing in about two hours: all the words, absolutely everything and I had this vivid picture in my head. So when the video was done it was quite beautiful, it all just came out exactly how I imagined it which was really cool.
A lot of your videos reference Patreon in the links (a crowdfunding service for artists). You’ve got quite a supportive fanbase right?
Yes we do! The Flock.
What are they like?
They’re insane! They’re all completely nuts, but that’s great. I don’t really want ‘normal ‘ people. *laughs*
They’re like us I guess. They’re creative people who are into different music. Most of them just really want to help create something. A lot of them are artists or musicians themselves which is really cool. Some of them put on their own gigs, some of them help with our shows.
They’re not really even just a fanbase, they’re like a little family that help whenever we need it… just a bunch of really really cool people.
Most of them are good friends of ours now. They can give amazing feedback and you know it’s really honest. They really care and are invested in your music. They’re kind of like a label in some ways.
The last two full albums, you seemed to be progressing in a heavier direction. But then the last EP was a return to a much more stripped-down format…?
Yeah, that was a bit of a curveball! Actually the title track from that EP – Better Man was supposed to be on the new album – but we had so much trouble getting the album together. (And) I was just so sick of not having anything to put out, I was like “Ok, let’s do an EP to bridge the gap between albums and so we’ve got some new material for our fans.” There’s actually a full production version of the second track on the EP, “Box of Razorblades” on the new album.
So that trend that we saw in the two albums prior, is that something fans can expect to see continue on the new album?
Yeah, definitely. It’s our biggest production so far and its a huge album: 15 songs! It’s a complete journey. You can expect it to be a bit like The Bullet Within only darker and much much heavier. We engineered it all ourselves so had a lot more freedom. It was all completely like “Let’s record something and see what it sounds like… let’s record it again….let’s record another layer!” and we just took so much time doing that. Every single fragment of the song was really listened to and dwelt on.
We did have to draw lines for ourselves, but it’s hard to put a deadline on something like that. You can always do more. Gary’s always like “We need to take our time” and I’m always like “We need to hurry up!” *laughs* “…cause I’m going crazy”!
Looking forward to listening to this! – Photo by Jude Benjamin
Your last album, Claw was a covers album. There was quite a range of artists on there. Which artists in particular have influenced you?
Placebo are a huge influence on my music. There’s something about Brian Molko’s lyrics and songwriting that’s very, very naked and at the same time, completely introverted. I think he’s an absolute poet and some of his lyrics I have carried with me throughout my musical life.
I find a lot of his music speaks to me quite personally, especially all his stuff about addiction and repression. That song, “Blue American” which is on the album, feels particularly personal to me. I always wanted to cover it and it just kind of tumbled out quite well.
Interesting choice, you never hear that name (Placebo) anymore…
I know. They’re so good. I saw them live two years ago maybe. They’re still absolutely amazing. They blew me away. The musicianship is amazing and the bass player was incredible. He looks younger than he did in the 90s! He was busting around the stage with his top off, just loving life. Just so cool, you know?
Which song was your favourite to tackle on that album?
Ok, that’s easy. The most fun I had was “Freak On A Leash”. That’s just a great song and it’s a tune from my teenage years. It was the first time I’d ever performed ‘scream’ vocals in that style.
Jonathan Davies has got such an unusual voice it’s really hard to replicate it. Doing the first half really soft and kind of dreamy, (not at all like the original track) was really interesting, then recording the screaming rap part at the end was great fun! )
You’ve also released solo material, right?
Yeah, I’ve got two solo records and I’m going to come up with a third one soon. I just have too many songs! Not all of them fit on Birdeatsbaby’s records. I generally prefer to keep Birdeatsbaby’s stuff quite ‘big production’; songs that are heavy and great to play live as a group. Then in my solo work I can just outlet anything that’s a bit softer, sad or stripped back, just play them myself with a piano and have a completely different sound that way.
Are there any new up and coming artists that you’ve seen and would recommend people check out?
Right now I’m listening to loads of Jamie Lenman. I think he’s amazing. He’s another person who just does whatever genre he feels like and it’s all really genuine.
And of course I have to mention Hana Pirana. She’s just about to release a solo harp record. It’s going to be totally different but it’s beautiful. Also, our new drummer plays in a cross Atlantic band called Dorja who are definitely worth checking out. They’re fantastic.
As an independent act, you’ve been very successful at carving your own niche. Do you have any advice for new bands and artists trying to navigate the music industry?
Yeah, loads. Tell them to just give me a call! I’ll sit them down, we’ll have a drink and I’ll give them a whole load of stuff!
I think the most important thing is to make sure that you stand out for the right reasons, that your music is not just decent but it’s absolutely superb. What you’re creating should be unmissable. These days there’s so much going on, it’s so easy to put something out on the internet for it to just disappear. So I think it’s really important that every single part of your sound and image is absolutely phenomenal. Then, when you’ve got that, it’s much easier to go forwards because people will see what you’re doing and take notice.
And be genuine with it as well. You know, if you make fans at a venue, then invest in them. Look after your fanbase, look after your band and just keep creating a network of people that fully support you. Then you can really go anywhere, you know?
Birdeatsbaby live at The Black Heart , Camden – Photo by Richard Ellington
Where can people buy the new album and single?
The new single will be out digitally on our own Bandcamp page. (https://birdeatsbaby.bandcamp.com/) The album will be out in all the usual places but the best place you can get it would be Bandcamp as the money goes straight to the artist there.
Check it out
If you’re looking for an introduction in the world of Birdeatsbaby’s powerful musical theatrics and wondering where to start, they have a huge amount of material online. We recommend checking out…
“Temple” Dark and Groovy with an infectious chorus slathered in Queens of the Stoneage-esque cool.
“Death Bed Confessions” There’s a f**&ing tank in the video!