Birdeatsbaby are one of Brighton’s most outward looking groups having, from the very early days, skilfully used the internet to get their music out to a wider audience. Heavily stylised YouTube music videos and, more recently, funding platforms like Patreon, have helped them to reach and unite fans on the cultural fringe. As their sound has shifted from the dark cabaret of their roots to a more progressive, heavy rock style they’ve grown a self-sustaining following that sees them able to tour around the globe. Shortly after the release of their fourth LP TANTA FURIA, and at the end of another European jaunt I fired off a few quick questions to lead-singer and defacto head-honcho Mishkin Fitzgerald to see how they’re getting on.
Where did you grow up and was there much of a music scene there?
I grew up in Chiswick, London. My mum is a preacher (well technically lay-reader) and my dad is a maths teacher. My childhood revolved mostly around church and music. I learned how to sing and play piano through the local church and then began writing my own songs aged 11. My dad has a large record collection of classical and progressive music so you can see how I was influenced. London obviously has a huge music scene but as my childhood was a little more, shall we say “sheltered” than most, I wasn’t really aware of a music “scene”. I started going to shows when I was about 16 so I got into the rock scene a little late. I had some catching up to do but I think I’ve made up for lost time!
When did you move to Brighton and what made you come down here?
I moved to Brighton when I was 18 (back in 2003) and enrolled at a music course in music tech and composition. I enjoyed the course but really all I’ve ever wanted to do was start a band. Brighton’s full of musicians so actually it wasn’t that difficult to put together, and the first line-up of Birdeatsbaby was formed in 2006.
How long have Birdeatsbaby been going now?
It’s been ten years since our first gig, but we’ve only been taking it seriously since 2009. Finally things are really starting to pick up but it’s been hard work keeping momentum for such a long time!
TANTA FURIA is your fourth album – how has the fan reaction been so far?
Yeah, can’t quite believe we’ve made it this far. The reaction has been great, really positive. It’s our first Patreon-funded album too so really nice to have the feedback from the people who helped us create it. Many of The Flock are saying it’s their favorite album so far.
What does TANTA FURIA mean to you guys?
TANTA FURIA literally means “Much Fury”. It’s a nod to our Mexican fans (there’s a lot of them), as we don’t get to tour over there much and they always show us so much support. It’s also quite aggressive, lyrically; take “Part of Me” and “Spit” for example, they really sum up the album’s sound. It needed to be appropriately titled and, of course, all in caps-lock.
There seem to be a lot of detailed layers on the new album – how do you recreate this live?
Depending on the venue size we use a backing track for the extra layers of strings and synths which adds to the sound of our bigger live performances, but we don’t do for every show. Sometimes it’s nice to have a slightly more stripped back gig, and just let the song carry itself. I think that’s when you know you have a good tune, it sounds just as good without the production layers.
You don't seem to play in Brighton very often any more, is there a reason for that?
Yeah, we don’t play there any more as the shows are often poorly paid, poorly promoted and the scene is over-saturated. We’ve got a much bigger following in London and other towns around the UK. Occasionally it’s nice to do a home show but just not that often.
There seemed to be a lot more guitar on this album than before, was this a conscious decision?
Absolutely. I’ve always wanted us to become a heavier band and to have the music evolve as my song-writing does. Garry’s such a brilliant writer when it comes to riffs and solos, this album really has his stamp all over it. For example, ‘Temple’ is one of our most popular tracks off the album and doesn’t even have any piano. That track is all guitars and probably my favourite one. Also, taking a step back from the piano enables me to front the band a little better. I can step away from being stuck behind the keys and just concentrate on singing and engaging with the audience.
I hear you've been on tour in Europe this last couple of weeks – anything to report?
(Laughs), always. Our tours are always full of drama. This time we broke down on the Autobahn and had an absolute nightmare trying to get our van towed by our insurance company. We’ve been in a five day long phone battle with them and finally won by getting our entire Flock all over Twitter/Facebook with the hashtag #RescueMyBand. Although the whole experience has been stressful, we were blown away by the kindness of people all across the internet willing to help us out. Apart from that the only thing to report is that we absolutely love touring in Europe, and would do it full-time if we could!
I saw that your drummer was playing bass/guitar and you had a stand-in on drums, have you considered taking on a fifth touring member and having bass and guitar at the same time?
Yeah it’s definitely an option we might consider in future. Touring with Sam has been a lot of fun, we’re really going to miss him on the next tour. I guess we’ll just see how it goes and maybe add a fifth member if or when it feels right.
Where will you be touring next?
We’re back in Germany next February, America and Mexico in September and Europe again in November. We’ve got some UK dates too so it looks like another full year! Just the way we like it.
Your fanbase, 'The Flock' seem very dedicated. What's the craziest thing a fan has done for you guys?
Where to start? So many crazy things have been done in the name of Birdeatsbaby! Our band mascot is this creepy hand on a groan stick that we call Charlie (after our old drummer). We found it at a service station in Texas, and we use it to touch people’s elbows. Hang on a minute… we’re the crazy ones! Anyway, once a German fan took it accidentally at a show. We were devastated but then pictures of Charlie kept popping up on Facebook of him having a great time in Berlin with this girl. Eventually when we came back to Berlin for another show she brought him back and he was reunited with the band. Is that crazy enough? He’s even got his own Facebook page. facebook.com/charliethebackscratcher
What kind of music were you brought up on?
Mostly classical and church music, which I guess isn’t very cool. But, my dad also had a decent record collection including Queen and Jimi Hendrix so I listened to that a lot too. Obviously I was exposed to more types of music as I grew older and went to school. I think that being exposed to lots of different styles of music has helped me develop the type of music I want to listen to.
Can you remember the first album you owned?
Yes, I’ll never tell.
Ha! Do you have any guilty pleasures?
I work really hard so any pleasure usually feels guilty. It’s hard to get by as an independent musician; there’s always something else that needs to be done so sometimes it’s hard to switch off. When I do manage to switch off it tends to be pretty regular stuff that I enjoy most. My second passion in life is animal rights and I am a very active vegan. It happens less than I’d like it too but I love preparing a massive vegan banquet for friends and family.
What inspires you to write music?
I often write from my personal experiences. I find it a very cathartic process to vent pain and other strong emotions through song writing. I think that a truly great song should make you want to fight someone, fuck someone or kill yourself. That was the guiding rule when the band was working on TANTA FURIA.
Have you always played in the same style?
Birdeatsbaby used to be labelled as ‘dark cabaret’ and did fit into that category in the early days. Over time, we’ve got much heavier and are now getting a lot of attention from prog magazines and even metal radio shows. I think that the musical style of a band should change over time, otherwise, things just get stale.
Do you prefer recording music or performing live?
They’re completely different things so it’s hard to choose. I love working with my band and nothing quite beats the feeling of hearing the recorded version of a song that has only existed in my head for months. Equally, it’s hard to top the feeling of being on stage and engaging with the audience. Our new songs allow me to get right into the audience which has been an absolute blast.
What has been the highlight of your musical career so far?
We recently played to a sell-out audience in Hanover. It was probably one of our best gigs ever. The audience really went for it and were fantastic to talk to after the show. We ended the night drinking champagne and shots with the manager of the venue. Felt like a total rock star.
Have you discovered any great new music this year?
I’m really looking forward to hearing Frank Carter and the Rattlesnake’s new album. I love the raw aggression of his previous work, especially as The Gallows. For less well known bands I’d recommend listening to Sit Kitty Sit. We toured with them in the US in September and released a limited edition double single with them on vinyl.
Do you get to go to many gigs? Any highlights of 2016 worth talking about?
If I’m at a gig it’s usually because I’m performing that night. I’ve got tickets to see Placebo in December which I’m really looking forward to.
What are your plans for next year?
On top of our busy tour schedule we’ll also be releasing new music videos from songs on TANTA FURIA. We’ve got some ambitious ideas for ‘Deathbed Confession’ and can’t wait to film it! We’ll also be heading back into the studio to begin work on our next album. It’s going to be a killer year and I can’t wait to smash it!
Read our review of TANTA FURIA here: http://brightonsfinest.com/html/index.php/12-music/1985-birdeatsbaby-tanta-furia
Read our in-depth 2014 interview with Mishkin here: http://brightonsfinest.com/html/index.php/component/content/article/9-articles/203-birdeatsbaby-interview-2014