The victor shall drink champagne
Sitting in a small room in Kirikiriroa/Hamilton, guitarist Rob Shirlow is chuffed and grateful his band Bitter Defeat has been heard by New York audiences and British radio listeners.
New York magazine, Big Takeover, featured the five-piece band's recent debut EP Minor Victory, and the band has also had airtime on the BBC.
Coming to Gisborne soon as support act for The Chills, the Dunedin sound can be heard in the Waikato band's music. The faint punk-inflection blends with rock-pop and is entirely accessible.
Even though Shirlow, a relatively recent newcomer to New Zealand, was not familiar with the Flying Nun Records canon, the Dunedin sound's apparent influence came from a different direction.
“I grew up in Wales, so I hadn't heard of Flying Nun in the 1980s. I grew up on British and American underground stuff. I listened to bands like Pavement, and Guided by Voices. Flying Nun bands influenced their sound.”
Bitter Defeat has since played support not only with the The Chills, The Bats, and Hamish Kilgour of The Clean, but Auckland producer, musician and pop princess Princess Chelsea, formerly of twee pop band The Brunettes and Teenwolf.
“We're doing it to have fun and make sounds we like. There's no airs and graces and that shite. If it sounds good to us, we think there will be a lot of people out there who will like it as well.”
Bitter Defeat came together two years ago after Shirlow thought he might write some songs. Then he thought he might like to perform them.
He invited friends to be part of the band. Ian Duggan (Spatula Death) is now Bitter Defeat's keyboard player, and although having never played bass guitar before, guitarist Julian White (The Scones, Kitchenette) is bassist and backing vocalist, while Kathryn Thompson is on drums. Shirlow, former bass player for Hamilton's indie band Ancient Tapes, took to guitar, vocals and songwriting for his new band.
Bitter Defeat began as a lo-fi solo recording project for Shirlow.
Bitter Defeat's song Superior Avoidance Tactics appeared on Bandcamp in 2016.
The band took its named from one of Brisbane act Kitchen's Floor's songs, says Shirlow.
“They're probably a bit punkier, we're probably a bit lighter.
“We've come a long way since then. It's been fun.”
“Fuzzpop” is online magazine nzmusician's description of the Bitter Defeat sound.
“The 90s were clearly very kind to band founder, Rob Shirlow. His songwriting and the band's overall tone echoes the sound of slacker-rock from that era, the likes of Pavement or The Breeders, though the guitars are grubbier and the rhythm section a little more sedate.”
“It's a real buzz,” says Shirlow.
“It's a nice thing to have in your life.”
Bitter Defeat, Dome Bar, May 9, in support of The Chills.