Bitter Birds is a “black-hewn indie-pop” duo from Austin, Texas. The team of Singer Mayberry (vocals/guitar) and her husband David Lujan (drums/vocals/Wurlitzer bass) had been playing in a band called Red Leaves, but sometime in 2011, they started this side project that’s designed to be just the two of them. Before I go any further, let me say it again. This guy plays the drums and the Wurlitzer bass simultaneously. You know how that guy from PS I Love You plays guitar and a Moog foot-pedal bass organ at the same time? Yeah. This is the same. Sure the guy from Wye Oak plays drums and keys at the same time, but I really do think that this is more impressive. Lujan has this custom set-up where he plays the bass foot pedals with his left foot, while he’s also drumming. I can’t be sure, but I think they sometimes bring a bass guitar player with them when they play shows.
I had never heard of this band until about 24 hours ago when I got a notification that they were following me on Soundcloud. And that’s how this social networking thing works.
They formed in 2011, and they’ve put together a couple of 7″ records and demos. They’re in the process of working on some songs which they hope to have released this autumn. A 6-track EP, I believe.
I love that descriptor that they use. “Black-hewn indie-pop”. It’s perfect. I’ve listened to a few of their songs, and I’m happy to say that they’re not one of the bands whose songs all sound the same. In a general sort of way, you can say that they sound like the stuff that The Cure was doing when they were in their early gothic stage, or even Disintegration (1989), which is often lumped in that “goth Cure” pile with Faith(1981) and Pornography(1982). They also, in a non-specific way, are reminiscent of Blonde Redhead. Tonight’s song has all of that, with a taste of Funeral-era Arcade Fire just for fun.
This is that song
“Over Water” by Bitter Birds
I love how thick and sludgy it is at the open. Then when the guitar comes in at 0:18, and the mood gets lightened a bit, it’s quite a bit like the magnificent bit when the guitar comes in at the beginning of “Pictures of You”. Not that the entirety of “Over Water” is like the entirety of “Pictures of You”. But there is that little bit. At my house, anytime you can get somebody to say “It reminds me of ‘Pictures of You'”, you’re doing something right.
I also really like their coed vocals, which fit together a bit awkwardly but neatly. It’s not always the case, but on this song, his singing reminds me of Win Butler from Arcade Fire, while her airy vocals remind me of all sorts of 1990s dream-pop stuff.
You can download this song for free from the Bitter Birds Soundcloud page, along with three other Bitter Birds songs. Look for their EP in October.