Bitter Kids talk going with their gut, the new tour, and why they’re so bitter
Squished onto a single cream-coloured couch above Leaky B’s LaVa Lounge in Nepean, Bitter Kids’ four members seem right at home. This might come from the fact that Leaky B’s is literally someone’s house, and we were sitting in the living room. The only thing that suggested this was more than a lazy Saturday evening in front of the TV was the occasional sound-check down stairs and the huge level of excitement in the air.
Still buzzing from a stop in Kingston the night before, Bitter Kids seemed ready to hop on stage again at a moment’s notice. Based out of St. Catharines, the four-man band came together in 2013, and they have been honing their post-hardcore sound ever since. They have got more than a week left in their tour, and I ask them what they are most pumped for:
“Doing the same thing every night,” the band’s guitarÂ player, Damian Birdsey says with a huge smile on his face.
Of the Bitter Kids’ four members, Birdsey has the shortest hair, the smallest spacers, and the most energy. “What is our favorite thing to do?” He continues. “It’s to go and play a show. That’s our favorite thing to do together and we get to do it every single night. It’s like a vacation. This just makes me so stoked!”
“I’m looking forward to meeting people, and having people be exposed to us who haven’t been before,” Bitter Kids’ drummer, Chase Donoghue says.
“And seeing familiar faces too,” singer/screamer Jd Meeboer adds.
After Saturday night’s show in Ottawa, the group is hitting the road. March 1 they play in Montreal at the Piranha Bar before taking one night off and then descending on Sneaky Dee’s in Toronto.
They are exploring some new territory too. This tour will see the band’s first shows in Windsor and in London before it ends on March 8 in Cambridge, the home of their tour-mates Something You Whisper.
“I knew Bitter Kids was going to be something… I knew we would be able to work together, and create some sick music.” – Damian Birdsey
What makes this tour special is that Bitter Kids will be celebrating their Monster House EP’s first birthday, and their hometown stop in St. Catharines on March 6 comes exactly one year after the album’s debut show.
“It just worked out,” Meeboer says. “This is literally to a T, our EP release show was a year ago.”
“So it’s nostalgic almost,” Birdsey adds. “Because that was one of the best days of my life, and it’s crazy to feel that it was on the exact same day.
According to Birdsey, that night was the best in his life because he saw the band living up to what he hoped it could be.
“I knew Bitter Kids was going to be something. I knew Bitter Kids was going to do good things. So to see that many people come out for that hometown show…ever since that day I knew we would be able to work together, and create some sick music.”
“I think that was the first show that we ever headlined, and I’m pretty sure it sold out,” Donoghue says, who often seems to have the best memory in the group.
“It sold out for sure,” Birdsey agrees.
“Dude, I crowd surfed during that event,” Meeboer laughs.
“And I was holding him up,” David Vukovich adds. Vukovich is Bitter Kids’ bass player and the band’s most recent addition. Definitely the quietist, Vukovich also seems to be the most serious member of Bitter Kids, but when he is on stage it is all smiles- even in Leaky B’s where his head scraped the ceiling.
Birdsey and Meeboer are Bitter Kids’ founding members and what their group is today began to form while they were both in separate bands. They started jamming and when the old bands fell apart they immediately called each other up. Donoghue got involved purely by chance. Younger than the rest, get this; he went to school with Birdsey’s girlfriend who was friends with his brother. When she found out that Donoghue could drum, she pointed the grade nine towards Bitter Kids and before long he found himself on Birdsey’s doorstep.
“He came to my house, and I was like ‘okay a fourteen year old is coming to try out for Bitter Kids right now,’” the guitar player says in a voice of mock-disbelief. “And it was sick!”
“I don’t even remember saying ‘yeah you’re in the band,’” recalls Meeboer. “We all knew.”
“It was weird for me especially,” Donoghue says, “I’d heard of Damian [Birdsey] before because he’s been playing in other bands. He was 19 at the time. They were all 20, 19, it was weird for me. I guess the pressure kind of worked out.”
As with many things for Bitter Kids, choosing Donoghue was a gut decision. The group is dedicated to doing whatever feels the best, and it hasn’t led them astray yet. Choosing their name was a similar experience. The second a former member first muttered the words “Bitter Kids,” they knew it was right.
“We always talked about doing things that we wanted to do instead of what other people said,” Meeboer says, “and how everyone tries to mold you to be this person.”
“So we’re bitter,” jumps in Birdsey. “When Jeff [the former member] told us that name, we said ‘okay, we’re Bitter Kids. That’s who we are. Freakin’ awesome.’”
The bitter theme is splashed across the band’s lyrics. Clearest in their newest song, “Painted Pictures,” with lines like “when you die you’ll remember the chances that slid under your feet,” and “this is our chance to be somebody.”
“That was really blunt, that song,” Birdsey says. “The Monster House EP was just like that song, lyrically, but “Painted Pictures” was much more blunt.
Released to the public in December, “Painted Pictures” is the heaviest song the band has put together. It’s faster than anything from Monster House and has twice the screaming. This amped-up sound is largely a result of the band’s collaboration with Issues frontman Michael Bohn.
“Painted Pictures is one with a lot of screaming because we had Michael on it,” Birdsey says. The band agrees that the song doesn’t mean their sound is going in a heavier direction, they just wanted something that fit Bohn’s powerhouse vocals.
“It’s just a really emotional song,” Donoghue says. “A lot of the time when we write we don’t really think to write a certain way. It’s more like ‘what is this calling for.’ It’s more how it feels.”
“We have a new song that we haven’t really been playing, that we’re still working on and stripping down that’s actually pretty poppy,” Birdsey says. “And then there’s like a heavy part that calls for screaming. I feel like there will always be future songs that don’t have screaming and there will be songs that have a lot of screaming. But that doesn’t bother me. I want to be able to say, ‘I’m feeling Bitter Kids heavy right now. Or I’m feeling bitter kids poppy or emotional.’ Super diverse is what we’re trying to do.”
In the spirit of diversity, Bitter Kids plan on exploring new markets for their sound in the upcoming year. Their past tours have always followed similar routes and now they are thinking of taking things south.
“We’re trying to go to the states this year,” Meeboer says. “We’re trying to make that happen.”
“And also a goal of ours,” Vukovich says, “with our re-release in Japan, we would love to make it there.”
As for future music, the band is tight lipped about exactly what they are planning, but they are clear that new songs and a music video are in the works. Listeners can also expect a new cover, and Bitter Kids would not specify the song, but they did tell me that it is by Canadian electro-pop singer Lights. This might seem like an odd choice for the post-hardcore group, but it’s no stranger than last year’s Ed Sheeran cover that shines a soft light on Meeboer’s vocal range.
A few hours after our talk in the Leaky B’s living room, Bitter Kids played a floor-shaking show in the lounge below us. Stay tuned to The Scene for the full show review.
If you’re hoping to catch these guys during the tour, you can find their upcoming dates right here:
About Griffin Elliot
I enjoy dogs and long walks on the beach. My interests include Lord of the Rings and black coffee. I recently completed a double major in Journalism and Greek and Roman Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. I plan on spending my life writing, playing music with my friends and experiencing the world, one tune at a time.