Interview: Lost Girls’ Patrick Fitzgerald (Kitchens of Distinction) and Heidi Berry on a long-lost album that is found again



By John Girgus

To call me [and this blog**] a fan of Kitchens Of Distinction would be a massive understatement. Infinitely deeper than the “shoegaze” and “dream-pop” mirages that led me their way, they remain at the very foundation of my musical influence. When songwriter and singer Patrick Fitzgerald recently opened the floor to a few questions regarding the archival release of a mysterious, long-shelved project with celestial singer-songwriter Heidi Berry, whom I had also crushed on during those awkward formative years, there was little hesitation.

[** Favorite albums of 2013: “Folly”]

Lost Girls materialized in 1997-98, after Fitzgerald left Kitchens of Distinction and Berry departed the 4AD label, for whom she recorded three albums after singing on the 1991 album “Blood” by This Mortal Coil. They worked on some songs, added Ashley Wood on guitar, Kim Smith on bass and Dave Morgan on drums and played some shows. A full album was recorded, and the single “Needle’s Eye” emerged in 1999. Then … nothing.

||| Stream: “Hold Me Down”

Now the “Lost Girls” album – 21 songs in all – is being released this week by the U.K.’s 3 Loop Music. Here, Fitzgerald and Berry talk about the lost Lost Girls album, and finding it again:

The project seemed to have momentum. Why was the material shelved at the time?

Fitzgerald – No label showed interest at the time. Disappointing. We considered self-release, but it wasn’t as straightforward back then.

Berry – It wasn’t for want of trying. We both threw our hearts and souls into the songs. The process was really exciting for us, watching the songs develop. Seeing who they would turn out to be. Like personalities. We both knew we were writing strong material. We played some great gigs and got a fantastic response. And then we called out to see if any label was interested in releasing the record. It was like shouting down a long, empty well.

Being that this project was inspired by studio work you were both contributing to, how important was the studio itself in the creation of the early material?

Fitzgerald – Really important at the beginning. I had my own studio and was getting into programming, sampling, etc., which I’d never done in Kitchens. I’d done a lot over the previous year, producing bands and engineering, so was getting excited by the potential. As the project became more of a band then the studio also became less involved as a creative element.

Berry – Some songs were just on piano or guitar, but with others (like “Needle’s Eye”), I had arrangement ideas in mind. I’d bring my MIDI files over to Patrick’s studio. He’d have a listen and pick out what he thought was working – and of course develop the production properly. He was very kind and didn’t laugh at my recordings, but some of them were pretty primitive.

Can you describe the process at that stage?

Fitzgerald – We would both have songs written on piano or guitar, and I would then find loops for the rhythm, and this would then inspire the rest of the colours used. More loops from strange records, mixed with samples of scraped cymbals, bowed cymbals, screwdrivered guitars, this big boomy skin drum of Heidi’s, all sorts. I think the duo stuff is more interesting from that point of view, but the songs shine better in the band versions.

Berry – I think Patrick has described the process well. “Walk Like Giants” is really the only fully collaboratively written song (i.e. words and music). If we are counting “Folk Fuck,” then that was also collaborative, written there and then in the studio together.

Was the evolution from “project” to “band” intended?

Fitzgerald – No that happened quite naturally. Probably from doing the gigs I’d have thought.

Berry – We had no idea where we were going with it when we started. It was firstly a studio project. Basically, something to keep us off the streets …

||| Stream: “Needle’s Eye”

Heidi’s “Needle’s Eye” seems to have a strong spiritual current, is this a recurring theme?

Fitzgerald – Not particularly.

Berry – “Needle’s Eye” was just about how I was feeling at the time. Rootless, confused – the world was the wrong way up and there was no gravity to hold me onto the planet. Though I could still sing the song, writing it was very harrowing and it’s not an emotional place I’d like to visit again.

Patrick’s “NYC” seems a little more straightforward. Is this more in keeping with the band material?

Fitzgerald – I think there’s a good mix of stuff over the recordings – and this may have been part of the problem – no settled sound for an A&R person to say exactly what Lost Girls sounded like.

Berry – I love this song. Powerful. It was such a thrill to perform!

Has there been any talk of future work between you?

Fitzgerald – There’s always that possibility. I’m really keen on collaborations at the moment.

Berry – We haven’t talked about it, but I’d work with Patrick again in a heartbeat.

John Girgus is a Los Angeles-based musician and former member of Aberdeen, who released music on the U.K.’s Sarah Records in the 1990s.