Bitter Pill
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Bitter Pill

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2016

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States
Established on Jan, 2016
Band Folk Gothic




"I will Restore to Thee, The People's Hearts"

An album and video launch from Bitter Pill brightens up
the music scene with prudent Shakepearean darkness
Bitter Pill was birthed when musician and songwriter Billy Butler put together a theatrical staging of his songs to premier in October of 2016 at The Players' Ring Theatre in Portsmouth New Hampshire. The group has now grown into a rotating creative team self described as "21st century vaudevillians comprised of musicians, singers, circusers, artists, actors, and awkwards". Their album "Prepare Your Throats" is intriguing, creative, humorous, raw and not all that wholesome...we give this creative venture two mighty severed thumbs up."
With Butler at the helm, the group recently produced a musical adaptation of William Shakespeare’s "violent, bloody, grotesquely, ridiculous, abomination of a play", Titus Andronicus. Titus Andronicus Musicus - The Bitter Pill theater production ran earlier this year in Portsmouth prior to this newly released recording of Prepare Your Throats. The album features Butler's original music and lyrics from the stage performance, along with a couple of folk and hymn classics, and it was all recorded live in one day at The Noise Floor in Dover NH. The choice to record it live with no overdubs, auto-pitch or additions gives it a perfect sparse reality and a pleasant fibrous and organic sound that is fitting of this (new?) genre and style.
The entire album is so pleasantly weird, it's endlessly refreshing in a music scene overtly full of tight classification. The opening song, Titus Bitterus roars in hard as a glaring play on vaudeville, pirate culture and musical theater, and it opens the door for, let's face it, the near-pure genius of Butler's modern take on this neglected bloody Shakepearean play about tragedy and revenge. Butler's daughter Emily enters the voice fray on the second song from the album, Am I Born to Die. Her voice is fitted well for this sultry classic folk track. Much like the rendition of Lead Belly's In the Pines on track 5, her youthful voice has some slight imperfections that make it unrelenting and relatable. By the third track there is a bit more awareness that there is a musical theater experience going on here. The Keeper unfolds the story, and Black is the Colour of my True Love's Hair seals the overall up and down mood that make it a allegory worthy to follow.
The banjo sounds of Michael McKay and the guitar tracks from Michael Wingate Seavey along with the ukulele blend the vibe so well and lean the sound to a more modern Folk-Americana, with just enough subtle musical fuckery that the songs are not fully falling into that, or any, specific genre. The age gaps in the players and the family connections are an asset that give more authenticity to this project with several personal influences creeping in exactly when they need to. Woe Lavinia is probably one of my personal favorite tracks on the album... Jesus Christ Superfolkstar? I walked away from the listening session with a heavy Woe Lavinia ear worm...I may have even acted some of it out with huge arm guestures in an aisle at the North Berwick Hannaford and got some stares...but Titus wouldn't give a shit, so I do not either. The instruments blend so perfectly on this track they are permissiably hard to distingush as one more important than another... success.
Emily's voice shines brightest when she's in the 40's jazz mode on the later tracks Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out and Too Many Vampires. She has more control over her voice and it falls more naturally into itself, there is enough of an old soul shining through that it's not unrealistic to consider the fact that you may be listening to the dawning of a big break for Emily as a young solo artist should she continue to tame and explore her own voice and see it as the gold it should be. Maybe the Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow brings us back to the musical theater influences with all the players truly shining as a group with the vocals having a much more humorous and darker Rocky Horror-street feel before entering us into the closing song that winds back to the ending with a beginning ... Titus Exitus ends the story with tragedy and horror, just as promised.
Billy Butler's take on Shakespeare airs a deeper understanding of not only the play itself, but the comedy and the tragedy of the experimental place the original play came from. Just like Bitter Pill, Shakespeare was experimenting in real time with influences coming from the scene around him. With folk and Americana being rather popular in the Seacoast, Bitter Pill manages to make fun of it while doing it better... They are taking it to a new and intelligent level and incorporating unexpected influences, again...refreshing. It's also unwavering and risky...and they manage to nail it. What they choose to do with what they have in the future to either develop this particular project to gain a larger reach, or add something new to make it unignorable and more epic is up to's certainly awkwardly lovable for all of us that really appreciate the darker and weirder side of life. - Modspoke

"The Top 20 albums of the year in Seacoast music"

Bitter Pill, “Prepare Your Throats”

There’s a lot to love about this record. You can’t not be intrigued by a theatrical troupe that soundtracks their own production and then cuts that soundtrack live in a studio. That’s exactly what Bitter Pill did whilst in the process of producing their rendition of Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus Musicus” last summer. The walked into The Noise Floor in Dover with their instruments in tow and cut the record on the spot. Good stuff. - Seacoast Media Group


"Prepare Your Throats" - debut album



Self-described as “bloody folk,” Bitter Pill plays a dark and anachronistic combination of Country, Psychobilly, Bluegrass, and Vaudeville. They just released their first album,“Prepare Your Throats,” a collection of traditional and original songs from the soundtrack of their staging of William Shakespeare’s violent, bloody, grotesquely ridiculous abomination of a play, “Titus Andronicus.” Bitter Pill is a family affair featuring Emily Butler on vocals and her dad, Billy Butler, on cello; along with Mike McKay on banjo/mandolin, Michael Wingate Seavey and/or Jon McCormack on guitar, Tomer Oz on acoustic guitar, and a rotating roster of singers, circusers, actors, and awkwards.

“Exhilarated. Stimulated." NHPR

"Prepare Your Throats is intriguing, creative, humorous, raw and not all that wholesome. Two mighty severed thumbs up.”

“There’s a lot to love about this record.” Chris Hislop

Band Members