22 Mar 2023

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Profile for Bittercup

He’s frail, like a buttercup, but he’s not happy about it.

Bittercup is the personal catharsis machine of Callum Wagstaff. He hates himself and has found people enjoy the fruits of his shameful confessions, related in sweet serenades, intense outbursts and rarely anything in between.

Bittercup (Wagstaff) started out fronting a band of the same name in 2015 before ailing health and renal dialysis forced him to give it up. Despite that he continued to write music and work the New Plymouth scene as regularly as he could in local cover bands Dodgy Jack (drums), The Feelgood Beatdown (Guitar) and Shed: The Tool Tribute (Vocals).

In late 2018 in a freak accident he was granted super kidney powers which allowed him to refocus himself on the Bittercup concept, releasing an official Debut EP: “Negative Space” on May 3rd 2019. Negative Space was described by Happy Mag as “a bleak but undeniably endearing collection of alt-rock gems.” Muzic.net.nz gave it 5 stars. Bittercup then embarked on an acoustic tour of the north island with fellow artist and producer of the Negative Space EP, Emily Riordan, bringing the bleakness to the masses in shows sporting mannequins, gas masks and various awkward costumes.

Growing up with chronic kidney disease informs much of Bittercup’s musical and tonal character, both directly and indirectly.

Spending much of his very early life and sporadic stints thereafter in hospital, Wagstaff had early lessons in patience, reflection and rationalizing certain trauma as neccessary to his overall wellbeing. These early character traits would manifest in his taste in art, music and film.

Growing up in the nineties under the influence of Generation X and it’s bleak outlook, he gravitated heavily towards Marilyn Manson’s aesthetic of alienation and isolation during the ‘Mechanical Animals’ era and the larger post-grunge MTV culture of the time through bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Placebo and the distorted idolatry of Kurt Cobain post-suicide.

Though he tinkered with musical ideas throughout his childhood, he fell into it heavily while studying computer graphic design at Waikato University. His Kidneys began to fail around this time and he discovered Nine Inch Nails’ ‘The Downward Spiral’ as a soundtrack to his own worsening health. As his work and relationships suffered he used the influence of bands like Radiohead, The Mars Volta and A Perfect Circle to inform his own writing and composing. That material formed the basis for what would become Bittercup

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