Dan Fitzpatrick lives something of a musical double life. On the one hand, he’s a gravelly-vocalled, poetic, semi-solo artist who goes by the name of ‘Badhands’. On the other, he produces beautiful ethereal tunes designed to provide the backing track to documentaries, sounds that have appeared on the BBC, RTE, and American broadcaster PBS.
His 2022 album ‘Far Away’, as such, comes a full four years after his debut release ‘Predictable Boy’, and is vibrant yet sorrowful, with themes like isolation, but also lightheartedness and optimism. Between the two records came ‘Oceans’, a kind of environmental record that used the world’s great bodies of water as inspiration. Fitzpatrick is, in short, colourful, varied, and knows how to grasp a theme.
“I would say that ‘Far Away’ generally has a bigger sound than the first record, ‘Predictable Boy’,” Fitzpatrick says. “There were a few songs on the first album that were a little more sparse, solo efforts, compared to this record where everything features the whole band. The record also features a little more use of electronic instruments, as I was getting a bit more into synths while we were making it, though they’re mainly just used subtly and texturually on the album.”
“The vocal sound is a little different too; I experimented a bit with double tracking vocals, possibly as I just had so much time at home to work on them. I was aiming to get them sounding a bit like the John Lennon Plastic Ono Band album.”
“I recorded a lot of the vocals in my bedroom during the full on lockdown early last year, and there were times when it was difficult to get into the studio to work with the band, which was frustrating,” he continues. “It was definitely a more sporadic way of operating given the circumstances.”
“I just had to do what I could at home and get into the studio whenever the restrictions eased up. But a good bit of the work was also done before Covid hit, and that was much the same as the previous album, working with the same musicians: Chris Barry, Aoife Ruth, Tom Cosgrave and Ken Mooney.”
In fact, despite the obviously different goals, Fitzpatrick sees plenty of parallels between his Badhands records, and the work on documentary music.
“It actually wasn’t as much of a change of scene as I thought it would be,” he says. “I’ve always tried to make music that was a little bit soundscapey or cinematic, so working on soundtracks was really a chance to go further down that road. It definitely involves a different way of working though.”
“One of the main differences is not having to write lyrics, which I find sort of liberating. I like just being able to focus on the music. Also your goals are very different when composing for documentaries, the main focus is getting the music to serve the film, and trying to complement what’s going on on screen. I’m generally working simultaneously on both in some shape or form, and I like being able to switch between the two formats, as it provides a nice bit of variety.”
“We’re quite close to finishing album number three, so once the current album comes out I’ll be pretty focused on getting that one finished,” he continues. “I have quite a lot of songs written and a couple of ideas for recording projects I want to do over the next few months; I want to do more work that blends the styles of the soundtrack work and the Badhands recordings, the way my Oceans EP did.”
“We’ll also be doing a tour of the UK and Ireland in the Autumn and releasing some new music around then. I plan to do some more soundtrack work as well, so I’m hoping it will be a pretty busy year!”