Cleveland's Bittersweet Revenge Aims To Nurture Local Rock Scene

Group performs on February 10 at TempleLive at Cleveland Masonic

click to enlarge Bittersweet Revenge. - Courtesy of Bittersweet Revenge
Courtesy of Bittersweet Revenge
Bittersweet Revenge.
A few years ago, after releasing a full-length, the guys in the local hard rock act Bittersweet Revenge decided to focus on EPs. They conceived a four-EP cycle that the group has now nearly completed.

“Full-length projects for smaller bands that are unsigned are hard to do,” says drummer DJ Smith in a recent conference call with guitarist Tommy Farkas. Bittersweet Revenge performs at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10, at TempleLive at Cleveland Masonic along with Inducing Panic, Southbound Beretta, Psycho Plantation, regional bands it selected specifically for the gig. “People like faster releases. It’s all about doing singles and EPs, and people want steady content. That’s where the idea came from. I was brainstorming and thought this would be four separate merchandising releases. It’s a good idea all around.”

The band began back in 2016 when Smith and Marc Kourcklas, the group’s original singer and guitarist, began working together.

“We were in Level 5 in the Steelyard and found bassist Angel Vasquez and his best friend, guitarist Jake Jekyll,” says Smith.

The band’s first LP followed in 2017.

"Don DeBiase helped us record our debut, and he was great,” says Smith. “He does work with Mushroomhead and Black Veil Brides. We had mutual friends. I helped him and his girlfriend move, and he helped us cut a few songs in exchange. Next thing you know, it turned into a whole album. That was cool working with him on that.”

Replacing Kourcklas, who tragically passed away, wasn't easy, but guitarist Tommy Farkas and vocalist Mike Patton became the obvious choice.

"Mike Patton brings a dynamic and distinct singing style along with powerful lyrics," says Farkas.

One highlight in the band's career came this past summer when the group performed at Inkcarceration, the annual metal festival held in Mansfield.

“The sound on that stage was amazing,” says Farkas when asked about the experience. “They had it set up really well. We were playing in the shadow of Shawshank Prison, and the whole vibe of it was pretty spectacular. We played with Highly Suspect, and Megadeth played that weekend. To have your name on that bill is pretty damn cool.”

The new lineup delivered the first EP, A Love Once Lost, in 2021. Forgotten Tales and Turmoil followed. Heartache, the final EP in the series, is currently in the works. Each EP has five tracks.

A song such as “Rabbit Hole” displays the band’s affinity for accessible hard rock. Patton sings more than he screams, and the complex guitar riffs sound like something you might hear in a Helmet tune.

“We’re aiming at the modern rock/alternative stuff a little bit like Royal Blood and Highly Suspect,” says Smith when asked about the band's influences. “We find ourselves catching a lot of inspiration from guys like that. We play with a lot of metal bands locally, but there’s not a huge rock scene. I’m working on that and trying to get together the rock bands that are here and going to shows and trying to build the scene. People want to hear that stuff, but it’s just not a thing here. That’s one of my goals. Cleveland is the rock ’n’ roll city, after all.”
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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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