Swirling lights reflected off the disco ball that hung from the ceiling of the Inchicore Sports and Social Club.
It was 12.30am and Osaro Azams stalked the stage in a black cape. She writhed and twisted and stretched out an arm to beckon in the audience.
By her side, in a black suit and sunglasses, producer Lizzie Fitzpatrick towered over a modular synthesiser and laptop, generating an ominous drone.
Azams sang over it, almost moaning: “I just want to feel like me again”, and as a hammering electronic beat crept into the mix, she let loose a cackle.
At her feet, an audience whooped and screamed.
The 25 October show – part of the dramatic conclusion to an edition of the queer cabaret night Spicebag – was just the second live outing for 7of9, as Fitzpatrick and Azams call their duo, paying homage to the TV series, Star Trek: Voyager.
The set was brief and raw. But a strong sense of theatricality shone through the lo-fi exterior.
Four songs in eighteen minutes, blending gothic and industrial music with swampy ambient soundscapes, feral punk and prayers.
Just showing up for a gig isn’t enough, Fitzpatrick said later.
They write with a show in mind. “It’s about elevating a band to make it more of a performance,” she says.
The Monday after, Azams and Fitzpatrick were sat in the dimly lit Thomas House pub in the Liberties.
As the speakers blare ’70s and ’80s hard rock, they both laughed in bemusement as they talked about the crowd in Inchicore mouthing along to tracks, scarcely two months old.
The two had known each other nearly a decade before they started to write music together, Fitzpatrick says.
They met while making and selling clothes to Lucy’s Lounge, a vintage store in Temple Bar.
“It was in the years when upcycling was very popular,” Fitzpatrick says to Azams, who laughs at having not thought about this for a long while.
In 2014, Fitzpatrick formed rock trio Bitch Falcon, who released their debut album Staring at Clocks in 2020 and split the following year.
Azams says she veered towards poetry, founding in 2016 Fried Plantains Collective, a community development project which organised LGBT, feminist and African-related social events.
Over the pandemic, Fitzpatrick branched away from guitar-driven music, developing an electronic side project called Coolgirl in early 2020. “It was a lot more darkwave, synthwave kinda stuff.”
Azams became more active as a musician, recording an album and forming BLACKMAGICRAWr, an ambient experimental trio.
“I used to organise events, and as much as I loved that, I knew I just wanted to put my own bits in the music pot,” she says.
She shot a short film titled Obsidian Black, which screened as part of the Gaze Film Festival, and it was at this time that she approached Fitzpatrick to be a producer.
“I was too busy,” Fitzpatrick says to Azams. “And you were like, ‘I’m doing a gig.’”
It was going to be a once-off, Azams says, and over two weeks, they developed a short set.
It all flowed naturally, Fitzpatrick says. “Osaro had all of these really cool vocal loops she had recorded. So, I chopped them up and built tracks naturally around it, and yeah, it was different, very different from Bitch Falcon.”
“It was just …” she pauses, looking at Azams for a moment. “Us.”
Stephen Quinn, co-founder of the Spicebag performance night, saw 7of9 at their debut in Fibber Magees on Parnell Street in late August.
He was more than familiar with the two of them as individual artists, he says, having seen Bitch Falcon numerous times, and having worked with Azams on previous Spicebag nights.
“She did a drag act for us,” he says. “She had a big handlebar moustache on, and lip synced a song. She was bare chested, a huge energy on the stage.”
The Fibbers gig, he says, captivated him. “They’re pretty electric together. Osaro was such a magnetic presence. She’s a hybrid performer.”
Within hours of the performance, snippets were being shared on social media, including a blistering and memorable high-tempo track based around a poem Azams penned about Dublin’s seagulls.
“I’ll shit on your face. I will shit on your sambo, I’ll rob it, I’ll steal it, I’ll vomit it back on your face,” she chanted over a minimalist, bouncing beat. “I am a seagull. I am the law.”
There had been a handful of technical difficulties at the show, prompting 7of9 to improvise a bit, Quinn says. “They’re actually really funny too, and they’ll go from banter to something very intense.
That sold him on booking them for Spicebag, he says. “They know how to whip up the energy in a room, and that’s very much what Spicebag is about.”
In Inchicore, 7of9 brought doom-laden gothic dance and over-the-top horror visuals.
Azams laced through a lyrical reinterpretation of the memoir of New Orleans author Luisah Teish. Fitzpatrick’s accompanying drumbeats rattled from her laptop like a train speeding through fog.
Azams’ voice grew in fury until a microphone seemed redundant. She gazed out onto the rapt crowd through red contact lenses and said: “Submissive, just the way I like them!”
The tabled cabaret night had descended into a pit of people thrashing about, shouting in unison with her, “I am a seagull, I am the law!”
Every Gig, an Event
The reception to the duo’s Spicebag slot was gratifying, Azams said, particularly because they had not been actively cultivating an online presence. “I don’t want this magic lost right now.”
Fitzpatrick says they want something tangible and theatrical, and that gains traction by word-of-mouth or some online version of it. “It’s about feeling like there is something going on, that you need to go to.”
They want gigs to feel more like an event, Azams says, pointing to her upbringing attending Methodist church sermons. “I love that influence, with its singing, chanting, everyone eating food afterwards, and people dressing up. It’s an occasion.”
Not every gig needs to be an occasion, Azams says. “But living in Dublin, there are less and less fun things happening. I just want to dress up, hang out with my mates and entertain people.”
7of9 doesn’t want to do anything by half, she says. “We’re both image conscious and with intention towards how we look in the world.”
“It’s cool when we have ideas like, this is how we’re going to be onstage, having a vampire-mafia-future-alien-baby theme,” Azams says.
Says Fitzpatrick: “We’re natural performers, so this comes very easy to us. We love just getting stuck into it.”