Bitter Defeat began as a lo-fi solo recording project of Rob Shirlow. They took their name from a song by Brisbane band Kitchen's Floor, who played in Hamilton in July 2016. The initial recording by Bitter Defeat, called Superior Avoidance Tactics, appeared on BandCamp in June 2016. Subsequent songs appeared on the website sporadically, with Better released in January 2017 and Hummer in July 2017.
A live band was initiated in early 2018, which went through several line-up changes before settling on Shirlow (vocals), Julian White (also of The Scones, Kitchenette; bass), Sam Brockelsby (ex-Ancient Tapes, Elephant Facelift; guitar), Ben Manning (guitar), Ian Duggan (ex-Spatula Death; casiotone) and Kathryn Thompson (drums).
Their debut performance was on 17 August 2018, supporting Landlords and Auckland band Swallow the Rat at Nivara Lounge. The recordings from the gig were released on BandCamp on 19 August as Live Beneath a Gravel Streak. The following week, the band played Circle Jerk 2018 at The Meteor, with their full performance being uploaded to YouTube. Following this time they have also played the 3rd Annual HUP Xmas Party in December 2018, and support for Hamish Kilgour in February 2019.
After a hiatus of several months due to an injury to their drummer, during which time Brockelsby left the band, Bitter Defeat returned to the stage on 27 June 2019 to support John Davis (ex-Folk Implosion) at Nivara Lounge, with Dean Ballinger filling in on drums. With this lineup they also played Nivara Lounge with Repairs (Auckland), First Move (Palmerston North) and Flogging a Dead One Horse Town (Tauranga) on 16 August, and with The Wilberforce's and Swallow the Rat at The Wine Cellar in Auckland on 17 August.
Following the return of Thompson to the band, they supported The Bats with Matthew Bannister at Nivara Lounge on 6 March 2020.
- Bitter Defeat Interview, Hamilton Underground Press, 20 August 2017 
- Bitter Defeat Interview, Hamilton Underground Press, 6 February 2019