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Before Breakfast: Folk? Chamber pop? Local three-piece talk plans

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When I first saw that Before Breakfast had released their debut EP back in April, I was surprised. I'd seen them perform a couple of brilliant sets and their name already felt like a staple in Sheffield's live music circles.

For those who haven't been lucky enough to experience their music live over the last couple of years, I'm delighted to publicise that not only do the band now have an EP available, Open Ears, but are also in the process of writing and recording their first full-length studio album.

I managed to speak with Gina (lead vocals) and Lucy (cello, backing vocals), amid their busy schedules and over a temperamental phone line, about what they have going on over the summer.

For those who don't already know you, tell us a bit about Before Breakfast.

[Lucy:] We're a three-piece band from Sheffield. We have cello, keys, lead vocals and both me and Debra do backing vocals too. We went to university together and Gina and Deb have been in a band together before. So we started two or three years ago, sort of meeting up and Gina giving us some ideas, then we worked together on some arrangements to get the songs we have now. We released an EP about two months ago called Open Ears.

How did you find doing your first recording?

[Lucy:] It was really fun. We went to Banbury and did some recording there at Woodworm Studios and then we did some in Sheffield as well. It was a really good bonding experience to be able to record together with Andy Bell and Nick Cox. We're about to do some more recording starting next week.

So how would you describe the band's sound or genre?

[Gina:] We always struggle with that question to be honest. People have said chamber pop but we don't really agree with that. People have said folk - we don't really agree with that either. I'd just say strong melody-based songs with loads of harmonies, which is a really important part of our songs, then obviously featuring the cello, which is classical-inspired but we try to do it with a twist.

as a band we all love my mum because she is just our biggest fan

Lyrically your music centres around being a woman and female experiences. Was that an important aspect of creating a band for you all?

[Gina:] It was never a goal from the beginning. I started writing songs just out of the need to write songs again after a long break and it just grew from there. It was never my full intention. I think it's just because we were so worried about writing in general, about being judged, having to write songs about X, Y and Z.

I think I decided quite early on that I didn't want to write songs about boys. You read the interviews about Taylor Swift being told off for writing love songs, but Ed Sheeran doesn't get told off for writing love songs. And I think there is an element of truth to that, so I think it was maybe born out of not wanting to give space to that, to relationships and boys - not be seen as that kind of weak character. Not to say that's what I think that is, but I couldn't help feel that pressure at the beginning.

I don't give it the same gravitas anymore, but I think if there's the opportunity to give space to other subjects, and other things that will bring discussion or can support and lift up somebody else in a situation, then that should be done.

Who are some of your own female role models?

[Gina:] I'm currently loving Lizzo. I love Rachel Bloom. She's a musical theatre and television writer and singer. She recently finished her series, My Crazy Ex Girlfriend. That whole show is amazing and she's incredible. I'm also loving Rebecca Taylor (Self Esteem), and what she's been through and what she created from the ashes. It's so brave and so bold. She deserves every success. It's really exciting to watch her career develop and grow.

Outside of music I'm sure there are lots of others.

[Lucy:] I have the obvious one, which is my mum. I think as a band we all love my mum because she is just our biggest fan. Everything cool that I do is 90% for me and 10% for my mum.

Have you had a nice positive reception to the EP?

[Lucy:] Yeah it went down really well. We were put on a Spotify playlist called 'Lost In The Woods', which boosted the single that came after the EP, so we then got lots of listens to the EP itself after that. It was a stepping stone to the next big thing.

And now you're working on an album.

[Gina:] Yes, we are. We've started working on it. To be honest though, we haven't even written it yet. We're hoping to work on it over the next six months or so. We've decided to work with a studio in Sheffield that works really well. We've had some interesting experiences in the past and found that you need a safe space and something that is both productive but also really relaxed and encourages creativity. Especially being women in the studio. They're not places that necessarily make you feel confident as a woman. You're always surrounded by men - confident men.

It reminds me of GCSE music, where the boys would be playing on the computers and I sang songs. I was repelled by technology because that was what the boys did. I've always personally found it quite difficult to be in the studio without feeling quite repressed or intimidated, so finding a space where that isn't the first thing I feel has always been really important to me. I think we've found a really good space with Chris and George at Fox Den Studios.

We're [...] going on a writing retreat to a Havan caravan park

Do you think you're taking a different approach?

[Gina:] I would say yes, in that I've been a bit of a control freak in my writing over the last couple of years, and I wouldn't really invite or openly want everybody to come in with ideas of their own. I know a lot of people do work like that and it's fine, but I think that there has been a need for everybody to have their own voice and stamp on the music. We want something more collaborative.

How has your experience of Tramlines been?

[Gina:] We played on Sunday at the BBC Introducing Stage. We've been involved in Tramlines since day one. It's changed and evolved so much over the years. It's insane. This is the first time we'll have been down to Hillsborough. It's not aimed at me anymore and I'm at peace with that. There is always so much other stuff happening in the Fringe across the city.

Where can we find you performing this summer?

[Gina:] This summer we're doing a festival somewhere in Banbury on 10 August, but that won't be of much use to you!

We're doing a house show in Sheffield on 27 August to help raise funds for the album. We're actually going on a writing retreat to a Havan caravan park soon. There's going to be a pool and Butlins-style entertainment every night. We're going to write in the caravan in the day then go and drink White Zinfandel and watch terrible tribute acts in the evening.

So this album could sound significantly different to the last EP.

[Lucy:] Yeah, maybe. We'll see whatever comes out of that. Then whatever we do write we're going to perform at this house show, so it's going to be quite a vulnerable performance.

Tasha Franek

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