The duo talks about finding their sound, belonging to a genre, and the meaning behind their newest single ‘Stand’.
With the current lockdown in place my meeting with Before Breakfast begins with blurry screens and muffled voices; not a setting fit to inspire the complex conversations one seeks during interviews. Fortunately, like with their confessional music, in our conversation the girls are unapologetic and animated in their opinions, needing little prompt to delve deep into talks about music, genre, and womanhood.
Gina Walters and Lucy Revis have been band-mates for the past four years but their friendship begun more than a decade ago while studying music at University of Sheffield. While making music together for Before Breakfast has been a relatively new journey for both of them, their years in the music industry have been many; Gina has played in venues in England, France and even Japan with her previous band, Screaming Maldini, while Lucy is the head of a music school, has been a part of many orchestras with her cello and performed with various UK artists, including British rock band Elbow.
They are the first to say they are good, more as a way to show that it’s okay to think that than as a self-gratifying statement. “I think, as women, we’re not encouraged to do that. To say, you know what? I’m good at this.” says Gina, the lead singer, and songwriter of the duo.
Their music brings the word kaleidoscopic to mind; it conjures up colours blending together in an effortless symphony and has the air of a play with a script that cuts deep. They credit their flair for atmospheric sounds to Bjork and Kate Bush while Gina lists the indie folk band Villagers as her lyrical crush. However, when I point out that none of these artists seems to encapsulate the sound of Before Breakfast Gina seems to agree. A lot of the inspiration behind their music is ‘situational’, she says.
“I like a lot of sad songs and pretty lyrics but I also think you could be inspired by stuff that is absolutely not musical. And then maybe inspiration came from being in bands that weren’t meant for me in the past, from finally writing music that was written for me.”
For Lucy, who contributes the ethereal cello melodies and back-up vocals, the band has been an escape from the overly directed music she produced in the past. “In Before Breakfast it’s okay to make weird noises and make it sound strange,” she says. “No one’s going to go ‘oh you know could you…get rid of that bit?’”
Their love for experimenting with sounds had a radio plugger once admitting ‘we don’t really know what they are’, and I have to agree. Their sound seems to alter slightly with every song they produce. In their EP, Open Ears, Gina’s soulful voice smooths over lyrics bleeding insecurity and anger, while the intertwining melodies carry elements of jazz, pop, and indie folk. The girls are right, no one genre is dominant, but the result is nonetheless a wondrous, theatrical masterpiece to my ears.
“When you’ve grown up doing music your entire life…it was quite new to me that people were obsessed with genres.” says Gina. “It’s completely alien to me. I don’t really know how it matches up to what we make.”
She considers genre an ‘umbrella’ that leads people to other music, but nonetheless one they could never fit under. Yet, maintaining their creative freedom seems to also have come with some obstacles as a seemingly frustrated Lucy admits it’s tougher to break out to a new audience when you don’t know ‘how to pitch your own song’ (“A part of me thinks life might be just a little easier if we just wrote easier songs to listen to,” she says.).
The girls have done what most artists brave to do in later albums; create music they desire. A couple years back, Ariana Grande admitted in an interview that her third album, Dangerous Woman, was the first one she could include songs that meant something to her. Similarly, Radiohead first established themselves as a solid presence in the rock world before starting to experiment with their sound and coming up with the ground breaking, music industry-altering OK Computer. It is a recipe musicians have followed for decades, but the Before Breakfast duo seems to not be one to stick to the status quo.
They are a female-led band but you won’t find many love songs in their album. Like Pink, Ani Difranco, or more recently Halsey, their songs seek to empower, talk candidly of insecurities and self-acceptance, and are unapologetically female. Their most recent song, ‘Stand’, describes the inner struggle of reaching 30 and not having –or knowing if you want- what society expects you to; a family and a home of your own. The song comes from a place of personal turmoil that many women can connect to and Lucy admits it’s a daily battle to decide whether to be sad or okay about it.
“I don’t have a house but that’s okay because I like where I live.” She says. “If I had a boyfriend who is committed and loving and wanted a child then renting a flat wouldn’t be okay. So which one can I solve to make me feel more like an adult? I have to constantly work to try and validate that I’m single and houseless and childless.”
Gina thinks this can be attributed to being the first generation of women to not prioritise relationships and choosing to have children later. “We haven’t had anyone to look up to that presented that as an option,” she says. “And a valid option, rather than the old maid/ artsy lady that lives in a house with five cats.”
Now, like many other artists, they are secluded in the comfort of their homes, their scheduled tour for April a forgotten dream. Frustration is evident in their faces as they both admit that making music has felt almost impossible when trying to keep their business as music teachers afloat. However, while you won’t be able to attend one of their gigs any time soon, you can catch up with them on social media where they host live performances and online tarot readings (because ‘why not’). One thing is certain, these girls make for an unpredictable force together and the world hasn’t seen the last of them yet.
Find Before Breakfast on their website: https://www.beforebreakfast.co.uk/