- 10 Sep 19
See Emily Play
Described as both “Nancy Sinatra on Ketamine” and “a 21st century Patti Smith”, Bristolian Emily Breeze’s debut solo record, Rituals, is, as she says herself, “an album of slow, sad songs, laced with black humour. It’s quite melodramatic, and almost cartoonish. There are songs about the Christian UFO suicide cult Heaven's Gate and the serial killer Aileen Wuornos. There's a lot of big characters and transgressive subject matter.”
Singles ‘Work’ and ‘Ego Death’ take aim at the curse of having to actually toil for a living, being forced to do something soul destroying just to pay bills.
“Those two songs touch on a period when I was being crushed under a relentless tsunami of admin, in a very stressful job role,” Emily remembers a scenario we can all relate to. “I felt my life disappear and I stopped doing music. I just created a very camp, exaggerated melodrama out of those experiences on a long rainy miserable bus ride. I have an enormous amount of respect for people who work very hard for a living, but I think there's a lot to criticise about the relentless drive for growth in the late capitalist era and the lack of focus on well-being. Teaching young people how to be good little capitalists as opposed to teaching well-being and philosophy and critical thinking and how to use social media safely.”
Breeze previously swung at the piñata with Stooges/Velvets/Suicide noise makers Candy Darling, and almost connected.
“I'd only just started doing music when I was 22, so I didn't have very high expectations but it built up, we worked with The Strokes’ producer and had EMI on the phone. We got played on Radio One and I thought "Oh my God! this is it! it's all going to happen!" Fuck all happened. They’re the common war stories that all musicians have.”
The new music might seem to be from a different place, but Emily doesn’t completely agree.
“I've been doing this a while so if I continued to create music in the same style, I'd be a bit of a boring bastard. It's superficial though, it’s just make-up. Candy Darling had more of a post punk grinding dissonance but beneath that the themes and ideals behind the songs and the approach has always stayed the same.”
Once Candy Darling closed up shop, Breeze stepped away, but what’s in the blood is in the blood.
“I took a couple of years out, I was quite disillusioned with music in general until I realised the only thing worse than doing music is not doing music, and that's where a lot of those songs came from. I was getting older, I was doing a job I didn't really want to be doing and those sorts of situations spawn very good ideas actually. If all you're doing is music you're not really having that many experiences that people can relate to.”
Now that she’s a bit older and wiser, expectations are tempered and more realistic. Kind of.
“There's a boring answer and a completely fantastical delusional answer,” she reckons. “The boring answer is I just want people to hear the songs and to walk in this weird world that I've created. If more people engage with what you do in a positive way you can potentially monetise it, giving you more time to do it. I know people who were really successful, part of heritage acts from the nineties, really talented, who'll never be able to pay their rent through music. It's pretty bleak if you focus on that kind of success, the limousine super star kind of thing. For my sanity, I just take the idea that it's going to pay the rent out of the equation. That doesn't mean you don’t try to make that happen, but it can ruin the very beautiful, creative side of music, which is why we all got into it in the first place.”
On the other hand though…
“The ridiculous answer is I'd like to overdose at a Malibu pool party surrounded by oiled up gardeners!”
In order to make that pool party dream a reality, Breeze has enlisted Stew Jackson on production duties. His C.V. – Massive Attack, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, and Nick Cave – pretty much sums up where the singer is coming from.
“Leonard Cohen's not in there - I think he died before Stew could get his hands on him, and maybe Lou Reed as well, but yeah. For me a great song has to be three things - sad, funny, and sexy. You can have two of those elements and it can be a good song but if you've got all three then it's a great song. And I think the best work of all those guys sums those three things up. It isn't really sadness though, it's a sort of sensual, velvety, melancholia - very romantic and beautiful.”
As should be obvious, Emily is a tad larger than life and, as it turns out, she didn’t lick it up off the road. Beloved scribbler and booze hound Brendan Behan was her maternal grand uncle.
“His brother Brian was my granddad, so the connection was always there. I think his gift is just a great love of words, and a confidence around words. It was expected that we could make art and we didn't feel that we had to get permission to do it. There's a lot of irreverence and romanticism and rebelliousness that comes from that side of the family, and from the Behan women too. My auntie Janet Behan wrote a play called Brendan At The Chelsea that had Adrian Dunbar in it, and my mother, Ruth Behan, has just started writing and had a short story published in the Irish Times called Stalin On The Mantlepiece. Everybody's creative. Ireland seems to be good like that, there's much less of a class system and people seems to be in touch with arts and culture. We're all fairly loud too!”
Rituals is out now.