Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Work”?
“Work” is out now on all digital platforms and we have described it as the soundtrack to the world gradually falling apart in an absurd state of late capitalism, insurmountable admin, antidepressants and unreachable targets.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
The lyrics to this song emerged a few years ago when I had given up being in a band (I do this every few years then realise that the only thing worse than being in a musician is NOT being a musician). I was drowning under a tsunami of emails and administrative tasks in a stressful job role and felt utterly overwhelmed and estranged from my former life. The line “I can’t come and see your band tonight” came from a text message I sent to one of my friends who invited me to a gig. This developed into a camp melodrama in which I cast myself as one of those Wall Street banker types all jacked up on stimulants and greed who would happily put a puppy in a blender for a promotion. This song is in no way a criticism of people who work hard for a living. I have an enormous amount of respect for that and am proud of my own achievements in this area. It is more a criticism of the endless drive for growth and how a person’s worth can be measured against their status and earning potential.
Any plans to release a video for the track?
Yes, we have made a video with the wonderful Marcus Way. I’m not gonna give the game away yet but I will say that it involves a lot of blood and a toe curlingly sharp axe.
The single comes off your new album Rituals – what’s the story behind the title?
It comes from a line in the song “Book of Longing”. Concerning love, “I’m practised in the rituals/I know the symbols I know the signs”. It has an occult connotation and there is a Joseph Campbell thread here too about symbolism and archetypes although I was also thinking about daily rituals like putting on makeup or traveling to work. Mundane and repetitive acts which form the patterns and pathways of our personal mythology. Most of all though, I was stuck for a title and my friend Louis suggested it. Thanks Louis.
How was the recording and writing process?
I wrote a lot of the songs in a strange time where I had broken up from a five year relationship and moved into a tiny box room on the other side of town far from my friends and familiar drinking dens. I had largely given up on music but the aforementioned crushing job and social isolation spawned some strong ideas and there I was, back in the bloody game.
The writing process itself involved drinking wine, wailing away on a reverb drenched telecaster, reading quotes from my favourite writers and wrenching songs out of the void. I am not one of those “I woke up and this song just poured out of me in one piece” types. It is a gruelling distillation process in which I drag fragments of ideas around until they form something I can get excited about.
I am very lucky in that all of the songs are put through the prism of the excellent musicians I surround myself with. Lead guitar player Rob Norbury co wrote 4 songs on the album and he and all of the members of the band Andy Sutor (drums), Graham Dalzell (bass), Duncan Fleming (keys) have had a huge impact on the arrangements and ideas. This adds a vivid colour to the songs which I cannot achieve alone. I am not being self deprecating. I rate myself as a songwriter but I have been in this game long enough to understand that an idea has more depth when you allow others into the process. Unless you are Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan is a glorious anomaly.
We tracked the album in three days at the legendary Rockfeild studios which was a privilege and pleasure and also a little intimidating as it is much more high spec than my usual haunts. It’s on a working farm in Wales and is residential so you can eat together, drink together and record late into the night. It has state of the art cutting edge equipment alongside beautiful vintage gear and an excellent in house engineer Joe Jones. One of the highlights was seeing Duncan resplendent in pvc trousers and black string vest playing the very same shiny black Bosendorfer grand piano that Freddie Mercury used on Bohemian Rhapsody.
What was it like to work with Stew Jackson and how did that relationship develop?
I have known Stew for over ten years. He was introduced to me by a mutual friend and produced my first E.P and album. he has always believed in me and my songs and we share a sick sense of humour and an endless fascination with music. Stew is an inspirational producer who is relentlessly committed to getting the best out of an artist and realising their vision to the highest possible standard. A world class talent who combines technical excellence with wild creativity, he also knows when to be nurturing and supportive and when to push and challenge.
How much did he get to influence the album?
The sound and style of the album was largely set by myself and the band in the rehearsal room although Stew shares a lot of the same influences and had an implicit understanding of what we were trying to achieve which allowed him to embellish and enhance the sound as well as having crucial arrangement ideas and performance advice. I know Stew’s back catalogue really well and I reckon I would be able to detect his production on anything. There is a certain luxurious sheen and romantic melodrama which he tends to draw out and this is deeply woven into the texture of Rituals. To put it simply Stew is a shit hot producer who produced, recorded and mixed the album really fucking well so it sounds great.
What role does Bristol play in your music?
Bristol is an eccentric town which loves to champion the underdog. We don’t wait for the industry to give us permission here, put on their own nights and create our own scenes. Trying to pull off a successful record release with no financial backing is extremely challenging and I am frequently moved by the people of Bristol’s goodwill, generosity and support. There is much more to the music scene here than the (albeit legendary and much loved) 90’s behemoths Portishead and Massive Attack. It’s been thrilling to see Idles go from boys about town to bona fide rock stars and if you scrape the underbelly there are also legions of absolutely brilliant acts who are unlikely to ever penetrate any sort of chart or playlist and to us they are equally as valid and important.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
Other than the overarching influence of the elder states people of song (Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith and Nick Cave). There is also a wavey tropical sadness present in the sound which has a 50’s/60’s flavour (The Flamingos, Julie London, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Les Baxter) alongside plastic synths and electronic drums sounds are influenced by Pulp, L.C.D Soundsystem and Prefab Sprout.
Lyrically, other than my own weird world in which I take personal experiences and twist them into some sort of overblown apocalyptic melodrama, I also like deviants and anti heroes, I used actual quotes from serial killer Aileen Wurnonos and Marshall Applewhite the leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult who each get a song. The album is also laced with lines from renegade writers from Don Delilo to John Paul Sartre which makes me sound very literary but really I’m just a grubby little opportunist as all good artists should be.
Any plans to hit the road?
Upcoming dates are as follows
6th Sept – Loko Klub – Bristol w/Thought Forms and War Against Sleep
22nd Sept – The Exchange – Bristol w/Jim Jones and the Righteous mind
27th Sept – The Queens Head – Box
19th Oct – The Lexington – London w/DSM IV
25th Oct – The Royal Oak – Bath
What else is happening next in Emily Breeze’s world?
I am working on a stripped back solo set purely for practical reasons as transporting a five piece band around the country is expensive and I need to tour the record extensively. I am also enjoying working with the band on songs for our next album which we plan to record early next year.