Scalawag – You On My Mind

I hope we’ve all experienced those hopeless days of infatuation at the start of the best relationships when you can’t get the other out of your head. The very thought of them makes you smile broadly even if you’re miles apart. You can’t wait to spend time with them; you experience butterflies in your tummy just in advance of seeing your partner again. Time spent with them feels so right and you never want it to stop. 

It does of course. The ga-ga feeling that accompanies your stuttering heart is not a sustainable one and probably not a healthy one. Practical realities come back to the fore and you find ways to work out how to be together outside of the first throes of love. Either that or you move on to somebody else so that you can circle back to the hopeless days of infatuation again. A fluttering feeling on repeat. 

Scalawag’s latest single ‘You On My Mind’ is all about those early days in a new relationship. From Vancouver, Teo Saefkow, the man behind Scalawag, explains more in the press release to the song. “I wrote the guitar in 2015, then I waited for 5 years for inspiration to strike for the lyrics” says Teo. “It came one day in early 2020 when I was noodling on the guitar, and I decided to try and make my partner smile. I improvised the lyrics, and they just kinda stuck.

There clearly aren’t enough songs in the world making reference to peanut butter and for that reason alone ‘You On My Mind’ deserves a Sonic Breakfast blogpost about it. It’s also delightfully playful – a gentle acoustic guitar sound merging with a few choice piano flourishes to build into a climax of trumpet and whistles. Sweet, unfettered love sure does sound nice in Teo’s world. He plays all of the instruments himself. “It’s important to me that I create as many of the sounds myself as possible, instead of using stock instruments or samples,“, he says, about the creative process. 

Teo’s having a good, happy year. “2021 has been pretty good so far, there’s a lot of hope in the air, and the weather has been pretty awesome in Vancouver!“, he says when we exchange E-mails. “I’ve been able to write and record a lot, so that’s definitely the biggest highlight. Once the restrictions start to relax I think the first thing I’ll do is just go eat at a restaurant!

The mood around the UK feels similarly positive. Spring is in the air and we wake to blue sky and birdsong. Lockdown relaxations continue to offer improved freedoms (pub anyone?) and I sense a happy Wednesday song will be more than appreciated. 

Elina Filice – First World Problems

We’ve all been there; you’re watching a local band in a bar and thoroughly enjoying their original material when they say those dreaded words – “And now we’re going to do a cover version of one of our favourite songs“. Chances are that it’s a cover version of a song that you really like also. The band think they’re Rock Gods and begin to play completely overlooking the dynamics that made the song initially so great. You have to walk away as you feel the anger rising.

Ok – perhaps we’ve not all been there and maybe it’s just me? But I don’t deal with live covers well. And don’t even get me started on tribute bands. I realise that people gravitate towards familiarity when out and about (or at least did when they could go out). For me, originality is the key.

You won’t find many covers featured on Sonic Breakfast for this very reason. The exceptions to that unwritten rule are that the song is a cover of something so obscure that I’ve never heard the original – or that by covering a song, an artist has bought something new and unique to the table. In this cover of ‘First World Problems’, an unreleased track by Chance The Rapper, Elina Filice ticks both of those boxes.

Fans of Chancelor Johnathan Bennett have long yearned for him to officially release the track he performed live on a TV show. For some reason he never has. Elina has taken the song, rewritten the spoken word verses to make them much more personal to her and simply left the chorus in tact. It’s a complete renovation of an under the radar song. And it’s quite wonderful. 

The song is a critical reflection on the last few years,“, says Elina. “From leaving the comfort and structure of university to figuring out what to do with my life, the struggles of being an artist, searching for meaning, and trying to understand the world around me.

The artist from Canada enlists the help of Dublin-based singer/songwriter, Cat, to provide a haunting backing vocal. This is perhaps none too surprising given that Elina has previously spent much time in Dublin. “Yes I miss (pre-covid) Dublin terribly!“, she says in a short E-mail exchange. “It’s a great city with a vast music/arts scene, not to mention a cheap flight away from anywhere in Europe.

You can’t say fairer than that. Elina Filice, alone in the studio, following dreams and thinking critically about the world recognises it’s a tough and sometimes lonely road. I hazard a guess that regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will be keen to follow. 


Peace Without Victory – Young & Strange

“This is music for outsiders. This is not for people who have never had to think twice about their place in what’s going on around them. It’s music for the long, the lost, the dreamers and the screamers who know there’s something better out there and will never give in until they’ve found it.”

So say Peace Without Victory in the press release for their single ‘Young & Strange’. I’m drawn in and my interest is piqued. It was many years ago when I was growing up but I’m not surprised that many people labelled me ‘intense’ as a teenager. It’s a mark of where my head was at back then that I took such comment as a badge of honour when it was very much not likely to be coming from such a place. In truth, I revelled in my role as an outsider. 

Based just outside of Toronto, Damiano Battiston-Weston is the one-man-band behind Peace Without Victory. ‘Young & Strange’ and the songs from his recent EP, Islands, were all recorded during lockdown in complete isolation at his own studio. It’s perhaps no surprise that the theme of isolation runs rife throughout. This is about “the isolation we all feel during the current pandemic and the longing for a return to “normal life”, but at the same time an examination of what that normal life was really like. We were alone before? How do we rise from this? Who felt that same empathic isolation prior to the tragedies of 2020 and can we better understand those who were ALWAYS alone.”

In terms of sound, Damiano acknowledges that this is something of a departure for him. “It’s the first time I actually set out to make something that one could potentially dance to, or at least gyrate a bit!“, he says within our E-mail correspondence. Damiano doesn’t appear to be the type to get stuck in a genre-specific rut for long with his music though. His chameleon-like abilities are emphasised when he says that “recently I met a new singer who I really clicked with, and encouraged me to really go to extremes with both the rock and electronic portions of my music – lean into the stranger elements that are unique – and given my background in soundtrack composition start to incorporate more orchestral elements. The new album will be called “Season of the Senses”, and given that I am handing off almost 75% of vocal duties to her, it may even be a new entity entirely (incorporating the PWV songs).

A social worker by day, Damiano is overjoyed that he’ll be getting his vaccine this week. It’s a step closer to his dream of “hugging everyone I love to within an inch of their lives and eating inside my favourite Ramen place 🙂 After that it’s a vacation – Italy and Japan! And then live shows, NON stop!“. He does note though that “Canada is… well, not where we should be. We are too small of a population base to have much buying power in terms of Vaccines, so we are behind in vaccination rates.

I’m certainly not as young and probably not as strange as I was when growing up. But I can still use this Monday morning to reflect upon that with a fine track for company. Have a good start to your week. 

WAMI – Life Is Good

Yesterday was a pretty perfect day. Spring was definitely in the air. We went for a weekend walk around Holme Fen, the lowest point in the UK, and were able to breathe in the good, clean air. The peaty mud beneath gave us a bouncy carpet to walk on. At one point, we happened upon a bird hide on the edge of a large lake and paused for a few minutes simply to watch the geese, the ducks and all manner of ornithological dream perform their ballet in front of us. Some swooped down from their flight to make a splash in the water whilst others chirped from the comfort of their small island. Life is good. 

It has to be worth reminding ourselves of that from time to time. On those low days when nothing seems to be going our way it’s helpful to take a step back and a few deep breaths. It’s not about those things that we don’t have or can’t do. When compared to 90% of the people on this planet our lot is likely better. Our irritations are mostly minor; our basic needs fulfilled.

WAMI are an Italian duo creating splendid electronic material. Lorenzo and Federico used to be resident DJs in a club but left their booths a couple of years ago to focus on their jazzy, R&B compositions. Their recent track, ‘Life Is Good’ is an uplifting belter if ever I’ve heard one. The vocalist on this track, Julia Shuren, sent WAMI her rough idea (vocal and piano chords) which was enough to enthuse over. Much remote working followed with Julia re-recording her vocals in her apartment in New York (she studies there) and in her hometown in Canada. 

“”Life is Good” was written with the intentions of lifting people up through this difficult time that the entire world has been going through.”, say WAMI in their press release. “The past year has been bombarded with bad news, and sometimes we need a reminder that it’s going to be alright. We just need to start spreading good vibrations with simple gestures and we hope this song can help lift the spirits of people that need it the most.

From our ensuing E-mail conversation, it’s clear that WAMI are pretty driven in their pursuits.  “Our biggest plan for this year is to create an Italian independent label, in which we can push and promote our artists as harder as we can.“, they say. “Such a big goal, but we’re absolutely motivated! 🙂

They add to this. “And for our musical project WAMI, we have several tracks almost ready to be released, but we have to brainstorm a little just to understand which path choose and which track deserves more that the other. Not a simple job, but essential if we want to keep our identity and to promote to our audience the “right” song.

We got back to the car after our walk at Holme Fen and it wouldn’t go into reverse. We had to call Green Flag to help recover us. This was a blow, an inconvenience that we could do without. And yet, it’s still worth reminding ourselves that ‘Life Is Good’. 


Elena – Build A Ship

We called it the walk of shame. But I don’t think we were really that ashamed when taking the walk. Meandering home wearing your dishevelled gladrags and yesterday’s underwear, your hair astray and your face ruddied, it was a clear giveaway to all and sundry that you had been up to ‘no good’ last night and this morning.

Who was it last night?”, asks your chirpy housemate, up at the crack of dawn and making themselves a healthy fruit smoothie before heading off to work for an early shift. You mumble something incoherent, masking the fact that you can’t entirely recall their name. You make your excuses and move back to your room to slump onto the bed. Your head tells you that your promiscuity is nothing to be proud of as you begin to descend into a prolonged bout of self-loathing. The beautiful aftermath of a one night stand.


Elena’s glorious single, ‘Build A Ship’, captures those post one night stand feelings perfectly. And yet, there’s a lovely twist in the tale as she’s able to spin a positive out of the self-loathing. Back in her bedroom after a night spent with him, Elena finds an old toy ship that she must have had since childhood. And she uses the ship to create her own happy narratives. 

The single itself is a delightful dose of folk-fuelled pop, engaging, melodic and a fine vehicle in which Elena’s warm vocal can shine. It’s quirky enough to avoid any accusation of blandness but familiar enough for you to fall in love with on first listen. 

Elena, born and home-schooled on a cattle farm in Canada, lives in London now but has evidently been on quite a journey to get here. She’s got a busy year ahead “finalizing and releasing all the music created last year, so preparing for lots of projects!“.

Me – I have a busy morning ahead as I get my Lego from the loft.

VISSIA – About Moving On

Sonic Breakfast does like to wallow in the gloom of a maudlin break-up tune from time to time. The very best of the genre allow us opportunity to think back on past relationships that have left us broken-hearted – and to consider how far we’ve come from the teary mess that we were in the immediate aftermath of the relationship ending. Of course, it’s never good practice to listen to break-up songs when you’re still an emotional wreck. That’ll (not to put to fine a point on it) simply end in tears. 

I can still remember the very first time that I heard Sinead O’ Connor’s version of Nothing Compares 2U. Alongside the simplistic, grief-laden, real-time video of Sinead’s headshot, it’s a break-up tune that cannot fail to connect. Even the coldest of hearts must be able to feel the rawness of Sinead’s pain. VISSIA’s ‘About Moving On’ comes from similar stock. 


About Moving On’ started out with this visual I had playing in my mind in slow motion,“, reveals the emerging Canadian artist. “You’re at your favourite bar or pub minding your own business over a pint with friends, and the person who completely shattered your heart walks in. You can hardly breathe, hardly move, and the racing in your chest wants to escape from your mouth, but gets stuck in your throat. You desperately wish you were made of sugar so you could wander out into the rain and melt away.”

I’m sure that we’ve all been in that bar or pub that VISSIA has in her visual. Perhaps we’ve avoided the bar for a few years because our last experience of it was so very painful. But, in reality, avoiding the bar is probably just stunting our natural healing process. “Why would you ever expect a big love to die a small death?”, concludes VISSIA in a never-a-truer-phrase-spoken moment. 

VISSIA is releasing a new song this coming Friday. I did wonder about delaying this post and then doubling up to talk about ‘On My Mind’ as well. “It’s very much on the other spectrum of what VISSIA offers musically“, said her record company when I enquired about the possibility. 

As great as ‘On My Mind’ will be, I choose to give ‘About Moving On’, an intimate and tender break-up song, its very own billing. 

Rime Salmi – Batwanes Beek

It’s always good to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and to embrace new things. As the years advance, it’s one way to stop yourself getting staid or stuck in your ways. There’s so much to discover in this wonderful world and precious little time to find out about it all. Why settle with what you know when around the corner there might be something that can give you even more joy and happiness – as long as you go into it with eyes wide open? 

That is, of course, so true when listening to music. Our tastes are formed young and we keep returning to those tracks of our youth (and songs that sound like them) because of their familiarity. They offer us comfort and it’s easy to see why they might provide our go-to moments.

Sometimes, I like to shake up my listening. I’ll deliberately find tracks from genres that I know next to nothing about and dig into what I find. To a degree, this is how I stumbled upon ‘Batwanes Beek’ by Rime Salmi. I’m very glad I did. A cover of an ‘Arabic classic’ by Warda, Rime has turned the tune into her very own Afro-pop anthem. 


In my ignorance, I know very little about ‘Arabic classics’ or Warda who first released this song. But the internet is such a rich encyclopaedia and Wikipedia such an extensive resource that things don’t stay mysteries for long. 

Warda, the Algerian Rose, was born in Paris to a Lebanese mother and an Algerian father. Her father owned a nightclub and encouraged her to sing patriotic Algerian songs from a young age. A ten year break from singing (her first husband forbade her to) was broken in 1972 when she sang to commemorate Algeria’s independence. After divorcing her grumpy husband, she married again and her career blossomed. She cooked with wine and became something of a superstar commanding a state funeral when she passed away in 2012 aged 73. Warda sounds like she lived a full life of pushing out of her comfort zone. 

Rime Salmi was born in Morocco but raised in Canada. For Rime, it’s clearly very important to both embrace the culture she comes from as well as the one she has grown up in. What we get in this version of ‘Batwanes Beek’ is a vibrant explosion of happy sound. It’s hard not to smile when listening to the spirited joy on offer here – and we all need to smile more now than ever. 

And then there is the video that features Rime and three well-known dancers from Montreal’s LGBTQ scene proudly using the city as an urban catwalk. Rime sums it up better than I ever could when she says that “this video is a scream. This video is a statement. This video is a manifesto. Arab LGBTQ+ people exist, love and love one another… and it’s something to celebrate.” 

Happy hump day – keep being curious.

Nothing Special – Brandi

I’m not coming home yet. I had a flight that was booked at the end of December but it didn’t seem to make a great deal of sense to get on it. England is a grey, drizzly damp squib most January’s but in 2021 the prospects are even worse. With Covid out of control and the country entering into its umpteenth lockdown, it wasn’t a hard decision to make to choose to stay in Spain a little longer. 

Not that it’s a bed of roses here. Weather forecasts for the next week look cold; a daily low of two degrees feels severe when villa’s have no central heating. New Covid lockdown regulations will be coming into play here meaning that bars and restaurants have to close at 5PM and there’s a curfew on the streets from 10. And of course, Brexit means that I’m having to count my days spent here with a 90 day allowance in any rolling 180 being a reality.

Still I’m not coming home. And I’m not the only one. 

Nothing Special are a new pop punk boy band from Ontario. In their incredibly breezy song, Brandi, they also admit to whoever Brandi is that they’re not coming home. We don’t get to learn from where they’re not arriving or indeed who Brandi is in relation to the protagonist but my sense is that this doesn’t matter one jot. 

This is happy, upbeat music made to bring smiles to your face as you recall what it was like to skate around neighbourhoods freely and without care. I reckon we all need some sort of bouncey boost to help get the spring into our January step. And this should do that trick.



Alexandra Streliski – Kings Place – May 7th 2019

Curiosity might have killed the cat. But it’s what keeps me alive. Later this week I’ll be heading to Brighton for my first festival of 2019, The Great Escape. That’ll be a frenetic rush around Brighton trying hard to get a glimpse of the next big thing. I’ll be a child in a sweet shop. 

So, in advance of the anticipated headiness of the next few days, tonight I opt for classical Canadian calm. 

As it happens, Alexandra Stréliski also plays The Great Escape. And, should I want a retreat from the rush, I might well check her out again on the coast. Her set at Kings Place, the multi-use space up by St Pancras, has chill by the bucketloads. This is one show that demands that you drift into a dreamland of your own making. 

Alexandra takes to the stage – a mass of curly brown hair hiding a slightly awkward yet utterly charming manner. She sits by a Steinway grand piano and proceeds to play. Smoke machines provide haze on the proceedings; they obscure Alexandra’s eccentricities. We just about spy her swoops and flourishes. 

Some of the instrumental pieces she plays, always ripe with melody, are accompanied with graphics appearing on a black curtain behind her. Art appears to aid exploration; an old video tape of a joyful Alexandra as a child playing her first keyboard is introduced and we all ponder for a moment on our own lost innocence.

Alexandra’s happy to be in London. She was last here as a fifteen year old and learnt one of life’s lessons when she drank too much alcohol and was hideously ill. This is her minor redemption. She tells all that she’s living a very specific dream by touring her music around the world, no longer a slave to the TV and film companies for whom she used to compose.

It’s meditative in tone; the piano, when played well, can take you away to imaginary places. And in this darkened room I suspect that most of us are shutting our eyes, dreaming our dreams  and focusing on a better future. That a gig can elicit such positivity is no bad thing. 

I add another to my Brighton longlist.. 

JP Hoe – Beautifully Crazy

It was some years ago now that I went, as part of a group of friends, to a Pantomime production in a village hall. I seem to remember that one of my friends very loosely knew somebody connected with the play; they might have had a friend who had a daughter in the chorus or something similar. Whatever, a thing that attracted this group of friends to go en masse to a village hall full of strangers was the pure outlandishness of it all. We were outsiders causing a bit of consternation. “No Janice, I don’t know who they are either”, we heard the lady whisper whilst serving at the tea bar. 

We had such fun at Kirby Muxloe (this was the village hall location) that we established an ambitious plan. Visiting village halls to sample the specific entertainment going on within would become a regular pursuit. Confusing locals with our urban, presence would become our goal. Yes, we even set up a closed Facebook group (The Village Hall Preservation Society) to co-ordinate our aim. 

But, like many of the best-made plans, we never followed through. Life took over and the gigs, plays and quiz nights within our city walls always seemed more exotic. 

A week or so ago I was sent an invite to a gig that’s happening at Medbourne Hall, not far from Leicester. I had to look at Google Maps to check where Medbourne was. The hall website simply says that they’ve got a ‘Canadian Music Artist’ playing next Saturday. 

JP Hoe was a new name to me but I clicked and watched the video to his new song, ‘Beautifully Crazy’. I liked the tune enough to secure tickets to the village hall show. I couldn’t entirely understand why this ‘6 time Western Canadian Music Award nominated’ chap was heading to Medbourne but appreciated that the press release said ‘he has the enviable skill of sounding as good stripped down around a campfire as he does in a soft seat theatre with a full orchestra.’ Above everything, I realised that there’s a talent here who needs supporting as he tours the world.

I think it’s going to make for an interesting Saturday night. Who else is in?