Hanssøn – No Drama Llama

Back last year when the initial lockdowns hit, we took to weekend walking. Too busy during the working week to muster much of a stroll, we looked forward to the weekend when we’d get out to explore local footpaths and tracks. Places previously taken for granted came alive on our short hikes; we discovered small fishing lakes on our doorstep, geological wonders and an abundance of nature. Our horizons might have been shrinking but our interests were growing; there was beauty to behold in a single blade of grass.

One walk sticks in my mind. A seemingly endless meander along a towpath gave way to a clearing just over a slight hump. A white cottage in the distance shimmered in the early evening sunlight. And fenced off in the well-treed garden of the cottage which ran parallel to our path was a field of llamas – or were they alpacas? This was not what we expected to see on a Saturday stroll in Lincolnshire. It is not a common sight. 

On returning home, I spent an hour or two, with the net as my resource, trying to understand the differences between llamas and alpacas. I wanted to find out more about both animals. What makes them tick and why did I stumble upon them in that Lincolnshire field? I never did find out why they were there. I suspect we spied alpacas rather than llamas given the physiological differences between the two. Previously, I’d thought that llamas were only good for spitting and wool. I was wrong on that front. 

 

Hanssøn likes llamas. She tells me about her experience filming the video for ‘No Drama Llama’ when we exchange E-mails in advance of this post. 

Making the video was quite surreal.”, she says. “When I wrote the track, my producer was like “Dude you’ve GOTTA shoot a video with some llamas” and logistically and with the pandemic, it seemed like such a far out idea that I couldn’t even conceptualise it, but once I started digging around, a lot of things opened up – I’m based in NYC and I found a lot of the llama farms were at least 1.5 – 3 hours away. And lots of the farms were mainly for alpacas rather than llamas even though I was google searching “llama farm”. But eventually I made contact with Bev at Second Wind Llamas and when we spoke on the phone I pitched her this idea, sent through the lyrics and the song, and we agreed on it. She mentioned that the lyrics in the song “Thank you to my healers” caught her attention because she finds her Llamas to be quite affectionate and healing for certain visitors, and on the day of the shoot, shared with me stories and experiences of this.”

I love this idea that llamas have healing powers. It stands to reason really. Horses are increasingly used in equine therapy sessions so why not llamas (and alpacas)? A friend with a field is desperate to get himself an alpaca so convinced is he of their general health benefits. He could be onto something.

No Drama Llama, a synth pop gem about trying to find some peace whilst feeling alien(ated), is just one track from Hanssøn’s ‘Phases’ project. With a work ethic to envy, Hanssøn has been releasing new music every two weeks at full moon and new moon. She admits that having the focus has kept her going. “My family are all in Australia and I haven’t seen them since 2019...”, she mentions. “So having something to ground me in the USA such as music has been really a life saver, and the first thing I’ll be doing (when this is all over) is getting back to Australia to see my family.

I’m going to spend some of this Sunday morning listening to the other tracks that Hanssøn has released as part of the ‘Phases’ project. I suspect there’s much joy within. Have a Llama-great Sunday.

Gaby K – Nope.

It’s ok to say ‘No’. But, it’s not always the easiest thing to do. For many of us polite souls who care so much about the happiness and feelings’ of others, it’s weirdly preferable to go along with the flow because it seems like the safe option. Yes, we all have to compromise sometimes and I’m not suggesting that we all become so stubborn and obstinate about everything that the world stops turning. But, there is more balance to be had.

 

Today, Sonic Breakfast heads back into the pop crops of Birmingham (Sutton Coldfield to be precise) to highlight the wonderful Gaby K and her fine song, Nope. It’s a spirited dose of ‘girl power’ from a 25 year old who has clearly seen the benefits of taking back control. 

I wrote this song a few years ago and I feel very strongly towards it.”, says Gaby. “It’s about a past relationship which started out well but slowly I began to realise my love was being taken for granted and I was unhappy. I didn’t feel I had the confidence to tell him how I really felt when I finally ended the relationship. I want people who listen to this song and if they ever come across a similar situation to find the confidence to stand up for themselves. Writing this song was my way of expressing my feelings and giving me the closure I needed. Even though it is upsetting, at the end of the day it is your life to live and you cannot allow someone to take advantage and ruin that. Don’t cry for them, they don’t deserve it, laugh at them instead.

Can’t disagree with that. The video finds Gaby building her confidence with a support network of friends. The ex becomes unimportant as the dance moves begin and the wine gets quaffed. 

In the words of the cast from Grange Hill (and hideously misrepresenting their original meaning), Just Say No.

Julia Faulks – Not Losing Sleep

There’s an instructional, ‘life-coachy’ quote that does the rounds on social media with some regularity. “Be yourself; everyone else is taken” is a wisdom widely attributed to Oscar Wilde even though scholars of the great playwright maintain that he never uttered such a phrase. There’s something slightly absurd at play here but this is not a blog post about fake news. Regardless of who said it (and attaching it to Wilde undoubtedly gives it more pithy gravitas), it’s still a quote that holds some truth. 

But being yourself isn’t easy, right? It’s much easier to hold an inferiority complex or to deliberately sabotage what you’re really capable of achieving than to raise your head above the parapet and to seize the day. Instead of making ourselves vulnerable, we do what we’re comfortable with and limit our ambition. We’ll make excuses about how impossible our own dreams are to realise whilst applauding those who make the bold steps. 

I have always loved music and even though my piano and guitar playing is pretty sub-standard, there are melodies in my head which can’t be contained.“, says Julia Faulks in the press release for her single, ‘Not Losing Sleep’. “This was what always held me back (apart from the fact that I am 40 and a mum of two!) – worrying that I couldn’t do it without being a Grade 8 student or having a music degree (although this probably would have helped somewhat…).

Immediately, I’m drawn to Julia’s bold steps. Here’s somebody who’s now being herself to achieve a dream. And ‘Not Losing Sleep’ has much going for it. Within the relaxed groove and sultry chilled vibe, Julia sings confidently about a relationship that’s run its course. This is not a ‘woe is me’ tragedy though; saving the self-pity for the break-up songs of other singers, Julia gives the impression that she’s happy to be moving on. She’s ‘not losing sleep’.

Natálie Grossová – Girls

One of the few beautiful things to come out of this year for me is our weekly quiz. I had kept in sporadic touch with the guys that I went to Polytechnic with before Covid 19 but now the disease seems to have given focus – reinvigorating those friendships from Bristol is of vital importance. 

It started with a whatsapp group and quickly the suggestion formed that a zoom quiz might be a cool thing to do. I’m not sure that any of us thought then that it would become a weekly thing or that it would be so successful in warding of our boredom but now not a day goes by without us saying good morning and wishing each other well. We look after each other from afar and that feels cosy. Two weeks ago, Mole led the quiz and I laughed so much that tears fell – that’s not happened for years. This is my therapy. 

The guys on the quiz will likely not care much for Natálie Grossová’s single, ‘Girls’. And I get that. This is pure pop with a sprinkling of cheese, a bit too glossy and upbeat for their more sophisticated tastes. But I maintain that pop done well with catchy, singalong choruses and synchronised dancing in a carefree video is of equal artistic merit to the serious and austere. We all need to smile right now – and there’s joy-a-plenty in this. 

Natália talks about some of the inspiration behind ‘Girls’. “I had a problem with groups my whole life but time went by and I got to know new people and found great friends.“, she says. “I want to say, through my debut song as an artist, that you don’t need a bunch of fake friends but just a few that will stick together and support you whatever it takes!

The musical theatre star from Prague might be emphasising female solidarity within ‘Girls’ but the wider theme of strength through friendship is universal. Today it’s the morning to take a quick step back from the brink, to reach out and to cherish those friends who have our back.

 

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. 

Georgie Weston – Never Be That Age Again

I barely remember my teenage years. I look back at crumpled photos of myself and don’t really recognise the person looking out at me. But I do recall that I was an intense sort and hopelessly romantic. I thought that every relationship I entered into would be my last. I’d make mixtapes of my favourite songs to send to future (I hoped) lovers. And I had an obsession over listening to new music, something that was much harder to do in the 1980’s than it is now. Some things don’t change.

I’d see a girl waiting by a bus-stop and before even knowing her name, I’d declare that I was in love. Naive and foolish, I’d predict an uncluttered future for us before we’d even spoken. The memory appears in my mind now as sepia-tinged. I’ll never be that age again. 

 

Georgie Weston, a man much, much younger than I, has written a song that stirs up all of those teenage emotions again. In his version of ‘Never Be That Age Again’, Georgie dives headfirst into a ‘melancholic journey about a romance with no destination’. The parting couple in this song are embarking on their own lives with a tearful ‘if only, what if’ reflection. The fact that Georgie knows that he’ll never be that age again despite his tender years bodes well for his own future. It took me decades to work out.

There’s a wonderful retro feel to this song. Georgie has adapted his name in homage to his Great Grandfather, who was an accomplished classical jazz pianist from London back in the 30’s. He cites the influence of Bacharach, Gershwin, vintage McCartney and Gilbert O’Sullivan (who frequently made the cut in those mixtapes of mine) in his press release with good reason. But to suggest that this is rooted firmly in the past would be ignoring the dreamy haze that’s been created in the production, ‘the spacey sonic landscape that forecasts the shape of indie to come’, as Georgie puts it.

The video adds to that combined and conflicting sense of loss and opportunity. For a bit of light relief (it made me smile anyway), look out for the bit in which Georgie is standing over the canal holding his vintage keyboard awkwardly in his arms. It’s a ‘You’ve Been Framed’ moment waiting to happen, right? Perhaps that’s just the way why mind works. 

Who needs Steve Wright on a Sunday morning when you have Sonic Breakfast? 

Joulie Fox – Don’t Be Shy

Back in the mists of time and before this website was even a twinkle in the eye, I used to compère at the glorious and much-missed Summer Sundae festival in Leicester. Anyone who saw my contributions on the Rising Stage was left scratching their heads as to how I’d secured such a privileged position; indeed, I would often pinch myself that I was going on before and after some great, up and coming acts to sing their praises and to try to get the crowd a little more frenzied.

One of my favourite parts of the compère role was meeting the acts before introducing them, finding out what they wanted me to say and then forgetting to say it. Looking at the 2009 edition line-up, you find yourself wondering how a universe could have existed in which The Zutons were billed higher than Bon Iver. I’m reminded that this was the year that I embarrassed myself in front of a very young First Aid Kit and had a lovely, spirited conversation with the buzzing and effervescent, Ou est Le Swimming Pool. (I still feel very sad when I think about what happened in that band just a year later.). 

This was also the year that I introduced James Yuill to the Leicester crowds. Memory is a strange thing but I recall a gentle, unassuming and thoroughly decent man who arrived with a minimal, backstage entourage and quietly charmed sans ego. I remember how much I enjoyed his laidback but layered Folktronica set and recall effusively telling him so much to his general embarrassment. 

It’s lovely to see that James is still involved in music. I can’t say that I’ve diligently followed his career but when I saw that the rising artist, Joulie Fox, had enlisted his production talents on her ‘Don’t Be Shy’ single, I rather suspected I’d like the output. And I wasn’t wrong. 

This is a quirky pop song, excellently executed that builds perfectly towards a nonchalantly-dispatched, crisp chorus. It packs much into a little less than three minutes. You suspect that with Joulie on songwriting duties and James on production, there’s a team emerging here where the sky could be the limit.

I ask Joulie about her plans for 2021. “Yes actually big plans for 2021!“, she says. “My first EP, we started working on it with James Yuill, the same producer who helped me with Don’t Be Shy. In the meantime there will be one more single out we did not approved for my EP but I love it so much that I don’t want to waste it. My plan is to finish this EP before summertime, and go wild in Autumn with live concerts. Hopefully this is the last lockdown for us and we will be able to live freely from March.

Let’s hope that Joulie’s optimistic outlook comes true. For now, have a fine Friday and don’t be shy.

 

Honey – Do It All Again

There was a story that came out of China after their first lockdown that loads of couples were now filing for divorce. Separation rates were going through the roof. It all stands to reason that spending more time with your significant other, having to put up with their more extreme habits, might be the thing to break any camel’s back. 

There are also very real stories of increased rates of domestic violence emerging during these volatile times. Clearly, there are some relationships that people shouldn’t ever stay in. The fact that it’s been arguably harder for people to leave dangerous and destructive relationships during lockdown periods is a crying shame.

But there are some relationships that just need a bit of TLC to make them work. And that’s what today’s really quite lovely Sonic Breakfast song is all about. ‘Do It All Again’ by the emerging Swedish duo, Honey, is about the ups and downs of relationships. This is about making the bad moments count and realising that, whatever the outcome, the life-decisions that you have made are the right ones for you.

 

The video is a real charmer. Miranda and Magda, the vocalists and front persons from Honey are singing from their sofa whilst we also get live action from the dining table of Karsti and Samme. They reflect on the path that their relationship has taken; the holidays they’ve taken together and the parties they’ve enjoyed. The memories are moving and the nostalgia sweet.

It helps that Honey lay down a sound within ‘Do It All Again’ that could quite easily have been around when Karsti and Samme first met. This is a song with a majestic 70’s pop tone; the comparisons to Abba are inevitable and I’m not just saying that because Honey are from Sweden. 

‘Do It All Again’ is a gem to cherish – as are your relationship memories. Happy Monday.

 

SHYAWAY – Smile For The Camera

I have friends who hate having their photo taken. So eager are they to avoid the pose for the camera that they concoct increasingly varied tales as to why they can’t be pictured. They’ll insist on taking the snap themselves or they’ll go and hide in the toilet. If push comes to shove and they have to be in a group shot, they’ll stand right at the edge and definitely behind a taller friend so that their image stands a chance of being masked. “It’s a thing from childhood”, they say when quizzed about their behaviour.

I suppose those friends that actively shy away from the camera are refreshing when compared to those who hog the limelight. These are the people with more selfie sticks than rooms in their house. Every day and sometimes every hour, they declare their need for attention and adoration by posting a new pic of themselves onto their social media channel of choice. I think, of the two extremes, I’m more in this camp. But, I do check myself from time to time. And I don’t even have an Instagram account.

‘Smile For The Camera’ by SHYAWAY is a fun and perky piece of pop for your Sunday morning delight. It takes a jocular swipe at the self-absorption that comes from being too dependent on your photo content. Bouncing along with intent, this is clever pop that can’t fail to get under your skin.

SHYAWAY is the stage name of Adam Macaulay, a multi-talented musician/songwriter from Brighton. He tells me that he’s currently scoring for a string quartet and woodwind ensemble when we exchange a couple of mails in advance of this piece being published. He leaves one in no doubt on which side of the selfie fence he sits.

“We should eschew social media and this self-worshipping lifestyle; focus on the life we’re actually living right now as opposed to the carefully curated online one.“, says Adam. “Either that or we just do what Kim Kardashian does; shake our ass for the masses and smile for the camera.”


Jolene – Denied

If things were ‘normal’ right now, I might be packing up a small suitcase in anticipation of a flight to Amsterdam. And from there, I might be hopping north on a train to Groningen. I’d pull my things through the slush on the streets (the snow never quite settles) and check in at the cheapest room I’d been able to find. I’d then reacquaint myself with all that there is to see and do at Eurosonic Noorderslag. January festivals are the best.

Clearly, things aren’t ‘normal’ right now. That giddy freedom of drinking myself silly whilst rushing around Dutch cities and watching acts that I might love or hate whilst talking nonsense to nearby punters is not on the cards. I’m glad I have the memories. 

Jolene is still releasing music. Sonic Breakfast readers with particularly extensive memories might recall how we once met in Groningen (here). I would love to be back in that crowd right now. I treasured the card that Jolene gave me until my wallet got stolen about eighteen months later

“Wow that is a long time ago and how drunk was I that evening hahah”, says Jolene when I get back in touch with her to tell her how much I like her new track, Denied. It’s  a dark-pop classic. On the surface, it’s a tale of love gone wrong and yet for me, right now, it takes on a much greater significance. I’m being denied these things that I love, festivals in January, and it hurts. But probably not as much as Covid does. 

Eurosonic Noorderslag is sort of continuing this year. From this Wednesday, it’s programmed four free online stages where you and I can head to watch 15 minute sets from the up and coming across Europe. I might dip in and out. I’ve struggled to connect with online gigs in the way I might if I was there in person but it’s a noble substitute and there will no doubt be some fine contributions. (Sign up here). It’ll be worth watching if other lockdown alternatives are exhausted. 

I don’t know if Jolene will be watching any. She’s sounds kind of flat-out . “For 2021 at the moment I’m busy with another project I’ve just started. It’s another musical side of me. I’m going to record another rock album with influences of Quentin Tarantino Dead Weather Style :)”, she says. “Meanwhile I’m looking for a producer to record 3 new tracks for my Jolene electro project. So kinda busy with creating music.”

We’ll be through with this nightmare soon.