Before Breakfast’s official band anniversary is marked by a car boot sale. Though singer Gina Walters and cellist Lucy Revis first exchanged a few awkward words in the corridors of University of Sheffield’s music department, they didn’t click until much later – mainly because they were intimidated by each other’s talents. ”I was a dweeb and she was in the cool gang,” jokes the band’s vocalist Gina. Three years on they became housemates by chance, and got to know each other while flogging their worldly possessions in the car park of a local Tesco. “I assume we had no money and wanted to go out?” remarks Lucy. “There were a lot of people doing music who were quite well off and never bothered having jobs, but we both always worked all the way through uni.”
And this has been a recurring theme in Before Breakfast’s journey – outside of the band, Gina is a singing teacher, and Lucy runs a music school. Over the last eighteen months, the group have been juggling their day-jobs with gradually recording their debut album: a reality they feel it’s important to speak out about. “We couldn’t just go away to a studio for three weeks,” says Gina, “we don’t have the money or time. It was here, there and everywhere.” Whenever they got a chance, the band would lay down parts with their producer Chris Wilkinson – who began his career working in Nashville with Vance Powell (Jack White, Arctic Monkeys) before relocating to his hometown – at Sheffield’s Fox Den studios. “We’d say: Chris, can we come in for a few hours this afternoon to do the vocals? It was a bit haphazard, and a long process.“
Before Breakfast’s first full-length record ‘I Could Be Asleep If It Weren't For You’ builds upon the band’s journey so far. Since releasing their debut EP ‘Sticky Sweet’ in 2018 the group have explored feminist issues through the telling of personal stories – fusing their classical knowledge and rich arrangements with raw expression. “Our music has always been very beautiful with this discomfort,” Gina says, ”which I view as very feminine.” An uneasy web of harmonies and relentless piano, that release’s stand-out ‘Fat Child’ explored the pressures of society’s damaging expectations around body image.
Two years later, Before Breakfast returned with ‘Open Ears’, a spell-binding second EP knitting together Lucy’s intricate cello with Gina’s expressively haunting vocals. Stand-alone single ‘Buddleia’ would become Before Breakfast’s signature, and best known song – opening the door to where they would go next. “When Gina played it to me I remember being in love with it immediately,” Lucy recalls. The band soon caught the ears of BBC Introducing, as well as C Duncan. That year, they supported the Mercury-nominated Scottish composer and musician on tour – ”an absolute dream”.
Both Gina and Lucy are in their early thirties, and debut album ‘I Could Be Asleep If It Weren't For You’ makes sense of the shifting perspectives that come with this. “As a teenager, I genuinely thought that I would be married with two kids by now,” Gina explains. The themes that inform the debut as a whole also tie into trying to break out as a new band while holding weighty questions of security and stability versus pursuing your dreams. “There are so many bright young things, and who the hell do I think that we are?” Gina says, mimicking her self-doubting moments. “I really get caught up in the idea that the industry doesn’t want women in their thirties coming through.” “There have been so many barriers for us to even do this by our age,” Lucy says. “I have exclusively played for men since I was 15 years old. I can count the number of female artists I’ve worked for on one hand.”
With Before Breakfast however, these two musicians are telling their story on their own terms, and backed by two new live band members as gig venues gradually open up again, the Sheffield band are going for it, with a debut that speaks to the stagnation, malaise, and static of the last “wasted” year. And as the world opens up again, ‘I Could Be Asleep If It Weren't For You’ is a fitting soundtrack. “We’ve got the momentum” says Gina, “and we just want to do it.”