Album Walkthrough: Tired Lion dissect the highs and lows of Breakfast for Pathetics
Three years after their break-out debut album Dumb Days, Sophie Hopes reflects on her changing life with a sharp second album.
Header image by Haidee Lorenz.
In the space of just three years, a lot has happened for Tired Lion. In 2017, the formerly Perth-based group were ushered into the spotlight thanks to their debut album Dumb Days, a striking collection of 11 tracks that pushed them from being a local Perth favourite to a group that'd come to blossom even internationally, with shows at Primavera Sound and Reading & Leeds amongst sold-out headline tours and slots at Falls Festival, Groovin the Moo and more.
With that, however, came things like additional pressure and the relentlessness of that aforementioned touring, creating the need for personal change to prevent all the usual things that bands encounter as they hit the unexpected break-out. So, things changed. Sophie Hopes - the band's lead vocalist and now, core member - moved on from her bandmates and moved across the country to Brisbane, where she navigated things like anxiety and depression with the added emphasis of loneliness and separation from her friends and family; a turbulent time, but a necessary one too, to avoid the stagnation that haunts so many artists at their creative prime.
As it seems, music became a powerful tool for Sophie to process and reflect on her changing life. It brought opportunities to look into herself just as much as it did to dissect the world around her; a platform for her to evaluate the moments of change happening in her life, and how she could build herself up - more potently, intimate and vulnerable, now as a solo musician - to overcome it. Cya Later - a track that arrived at the tail-end of last month - was an example of one of those tracks written from a place of introspective reflection, an "attempt to desperately try and find my way out of a bout of depression where I had completely hidden myself from the world," she says.
Now, with the release of Tired Lion's second album Breakfast for Pathetics, you're getting a better understanding of the chaos in Sophie Hopes' mind; the bursts of self-awareness and reflective catharticism that undermine her three years and now, an entire album's worth of material, that stands tall as Sophie's most intimate work yet. The album is rich with personal journies and self-undertakings, acting as a place that Sophie used to vent in the wake of mental health battles and uncertainty of the future alike - all of which shown throughout the depths of Breakfast for Pathetics.
Tracks like Lie To Me a snapshots of Sophie's brain that sear with undeniably fierce energy, capturing frustrations in a way that's become a fan favourite over the last year. Songs like Don't Take Me Back reflect on past relationships; Actuality dives into uncertainty and the limbo period that leaves you waiting for things to figure themselves out (if they ever do), while others - such as Waterbed - poke fun just as much as they evaluate Sophie's life; gleaming lights that contrast the record's overarching darkness with streams of light.
However, one thing that really links everything together is the fierceness that is seemingly fuelled by the emotions underneath Breakfast for Pathetics' core, the strong-armed, thick-coated alt-rock-meets-pop-hooks that pick up where Dumb Days left off but lurches forward with further evolved sounds. It moves with influences in The Pixies and Car Seat Headrest, bringing in moments of 90s punk nostalgia with the shine and sheen reflective of a 2020 Tired Lion, one which has Sophie Hopes and every single facet that makes her craft in centre spotlight.
It's one hell of an album and one that's more than worth celebrating, so do so below as you take a dive into the album, and read a track-by-track breakdown of the record's themes and creation:
Breakfast used to be the central family ceremony that took place every morning when I was a young girl. Predictable, safe, comforting and wholesome. However, by the time I hit my mid-20s & started living in share houses, the ceremony was shattered... Trying to force myself to eat a regular breakfast/more often the not I’d just find myself skipping it altogether. It was weird how much the ‘ceremony’ had changed & it became more of a harsh self-reflection than anything. I guess the breakfast I once loved became a marker on life to judge all mornings by...
Originally, it was about trying to pull something substantial together at an ex’s house. The song started with this miserable guitar phase on my looper pedal. The song I called Breakfast for Pathetics became a journal that morphed through different iterations representing my pathetic mornings. It was weird I could never really finish the song - I guess songs like that don’t really ever get finished. However, once I wrote the rest of this record something changed, I wanted to finish it. It felt like the perfect analogy that captured the mood of the record. This unfinished song in my looper pedal became the befitting title track for the whole lot, a collection of songs about resetting life’s marker.
The record is about finding my new “morning ceremony”. Waving goodbye to family bandmates, friends and pets & navigating my way through depression and anxiety along the way. There’s also the search for home, to wave goodbye to Perth and starting with nothing but a suitcase 5000km away. The journey and realisations for me personally over the past few years are all here in these songs. The whole album is a journal really - random, disconnected, a bit brutal, but always trying to find that new ceremony. It was an aim of mine to create this safe space within the walls of Breakfast For Pathetics - a place where you’re allowed to cry into your fruit loops if you want to. A place where you’re allowed to feel miserable, lost & pathetic without judgement of others. A place where you can work things out in your own time in order to move to where you need to be.
TRACK 1: DIET SICK
When I first wrote this song it always felt like an opening track to me. I was listening to a-lot of Archers of Loaf and American indie bands that would often have these obscure instrumental sections & I think you can really hear those influences in this track.. We ended up keeping a few of the intro guitars and backing vocals (bridge) from my original demo for the final recording. It just had this slacker attitude that I couldn't replicate in the studio.
The lyrics transformed over time but the song essentially stayed the same. I wanted to find this middle ground between screaming and singing and we experimented with the verses a lot to find that ‘sweet’ spot. In the last record we opened the album with a “scream” in a track called Japan. I remember I really had to fight to keep that in there at the time. There were external pressures who weren't very fond of the scream & highly suggested I leave it out to avoid 'sounding lame'. When writing this song it felt so good to not have to worry about what I was/wasn’t allowed to do so I layered up the distortion and sang like a pterodactyl because it felt…. right.
TRACK 2: WATERBED
Waterbeds always cracked me up - It was bizarre 80’s item that was a quick trend and then faded to near obscurity, and what’s left over is a weird relic. When writing this song out just came to me memories can work like that. I think sometimes as people we get super down if things don’t go the way we had planned them to or our expectations are never met.... This song is simply about waving goodbye to the past in order to let go of all these things held me back. The memories are shoved into the past like waterbeds - they’re not exactly useful but its a reminder of what doesn’t work right?
TRACK 3: LIE TO ME
Lie to Me must be the most “literal song” I’ve ever written. I guess I've been in a few situations where I've had people trying to provide validation to me in all the wrong ways and it just comes across as super condescending. It's really a song that comes from a female perspective. If I'm upset, it's not because I need you to comfort me. I need you to stop thinking you have the answer for everything and I can’t handle myself.
I never thought this song would see the light of day, to be honest, but when we road-tested it live on the last tour the response we got afterwards over Instagram/FB messages from people asking if we were ever going to release it definitely influenced the decision to record it & put it on the new record. The energy in that room especially the howler crowd in Melbourne where people were singing along on their first listen felt so rad & gave new life to a song that I had pretty much culled along time ago.
TRACK 4: CYA LATER
This song was my attempt in desperately trying to find my way out of a bout of depression where I had completely hidden myself from the world. I guess I needed a way to set myself free & a way to be okay. I moved to Brisbane & was missing my family a lot. When I was writing this song I wanted to use a happy memory that would have the power to take me back to that place. I had this one memory of my dad coming home with miniature motorbikes- they were called “pocket rockets”. Totally illegal to ride I think but he let me take one out on the pathway along Mullaloo Beach and I remember feeling so free and alive and happy. The sea breeze was so clean and pure.
I wanted to re-live that moment. I think everyone can relate here where there are times you just want to switch off and escape to a better place. I thought the imagery taking off in a bottle rocket outside of earth was pretty powerful/ gave hope of there being a place that existed where I could feel free without the added pressures/ crazy unrealistic expectations that we put on ourselves.
TRACK 5: DON’T TAKE ME BACK
This was the first song I wrote when I had moved to Brisbane. For the first time in a long time everything felt like it was falling into place and I was closing the gap on previous relationships/getting closure on why they didn’t work out. I was listening to a lot of Carseat Headrest & I wanted to make it a less produced track and just let the lyrics do the talking instead of ‘overcooking’ by adding hundreds of guitars like I usually do.
TRACK 6: BREAKFAST FOR PATHETICS
This song became the kinda “rallying cry for the whole record”. The song started with this miserable guitar phase on my looper pedal - it became a journal that morphed through different iterations representing my pathetic mornings. The song developed over 5 years & it became way heavier than it was when its was initially written. I think why favourite lyric would have to be “Perth I could’ve loved you.”
TRACK 7: DRAMA CLUB
So with this track, I’m trying to live out my coming of age teen movie soundtrack fantasy. You know the songs I’m talking about, classic 10 things I hate you / She’s All That soundtrack vibes where it’s more about the feeling that it gives you. I’ve always wanted to write a song like that. I was the massive dork in drama class that just wanted to meet a boy who would sweep me off my feet & take me to a Shakespeare play. Sorry to W. Shakespeare for stealing lyrics from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I suppose I was trying to capture the two ends of
the spectrum - wherever there was too much love, destruction would follow. It would sometimes lead to heartbreak or even death. That's what my inner drama kid was trying to capture in this track the two ends of the spectrum of love & death.
My cat Darcy features vocals at the very end of the track. This was actually one of my favourite recording moments ever!
Fun Fact: For my scripted monologue at school I played Titania queen of the fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream/
TRACK 8: WOOKEY HOLE
The idea for the song all started with my obsession with the drumbeat from the song I Bleed by the Pixies which I pretty much ripped… It was odd for me to write this way as usually the lyrics and chords are my go to first up. I wrote the music but I didn’t have anything I was set on in the lyric department then I found this old poem in my phone written after our very first UK show which was - Glastonbury festival. We ended up staying in this themed hotel inspired by witches in Wookey Hole. I remember waking up the day of my birthday and seeing mould outside my window which for some reason provoked me to write a poem which became the lyrics. I was reading an excerpt on the wall in the hotel about the burning of witches & thought the lyric throw me in the fire was rad imagery for a mosh pit.
TRACK 9: ACTUALITY
So this song was actually written accidentally after leaving a Travis Barker drum loop in the same session file as Waterbed. I remember the drum loop started & this heavy af intro just flowed out of me. This was one of the last editions to the record and I felt like it was sort of that missing puzzle piece that completed the collection of songs.
I’ve never been very good at articulating the way I feel through speaking & using imagery in this song became a powerful tool to really express what I was feeling at the time. For so long I felt like I was stuck in this kinda ‘limbo territory’ always waiting for things to fix themselves… I guess you can hear a strong sense of hopelessness & realisation that moving forward would be possible if I only ‘let go’.
TRACK 10: SCREW YOU MAN
The song came about after I created this weird tuning by accident. I was tuning down my guitar one day & ended up missing one of the strings. The chords sounded so pretty and like nothing I had heard myself play before. I was obsessed with what it gave me as a songwriter, it felt like a new perspective & opened doors to new chord shapes that I wouldn't necessarily play stuck in my usual habits (Being in standard/drop d tuning). Anytime I picked up an acoustic guitar I found myself developing the song further.
At the time I was listening to a lot of Car Seat Headrest & was in love with their track Cosmic Hero. The horns gave me all the feels & it sparked an idea of trying to include something like that on this song. I experimented with midi trumpets & they just felt a bit lacklustre & a little too fake. It was my mission to get something real on there! I was stoked when Benn Chapman from Winston Surfshirt offered to record flugelhorns from his house. He sent them over and the song immediately felt complete. Never would’ve thought that I’d ever include flugelhorns on any of my work. Still kind of blows my mind!
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