Gig Review: Emily Breeze @ The Louisiana
by Tom Stockley
Recently I had the pleasure of joining a team of pop-up promoters who had curated a show at The Louisiana to raise funds and awareness for mental health charity CALM. After a couple of weeks of cogitating, this article has taken the form of a literary Frankenstein - part review, part artist feature and part ad-lib think piece. After much thought it seemed counterproductive to untwine my thoughts on the night with the wider issues of mental health and self-identity.
The evening began by way of a brief introduction with Emily Breeze. My only point of reference at this moment was a recommendation from On the Beat and a few listens to her previous project Candy Darling. We hadn’t planned on chatting much before the show (“…too nervous, and not drunk enough”), but Emily is an artist who has the self-deprecating wit, wry philosophy and, at times, sheer romanticism that leads every conversation to a place of interest. In just five minutes we spoke about the struggle of artists and mental health (… “it’s about internalising that darkness, processing it”) to musical styles (“Right now I’m just making f**king great pop songs”) and labels (“People thought I was trans, and it used to get to me - but then I just thought f**k it, who cares?). As a manically depressive, sexually ambiguous poet with the word IDIOT tattooed on my leg, these bite size doctrines resonated with me as the show began.
Although I was busy scribbling deranged ramblings in a dog-eared notebook, I can’t avoid mentioning the other talent on show that night. TWIN (AKA Christelle from Vena Cava) channelled Bjork in what can only be described as the sound you’d hear if those aliens from Avatar had discovered synthesisers. Meanwhile, Flag Fen and Age Decay created unholy amounts of doom-laced noise that wouldn’t be out of place at Supernormal Festival, or a very stressful Bar Mitzvah (think along the lines of The Melvins or Electric Wizard).
"It’s clear to me that we could all learn a lot from Emily Breeze - there’s unimaginable empowerment waiting for any artist who can be as brutally self-conscious and tragically joyous as her."
But back to the continued thoughts of Emily Breeze and being sad. As charismatic as she was nervous, Emily is already well known among the beautiful freaks of Bristol - having appeared at events like Thorny and gigged for a number of years under various guises. Now at a time in life that can only be called the new 27, Breeze is more focused than ever. Despite citing some of New York’s No Wave pioneers as wider influences (Suicide, Lydia Lunch, David Lynch et al), the band’s latest sound has a glossy sheen more reminiscent of Paul Simon or Stevie Nicks. This, in part, is the result of a more mature approach to their song writing - taking Emily’s lead to ‘internalise the darkness’ and reach a disenfranchised audience through the power of expertly sculpted pop ballads. That’s not to say that Emily’s lost her edge or ‘sold out’ in any way - the lyrical intelligence and sonic acerbity is still very much present, even more effective in the subtlety of its packaging. Fabricating a loose post-punk opera in her 40 minute set, Emily covered topics ranging from Amy Winehouse and serial killers to carbon footprints and credit ratings. Diffused throughout the set were spoken word nuggets of street smart wisdom - including the tale of intricate revenge fantasies on the number 2 bus and the advice that “every streetlight is a stage”.
There’s a positive energy in the new sound of Emily Breeze that emerging acts can take heed from. All too often in the current indie scene, bands come and go with a total lack of self-awareness or humour, and manage to speak so much about so little. After catching a few moments after the show with Sophie, the co-promoter of the night and an NHS events organiser by day, I could elaborate on this issue. We spoke about the Victorian ideals still imposed on young people - where women are able to talk fluently about their emotional health without being given equal platforms to do so, and men’s inner workings are stifled but they get put on pedestals all the same. It’s clear to me that we could all learn a lot from Emily Breeze - there’s unimaginable empowerment waiting for any artist who can be as brutally self-conscious and tragically joyous as her. I ended the night, perhaps fittingly, having an anxiety attack in the smoking area. Down but not defeated, I went home feeling that if enough people care about nights like this, then there’s some hope in our offbeat daydreams yet. As Stevie Nicks once sang: “Play the way you feel it”
Emily Breeze plays the St James Wine Vaults in Bath on June 15th (with Beefywink and Narco Lounge Combo).
Tom Stockley is the founder and creative director of We Are Uncollective. He currently lives in Bristol where he dabbles in spoken word, artist management, workshops and event management. He's a Creative Producer for Under The Hill 2018.
Image via Facebook.