“Piss-Taking Is In My DNA” Emily Breeze In Conversation

Bristol’s pop noir empress discusses space travel, smoking and slutty Disney villains...

“Music industry people say it’s a good idea to hide your age when you turn 40,” reckons Emily Breeze, Bristol’s queen of ratchet glamour. “As if your age was some kind of dirty STD, or a disgraced royal.”

When she hit the big 4-0 herself not long ago, Emily released ‘Rapture’, a brilliant, glossy LP crammed full of heart, gags and big ideas. Genuinely, it’s fucking brilliant – put it on now. Emily describes it as a bunch of “coming-of-middle-age stories which celebrate flamboyant failure, excess and acceptance.”

She’s supporting Sleaford Mods in Bristol (Nov 30), appearing on Radio 4’s Loose Ends this Saturday (Sep 30) and playing the Barrelhouse, Totnes (Oct 13) And, lucky old me, I had half-an-hour or so to chat to her all about life and stuff. 

Hi Emily Breeze! I love how ‘Rapture’ has such a vast scope. Humdrum pub stories, intermingled with references to outer space and cosmology. Are you a deep thinker?

I’m deeply suspicious of anyone who identifies as a deep thinker. I am fascinated by the glittering black majesty of the expanding universe and the miracle of consciousness. Mostly because it conjures up juicy phrases like “glittering black majesty”. 

My take on science and cosmology is shallow and mostly comes from the endless podcasts my boyfriend listens to while I drift in and out of sleep. I get off on forcing clunky sentences like “fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution” into a song. I am currently trying to make the words “cryogenically frozen” sing, which is a fun challenge.

And there’s me picturing you, nose in a book. 

I used to be an avid reader, but nowadays thanks to the internet I have the attention span of a fruit fly. So I take a shorter route, just googling quotes by Brett Easton Ellis or F.Scott Fitzgerald or Raymond Carver. Whichever depressing writer I am into at the time – trying to absorb their turn of phrase. 

I love your aesthetic, who are your stylistic touchstones?

I draw influence from female Disney villains and drag queens. Everything has to be cheap, slutty and also practical. I have worn chalk white foundation and red lipstick everyday for so long it has become my real face. The thing that’s underneath is the lie.

Last time I saw you live on stage you were mercilessly taking the piss out of the audience. Bold move. 

I am English, so piss-taking is in my DNA. It is a gesture of love and intimacy. I don’t remember being particularly caustic at that show. But there were some very drunk party people at the front who were demanding fun music, so I needed to quell their expectations as quickly as possible. 

There’s a song on ‘Rapture’ all about pneumatic nineties babe Anna Nicole Smith – that’s such a hilarious back-in-the-day reference. 

I love female anti-heroes, and I recently saw a photograph of her wedding. She was dressed in this frothy white orgasm of organza and lace, gazing lovingly down at her octogenarian lover in his wheelchair. He was a Texan billionaire oil tycoon, she was Anna Nicole Smith. I think they both got a great deal there. 

How are your forties treating you, anyway?

I am happier and better at what I do. I didn’t write about my age because it was a burning issue, it was simply what was happening in my life at the time. Plus I knew that I wasn’t supposed to, which made me instantly want to do it all the more. I am naturally rebellious. Not in a cool way like James Dean – it’s more a kind of futile involuntary spasm. 

As well as being smart and funny, ‘Rapture’ sounds incredible, amazing job there. 

Thanks! All the pizazz and polish is courtesy of producer Stew Jackson. We both have a penchant for cartoonish, camp musical references, which we joyously scattered all over the record like sequins.

What’s your songwriting process? How much wine and how many ciggies do you get through in the course of making a tune?

Let’s face it, nothing particularly profound happens when you are drinking. You just think it does. Then you read over last night’s nonsense with a hangover and scrap the lot of it. Oh, and smoking is the last refuge of the totally fucking stupid – I wish I was as prolific a writer as I am a smoker.

I write songs on an acoustic guitar at my kitchen table. Then I play them to my musical wingman and long term collaborator Rob Norbury (lead guitar). He will annoy me by making useful suggestions, and I will annoy him by howling guitar lines at him. It’s more fun than it sounds. Then we take it to the band Andy Sutor (drums), Helen Stanley (keys) and George Caveney (bass) who elevate the songs with their beautiful arrangement ideas, before Stew adds another layer of magic. I’m so happy with the results on Rapture, honestly, I can’t even be sarcastic about it. 

Sweet, thanks for your time! And please keep the bangers coming. 

One thing I have learnt about songwriting is that if you keep turning up and poking it with a stick eventually something will happen. The more you poke it, the quicker you get there. 

Words: Andy Hill // @AndyHillWrites

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.