Breakfast Muff on gender in music & new album Eurgh!
We catch up with Glasgow-based Breakfast Muff to chat about their latest album Eurgh! and address gender imbalance in the music industry
“We were going to be called Fanny and the Breakfast Muffs and now I’m really glad that we cut it short,” says Simone Wilson early in our chat. “We were looking through mad books like...” – adopting a creepy voice – “‘we need a really good name – a really disgusting name.’” From the off we know we’re in good company.
Breakfast Muff are as passionate, boisterous and fun in person as they are on record, and as our conversation continues in the back corner of Glasgow’s Hug & Pint, it’s clear to see these three bandmates and pals mean the world to each other. They bounce off each other throughout our chat, laughing at the funny points and listening intently when something serious is being said. It’s utterly refreshing and they’re a joy to be around.
While Breakfast Muff have only been together since 2014, they’ve known each other for longer. “Me and Eilidh met through a course at Green Door [Studio] when I was 16,” Wilson tells us, “and [we] became really good pals. We were in another band [together] and thought we wanted to do a girl band and then Cal joined instead and it was nice. It was good.” In a panic Wilson adds: “Not a girl band though, can we rephrase that? A band with three girls in it…” Cal Donnelly quickly chimes in: “Someone left before you’d done any gigs or [written] any songs, but they had this gig booked and I was like ‘I’ll do it, I’ll help,’ but then we ended up writing a bunch of songs before the gig just in one practice, and that became the basis for the first album that we did.”
The Feels was the first album the band wrote together, which they made in just two days, and their second, Rainbow Yawn, was made in three, so it’ll come as no surprise to you that their latest effort Eurgh! was made in just four days. “I think we don’t like to overthink anything too much at all,” says Wilson. Eilidh McMillan adds: “The fact that they were all recorded quite quickly isn’t like some kind of a decision really, it’s more like it’s expensive to record things.” Wilson concedes, “We can’t be too precious with it cos we’re all skint.”
The first two albums were recorded in true DIY fashion in the bedroom of Glasgow producer, and Catholic Action frontman, Chris McCrory. For Eurgh! however, they upgraded to The Big Shed Community Centre in the Highlands and in an effort to keep that authentic live sound, they recorded all of their vocals together, with whoever was singing lead on that particular song upfront and those on backing just standing further away from the mic. “It made recording vocals a lot more comfortable and natural,” Donnelly tells us.
But where does the inspiration come for their quirky songs? Previous albums include track titles like Cock, Pizza, Not Down 2 Fuck and Horny People. “We just have rants. We start a rant just talking,” Wilson says. Cackling uncontrollably, McMillan exclaims “It’s true, it’s true!” and Donnelly completes the circle with “It is!” Continuing where she left off, Wilson adds “We don’t think about the music side of it really – we just go ‘Uuughhh, I hate that!’ ‘Fuck Tories!’ ‘I hate Tories so much!’” Concluding with the most ridiculous simile, McMillan says: “It’s like in High School Musical or something, when someone starts saying something and they just get up on the tables and start singing about it, it’s like that.”
The fact that lyrical inspiration can come in the form of a rant means a song can be written when they least expect it. “We made up three songs while we were [recording The Feels]. On [Rainbow Yawn] we made up that song Horny People really quickly,” Wilson tells us excitedly, outing McCrory along the way. “It’s Chris, he’s not even credited on it, but he’s [saying] ‘I like to put cream on me face.’” Donnelly chips in: “If anything gets written about Chris McCrory it should be that he’s a deviant and you can hear it on that song.”
On all three of their records, Breakfast Muff tackle serious subjects with straight-up, in-your-face emotion – Eurgh! confidently deals with everything from sexuality to feminism to bullying, and from the moment album opener Lunch Money starts, you know they mean business. I Like To's round of 'I like to suck dick, you like to eat pussy, and that's okay', along with R U A Feminist's 'You're a feminist until I won't fuck you / You're a feminist until I talk to other guys' are the icing on the Breakfast Muff cake, with the latter tackling the serious issues of being in an abusive relationship. Breakfast Muff aren't afraid to say exactly what they're thinking and it's empowering. “I think we just reached a point where [we were] at gigs just trying to enjoy ourselves and people would sometimes be the worst," says Wilson. "People are like ‘Aw, Glasgow’s really [great]’, [but] there are still a lot of lads and I just want to tell them to fuck off!”
“I think for me, it’s all about our personal experiences, 100 percent,” adds McMillan. “When you have the opportunity of being given a platform and people are listening to you, it’s really important to use that wisely, and not just fuck it. If there’s a bunch of dudes playing guitar music they have to try a lot harder – well obviously they don’t care what I think probably, but in my head they have to try a lot harder to impress me. When I was in fifth year I picked up a guitar in music class and the music teacher was like ‘that doesn’t suit you, hahaha’, and there’s like dudes who get guitars for their eighth birthday and shit.
“I think the [guitar band market] is oversaturated," McMillan continues. “It’s kind of a duty. If you’ve got that platform to use that to try and make a point that’s useful in some way. If it’s not useful why aren’t we just doing something else? I get it, for art’s sake, I do believe in that to a point, but then also when you’ve been given a platform that’s when you should think more carefully about the messages you’re sending across.” We ask Donnelly if he has anything to add to this? “Obviously I agree with what Eilidh’s saying [but] I can only understand it so much – I could never fully say I’ve experienced what you’ve experienced, especially in music, especially as a guy.”
We all sit for a second in silence; our conversation has taken a turn and we’re all bummed out at the state of gender imbalance in the music industry. “It’s funny,” Donnelly says, breaking the silence, “because [if] you go to any shite open mic night in Glasgow you’ll see some drunk wee prick trying to play Wonderwall and it’s just all guys who all dress like a fucking Topman model – they’re all just belting it out because they’re allowed [to]. It‘s just weird,” he concludes sounding utterly exasperated, “there’s a fucking gap.”
The wonderfully onomatopoeic word and album title Eurgh! springs to mind right about now, and McMillan perks up, asking gruffly “is it ‘EURGH!’ or is it” – in her best Joey Tribbiani voice – “‘EeeEEeuuUUurgh?’” Donnelly is quick to explain that “it’s either an exclamation of joy or disgust, it’s up to you. It just seemed appropriate.”
While angry and frustrated, our chat quickly turns to Girls Rock School Edinburgh, set up to help inspire and give confidence to girls wanting to learn an instrument. As we talk to Breakfast Muff, it’s just a few weeks before they’re due to play a fundraising gig for Glasgow’s Rock’n’Roll Summer School for Girls which is about encouraging “confidence, creativity and noise!”, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
When Breakfast Muff first got together none of them could play drums and Donnelly tells us the real reason they started a band together was their “shared inability to play musical instruments.” Now, like these Edinburgh and Glasgow projects, the three friends hope to inspire others to get the confidence to do something they otherwise wouldn’t have done. “It’s encouraging," says Donnelly.
"Maybe at the start we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could make a band where it’s just people that can’t really play anything and people would give a fuck about it, and they have. We get to play gigs and we get to do cool stuff, so in turn it would be nice if people would look at us and be like ‘aw, I want to start a band’.” McMillan concludes: "It would be good if that empowered people and if that’s the case then that’s more important to me than being perfect.”