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High Hopes: Tired Lion rejuvenated, returns with second serve

Culture

More than three years since the release of her band’s critically acclaimed debut album Dumb Days, Tired Lion singer and guitarist Sophie Hopes is readying to share the next course with her fans, with new record Breakfast for Pathetics set for release on Friday.

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A lot has changed for the indie-rock outfit since the release of Dumb Days in 2017, with the Perth-raised singer and guitarist – now the sole remaining member of the band’s original line-up – relocating from Perth to Brisbane almost two years ago to live with her partner, Violent Soho frontman Luke Boerdam, who produced the band’s debut full-length.

Boerdam was once again in the producer’s chair for Breakfast for Pathetics, which was engineered by Screamfeeder guitarist Darek Mudge at the Grove Studios in NSW and mixed by Scott Horscroft. According to Hopes, the notion “second album syndrome” was very much a reality when it came to writing and recording the follow-up to Dumb Days, which debuted on No.21 on the ARIA charts.

“It was difficult at the start because I kept going from being confident about something to just thinking that I didn’t have it in me, and I thought it was never going to happen,” Hopes told InQueensland. “And I think that was based on the fact that I was all on my own and I didn’t have the sort of backup that I usually have in the band scenario.

“That was my biggest challenge – just putting myself out there and being so vulnerable has never been so hard because I didn’t have that extra protection and then once I kind of realised, ‘hey, I’ve got this’, it started to get easier and easier.

“But I worked super hard on it, like every day since Dumb Days was released, so it’s safe to say that I did give it the best shot I could and yeah, I think the second album syndrome is true.”

Sophie Hopes. (Photo: Haidee Lorenz)

Hopes is the third child in a family of six and was brought up to believe breakfast was not only the most important meal of the day, but a central family ceremony that provided both comfort and a sense of safety and security.

Her belief in the ritual of breakfast was irrevocably shaken for several years when was living in a share house in her 20s, which in turn provided the inspiration for what would become the album’s title track.

“Yeah, so it was interesting because ‘Breakfast for Pathetics’ was a song that I wrote probably five years ago and it was just this song that I had on my looper pedal … I remember coming home from an ex’s house and I think what I got offered for breakfast was coloured popcorn – ridiculous.

“You know when you’re in a share house and there’s maybe one egg and a knob of cheese? Well, this was like that but it was some coloured popcorn and I remember just feeling like so shit and pathetic at the time being like, ‘this is what my life is like’.

“Whenever I get into those sorts of moods, I want to write songs because that’s what you do to process it and it was just this kind of this song that always kept popping back up.

“I kind of used [breakfast] as sort of a marker of what I was doing my life and what I was kind of heading towards and I suppose that it just summed up the record to me, because each of the songs on the album is … I guess you could say like a diary entry.

Hopes and Boerdam clearly have a rapport when it comes to working together in the studio, with the Violent Soho songwriter’s being more comfortable in the role since his work on Dumb Days, which was his first production effort.

Hopes said Boerdam “offers a different perspective and challenges my choices”, which proved especially helpful during the pre-production process.

“I think that is really important especially when you’re writing alone and you’re so set in your ways. He also has the ability to understand where I’m trying to take a song without me having to explain it.”

When asked if anything about their working dynamic had changed since Dumb Days, Hopes admitted to being more forthright with her opinions this time around.

“Because we are a couple, if I’m not liking something or if I’m really adamant about it, I’m just super mean,” Hopes laughed.  “I don’t mean to be but I was watching back a few clips where he was just saying,  ‘I reckon don’t do that bit there, do it like this,’  and I was like, No, I just know has to be this way.

“I feel bad because he’s a great guy, his ideas are amazing and he knows exactly what I’m going for and I think that’s why we work so well together. Half the time I don’t need to go into specifics, he knows exactly what I want in terms of technical stuff and pulling the right tones.  He is 100 per cent the guy for the job.”

With only 10 days booked at The Grove, Hopes was quick to add that Mudge was an integral part of the process, too – particularly when it came to working within the tight time restraints.

“I definitely think if Darek wasn’t there then we wouldn’t have been able to hit the deadline because he just worked so hard, comping stuff in the night.

“It’s two different jobs – you definitely need somebody that can just smash the engineering side of things and Darek is an absolute pro.”

Despite Hopes being the only remaining member of the band remaining from Dumb Days  – she was joined in the studio by Violent Soho drummer Michael Richards for the recording of Breakfast for Pathetics – she said she still considered Tired Lion to be a band.

“I never had any intention of this becoming a solo project,” she said. “A lot changed once [former guitarist] Matt left the band, it was kind of like this hole in the dynamic that we just couldn’t get back.

“We all tried to fill the void with different things that we thought we wanted and [former drummer] Ethan and [ex-bassist] Nick [Vasey] came to the table and asked to take a totally different approach to Tired Lion where they were like kind of leading it in a sense.

“It was a different approach to business and touring and we trialled that for like a year, and it just didn’t work. It kind of felt like some weird business deal more than a band and it felt like we were just trying to get the job done, rather than being a band.

“It was just inevitable after I moved to Brisbane as well. I pretty much ran away because I knew the band was crumbling and that was pretty detrimental to the situation but at the time I thought space would be awesome for us and it would give us new perspective and things would go back to normal, you know? But they just never did.

“I had to decide was I going to keep doing Tired Lion or just call it a day and I’m really glad that I did stick to it because at the time I thought maybe since everyone else is kind of like done, I should be too … But the Tired Lion dream lives on.”

Hopes singled out ‘CYA Later’ – a mid-paced number reminiscent of Silversun Pickups and Smashing Pumpkins at their most melodic, which loses none of its sense urgency by taking the tempo down a notch – as one of her highlights from Breakfast For Pathetics.

“I always find myself getting to that sort of screaming point during a song – the more chaotic it gets, the louder I scream, and a little more high-pitched I go.

“That was really a challenge because I love listening to mid-tempo stuff and I’ve wanted to make a song like that since I was 16 it’s been my dream to actually just nail it and nothing’s ever felt right.

“I think it was when I finally had confidence in the fact that I could sing and not scream that it just started to work and I think it was a huge sort of breakthrough for me, getting to that point.”

She is also equally proud of the powerful ‘Lie to Me’, a song she started writing almost five years ago, which she described as “the most literal song I’ve ever written”.

“I’m being sarcastic, obviously, when I’m saying ‘lie to me, tell me I’m pretty, tell me I’m skinny’. It’s not in a way that I need validation, it’s more like, ‘can you stop telling me what you think I want to hear?’

“They just thought that they needed to come to me and tell me these things and they had the answers for everything but it’s exactly the opposite of what I needed – a dude just saying like, ‘Oh, you know, you’ve got this and you’ve got that’ ….

“I’m just like, Can you shut up? You don’t understand – leave me alone. Without trying to be mean to men, which is not what I’m trying to do, it was a particular situation and I wanted to write a ‘f— you’ song about it and I’m glad I did because it felt good.”

Tired Lion will be launching Breakfast for Pathetics at The Tivoli on Thursday night and Hopes can’t wait to get back on to the stage.

“I did one show recently at the Triffid and it was awesome to play again, it was just the best feeling.”

Breakfast for Pathetics (Dew Process/Universal) is out on Friday. 

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