Dominic Breen's new single Lovelost is out now! We chat to the musician about the release and more.
Image: Nick Langley
Sydney based songwriter and performer Dominic Breen has followed up his two acclaimed EPs with his latest single, Lovelost. Navigating feelings of hopelessness and uncertainty, the lyrical content of track is juxtaposed by a bright sonic soundscape.
Set to feature on his upcoming full length album, Breen brings his distinctive musical sound to the release, complete with personal and observational lyrics that evoke a vivid sense of place and time. The song blends the old soul quality of Breen’s voice with crunchy contemporary production and an unexpected key change in the middle of the track. Having performed and written each instrumental part on the track, Breen enlisted Tim Fitz from Middle Kids for production and mixing duties.
Lovelost is out now! Read our interview with Dominic Breen below.
Tell us a bit how you began your musical journey...
I heard My Generation by the Who when I must’ve been about five or six, and it completely overthrew me. I started running around the house, jumping on couches, miming the words like I’d known them all along. It was the best thing my short life had experienced. I don’t actually remember this. I’ve just seen the home video footage.
Laced with highly personal and observational lyricism, Lovelost navigates feelings of hopelessness and uncertainty, set to a bright sonic soundscape. It’s a sad song in disguise. What led you to create these two juxtaposing elements, ultimately taking listeners on an emotional rollercoaster?
Well I guess it’s like hypomania or something. Everything starts revolving and crystalising and feeling like it’s getting better and you’re on the right track. You’re bubbling away with an electric joy, blind to what may actually be driving it.
You wrote and performed almost every instrument on the track. What prompted you to undertake recording each part yourself and how did you find that process?
I’m just about competent on most of those instruments, so I think it was logistically easier with me doing it. I guess I was also curious to try and play them myself to get the most direct translation from what I could hear in my head to what would be heard on the recording.
You’ve released two EP’s and are currently working on your debut album. What made you make the jump into creating a full-length body of work as opposed to another EP?
I’ve just got a lot of songs and it was time to start recording them, and record them in the same environment, around the same time, to foster some sort of continuity with the sound. I think those last EPs are more like compilation discs, songs thrown together from different sessions, different times. Sure they’re bound together by something, but I dunno if i can hear what that is. The album, hopefully, is more as you say, a body of work. I know where the whole thing is coming from and where it’s trying to go. It’s also just a way to get more songs out, so I can start tidying up the shelf.
What new knowledge and experiences are you bringing into the sessions working on the new record, that differs from creating the EP’s?
Well I think largely these recordings were made with a more solid work ethic, recording from ten in the morning to five in the afternoon, just kind of chewing through it. Sometimes in the past, I’d record all day and night, with little to no sleep, over a few days. Treating it almost like a job with defined start and end times meant I didn’t go rattling away down some thought-tunnel with the burden of urgency to complete something. I could leave all that in the room. It would be done in the morning, after some rest. So that was a nice change, thinking clearly.
You’re a very talented multi-instrumentalist, but if you had to choose only one instrument to play from this day forward, which would it be and why?
I guess if I had to pick one, it would be the kora. I choose the kora because it’d take half a life just to learn to play it. Probably take the same amount of time to get rid of the habit of biting my nails in order to. So by the time I die, if we reckon I’m gonna live till I’m old, then I really wouldn’t be too bored of it.
The song is distinctly Australian but also infuses some exciting deviations, bringing in contemporary production. How did you arrive at the musical style of your releases?
I don’t know if I’m really ‘arriving’ at this sound so much. I think it’s more that this sound is just a station on the train I’m on and I’m just looking out the window at it, and hopefully the train doesn’t stop here too long because I’m staying seated. Pete Seeger said something like all songwriters are just links in a chain, so I guess I simply got up to the way I do things because of where everyone else got up to before me. Some things are much more readily branded or accepted as Aussie than others and I think it’s interesting to note what sort of artists they are. Distinctly Australian- what’s that sound like? I dunno.
Do you have a musical genre guilty pleasure you would love to explore, that contrasts your current sound?
I’d be happy to go wherever the train takes me. I don’t think any form of music should be seen as a guilty pleasure. There’s too much guilt these days, if I wanna prance around listening to Sugar Rush by Dream Street in my headphones at 4 in the morning, why should I feel guilty about that?
What messages do you hope listeners take away from Lovelost?
Keep on truckin at all costs.
Could you tell us a bit about your creative process when writing and recording songs? And what is something about the way you make music that audiences would be surprised to learn?
I guess when it comes to songwriting I try and avoid any sort of process altogether and I don’t really write anything down, maybe that’s surprising? I don’t know what audiences expect from me, I don’t know what’s a normal way or a surprising thing.
Australia has a diverse and vibrant music scene, who are some of your favourite Aussie acts?
I’ve been stuck on this question for like an hour for some reason. Well, Australia definitely has a diverse and vibrant music population but I wonder whether it’s totally true that everyone gets to be a part of the scene, whatever that is. Maia Marsh, Ainsley Farrell, Georgia Mulligan and SUIIX are all doing great things behind the scenes. I’ve been listening to Tasman Keith and ONEFOUR this morning.
Did you encounter any challenges whilst creating music during the COVID-19 pandemic, or did it allow you the time and space to immerse yourself within this musical project?
I guess COVID decided that Tim and I would be working relatively alone, for better or worse. And losing a lot of my work outside of music meant we had time to immerse ourselves in the process a bit more, week by week, so that was kind of a silver lining I guess.
The current pandemic has obviously put a halt to touring and performing live, what are your touring plans post pandemic? If any, what can people expect from one of your live shows?
We’re aiming to play lots of gigs in lots of places next year. Hopefully for everyone, the live music culture returns to normal, or even better than before! Like what Joni said, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, so maybe once we get that back, we’ll recognise it’s value and fully appreciate what we have a bit more.
Biggest influences? Velvet Underground, The Bats, Savage Garden
Album that has had the most impact on you?
Blood on the Tracks
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Unsuccessful pop music
Best song of 2020? I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You – Bob Dylan
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
The most memorable show you’ve ever performed? Played a gig at the old Annandale to literally no one once. The sound guy (the only person there) cued stadium applause in the monitors after each song.
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip? Grant McLennan - The Best of The Solo Recordings 1990-1997
Best concert you have ever been to?
Alvvays or Beach House
Last concert you went to?
Julia Jacklin at the Enmore
Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a One Direction boy?
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your Spice nickname be?
The most amount of people you’ve ever performed in front of? Probably the last song in our set from when we were supporting Middle Kids at the Metro.
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
Elvis Presley or the Beatles I guess.
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry?
What advice would you give yourself a year from now? Don’t spend too much time on stuff that doesn’t really matter.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
When I knew I didn’t wanna be an onion anymore.