The pandemic surely kept everyone in a post-apocalyptic mood, starting with our half-covered faces and sizzling political climate. Kaylee Howard tapped into this dystopian energy through a new musical project, drawing inspiration from science fiction literature and from the scenes of one bizarro nightmare of a year. In October, Howard delivered her sophomore project Apocalypse Chic under her artist alias Breakfast.
With a distinct aesthetic and a lo-fi, alternative, punk sound, Breakfast is a hidden force emerging from the underground to punch her style into frame.
Her latest project, however, is a hybrid lo-fi, country-pop record that explores Breakfast’s journey through an unchartered desert in another world. For Apocalypse Chic, she was guided by the sounds, style and aesthetic of Hasil Adkins and The Microphones album The Glow, Pt. 2.
The album integrates live and virtual instrumentation. “Inland Empire,” the lead single, is named after the David Lynch film of the same name and touches on the conflicting spiritual duality of acknowledging the absence of God while also feeling God’s presence. Breakfast wrote and produced the song in less than four hours following a creative burst of energy that took place after watching the film.
“'Inland Empire' isn’t about the movie, it’s about how it made me feel," she says. "I really like making things that capture how art makes me feel.”
Her visceral reaction to the film motivated the artist to explore the frantic nature of entertainment, she says, aiming to capture the film's meta atmosphere and storytelling — one theme being the question of where the art starts and it finishes. Breakfast likes the idea and feeling of the art being contained within itself.
The minimalist “State Lines” speaks of loneliness, departure and love, the things Breakfast felt as she drove away to escape into the New Mexico desert.
“When I was traveling to New Mexico for school one summer, I uploaded a bunch of unfinished versions where I would just listen to the tracks when traveling," she says. "I would try them on with different headphones while on the trip to capture the vibe.”
And that vibe was captured in the form of barebone tracks, which later became Apocalypse Chic. First, Breakfast listened to these tracks in specific surroundings to measure them against the feel of each place, setting up a fictional setting somewhere on another planet.
On “Pop Song,” long, light and electric pulses mark the track as Breakfast ad-libs lyrics such as “I feel nothing.”
The song is about David Cronenberg’s film Naked Lunch and Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, the story about a man who wakes up as an insect. Both stories are about bugs, in different ways, and Breakfast took the idea of waking up with the feeling of having no control over your life and threw it into a pop song.
“It doesn’t have to make total sense," she says. "I just like stringing sounds together that I think sound cool and work together.”
“Interlude for Traitors” is a play on words on supermarket chain Trader Joe’s. The idea was based on Phoebe Bridgers' one-time Twitter handle, “traitorjoe” on Twitter, which Breakfast thought was pretty funny. The track is about the immediate thoughts that occur as you walk through a grocery store, a stream of consciousness.
“In my head it was the idea of what the Donners felt like when they got home," she says, referring to a group of pioneers who got snowbound in the mountains of Sierra Nevada and resorted to cannibalism to survive. "How you can go from thinking of going to the store after you read a Wikipedia article or a book.”
“Dustbowl” is a track that Breakfast describes as “pure nonsense” but relates to the meaning of Apocalypse Chic, meaning how one would dress in the event of an apocalypse. For Breakfast, her apocalyptic style would fall somewhere between the trashy, garbage-punk aesthetic of Mad Max to the dystopian, cyberpunk aesthetics in Bladerunner.
The album closes with “Journey Home My Dear Beloved Donners," an ode to the Donner Party.
“I did an experimentation with minimalistic composing," Breakfast says. "I wanted to see the most I could do with the least amount of instruments to explore their feelings of those who returned home after that tragic event.”
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