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Tired Lion: "I write music because it helps me to get through things, so the fact that this is all 100 percent me is terrifying"

Tired Lion
(Image credit: Haidee Lorenz)

To say it’s been a long time coming would be one hell of an understatement, but after almost three icy years of anxiety, uncertainty and difficult self-care, Tired Lion are finally back on the prowl and ready to make their next attack on Australia’s thriving grunge-punk revival scene.

‘Their’ might not be the right word, however: despite her insistence of it not technically being a solo project given the new record’s full-bodied sound, and the fact she’ll drag a team of mates up onstage with her once touring becomes viable, everything in Tired Lion – and everything on the ripping new album Breakfast For Pathetics, out in November on Dew Process – comes at the helm of sole surviving member Sophie Hopes, following a period of chaotic upheaval after the cycle for 2017’s Dumb Days came to an unceremonious end.

After relocating from Perth to Brisbane, Hopes was effectively abandoned by her bandmates, who scuttled off to form a new project while the frontwoman was left to rebuild Tired Lion from the ground up. But thanks in no short part to her unwavering resilience, determination to prove her strength and unf***withable talent with axe in hand, Hopes was able to bounce right back with an album bigger, boomier and more impenetrably badass than anything her old crew could’ve wished to scrounge up.

Now Breakfast is ready to be served, and Hopes is looking straight down a bright new path ahead for Tired Lion. Let’s find out how she lined up the pavers. 

Were you always determined to keep pushing on with this project as Tired Lion, or was that up in the air for a while? 
It was definitely up in the air for a while. It wasn’t easy. I got to a point where I kind of thought, “Well, everyone else has given up, so maybe I should too.” And then I just… Like, I wish I was a quitter [laughs]. But unfortunately, my parents didn’t raise me to be one – I just stuck at it for ages, and for while I thought, “Maybe I should just change everything and f*** Tired Lion off completely, just do it under a different name and start from the very beginning.” 

But it kind of sucks because everything I had been working towards up until that moment, it all counts. I wasn’t ready to just throw that all in the bin. So it was pretty difficult at the start, trying to figure out where I was going to take it, and the journey that it’s taken me on has been really interesting. But I feel like this was totally meant to happen, in some weird way. I think I’ve really come into my own through this experience, and I’ve figured a lot of things out about myself.

So having really taken the reins with this record, do the songs feel more creatively liberating, or do you feel closer to them? 
Totally. I guess when you’re in a band, you’ve everybody around you and there’s sort of like this extra layer of security – if you’re putting yourself out there, it’s not as scary because it’s a ‘band thing’, and there’s no direct spotlight on you. You can kind of hide behind your bandmates whenever you want to. And that was the scary thing about doing it on my own, because I hate talking about my songs! I hate putting myself out there. I write music because it helps me to get through things, so the fact that this is all 100 percent me is terrifying. But it is also very liberating.

This record feels a lot tighter and more focussed than Dumb Days – which isn’t to say that record wasn’t great, this one is just a total step up in those respects. Was that something you wanted to nail with this LP? 
I really appreciate that, because I have worked so f***ing hard on this record for the last three years. And you get kind of nervous, y’know? Like I was saying, when it’s all down to one person, you can’t hide behind anyone – so that’s awesome to hear. And that’s exactly what I was aiming for. I don’t know, maybe I just wanted to prove to myself that I’ve got this, and that I could do a record all on my own. 

And it’s been scary, because I had so many comments on our three-year anniversary post for Dumb Days where people were saying, “Oh my God, I love this record, it got me through all of this shit, I still listen to it in my car…” And I’m just here like, “Shit, I wonder if this new record is good enough to compete with that.” 

I feel like you learn a lot from doing the debut album that really helps out when it comes time to do the next one. 
Oh, absolutely. I have grown so much as a musician since Dumb Days came out – like, I am so much better at guitar now. I always used to just kind of take it easy, because Matt [Tanner, ex-lead guitarist] would come in with his parts and handle everything. So doing this record, I didn’t really have the choice to not improve. I worked on it every single day, I learned how to program drums, and I just practised whenever I could. And I’ve kind of developed my own – in a non-lame way – signature guitar vibe. It’s not too complicated… I guess you could say it’s kind of like that Pavement-esque style where it’s like the shit version of being good at the guitar. 

So in this photo, you’re posing with the classic off-white Jazzmaster that’s been on your hip since the very early days of Tired Lion. What is it about this guitar that makes you so inseparable from it? 
The story behind it just means so much to me. I didn’t have a whole lot of money when the band was starting off, but I went into this music store called Concept Music in Perth – that’s where I bought my very first guitar, which one of those super cute beginner Strat packs where it comes with the solid-state amp and the tuner and all that cheap stuff. I went back into that store and I was just, like, frothing over this Jazzmaster. 

And the dude behind the counter, Tony – he’d been watching me grow from the minute I bought that little, shitty Strat pack, all the way to playing shows in Perth and kind of moving up the chain, to then playing shows in different countries and stuff – and he was just staring at me, looking at this guitar. I was like, “Man, I so want this! I wish I could buy it.” You know what it’s like being a musician when you’re just barely scraping by – you can’t afford shit like that. But Tony turned around and just said, “I ordered that guitar for you.” Like… What!? And he was like, “You can take as long as you want to pay it off.” I was just like, “Are you serious dude? This is insane!” 

It was pretty cool, because we had this really important show that night – this was before we got signed to a booking agent, and we had some industry people coming to check us out – and Tony secretly let me take the Jazzmaster out of the store, use it that night and bring it back the next day. 

I just love that guitar so much, and it’s never failed me. I did try to buy a new guitar recently. I thought, “I want something fresh!” I was in the middle of writing this record, and you know how picking out a new instrument can give you a different type of inspiration, or whatever? So I gave it a shot and I bought a Jag-Stang, but I ended up being like, “Oh… This is shit.” Kurt Cobain designed a horrible f***ing guitar, man! Like, there’s no cutaway – it especially sucks for girls as well, your boobs just sit flat with the guitar. But I’ll give it one thing: the neck is a lot shorter than my Jazzmaster, so I felt like a total shredlord. 

So yeah, I gave that a go for a while, but I ended up just thinking, “Nah, this isn’t doing it for me.” And then I picked up the Jazzmaster – which I’d neglected for about a year at that point – and I was like, “Man, why did I put this thing down!?” It’s the best! I can’t get over it.