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Isolation is nothing new for Fenne Lily – in fact, she’s written an album of songs all about it. “It’s kind of like writing a letter, and leaving it in a book that you know you’ll get out when you’re sad – like a message to yourself in the future,” she says, referring to BREACH, her Dead Oceans debut she wrote during a period of self-enforced isolation pre-COVID. It’s an expansive, diaristic, frequently sardonic record that deals with the mess and the catharsis of entering your 20s and finding peace while being alone. “I think this record is proof that I can be emotionally stable, even if right now I feel a little bit up and down,” says Fenne. “There’s the ability to find clarity in that. It’s sobering, weirdly.”
Fenne was born in London and moved to Dorset as a toddler, where she grew up in the picturesque English countryside. She was a “free range kid,” as she calls it, after her parents took her out of school for a period at the age of seven. Over the following year, they taught her while the family travelled Europe in a live-in bus. Even after she returned to traditional school at 9, her home education never ended, extending to music. Her mother gifted Fenne with her old record collection, through which she discovered her love for T-Rex and the Velvet Underground and Nico. Soon after she fell for the strange genius of PJ Harvey and came to worship Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, and the richly crafted worlds of Feist, which inspired Fenne to pick up a guitar.
It’s that journey to find peace inside herself that underpins the whole of Fenne’s second album. Its title, BREACH, occurred to Fenne after deep conversations with her mum about her birth, during which she was breech, or upside down in the womb. The slippery double-sidedness of the word – which, spelled with an “A”, means to “break through” – drew her in. “That feels like what I was doing in this record; I was breaking through a wall that I built for myself, keeping myself safe, and dealing with the downside of feeling lonely and alone. I realized that I am comfortable in myself, and I don’t need to fixate on relationships to make myself feel like I have something to talk about. I felt like I broke through a mental barrier in that respect.” Even though it also carries implications of awkwardness, rebellion, and breakage, it’s a wide- reaching word, representing new beginnings and birth.