Listening Local Jennifer

Midnight Breakfast which features Falmouth native Jennifer Shevlin-Fernandes on vocals, recently released its self-titled debut album.

My mother-in-law commented on a bootleg Vampire Weekend concert T-shirt I was wearing today. It was from one of the last concerts I went to before the shutdown. I was reminded how much I miss live shows. Thankfully, we music fans have tons of new singles and albums coming out these days to get us through.

Some artists I know are waiting until touring is happening again to release new music. Others are itching to release music to stay connected with their fans and reach new ones.

Midnight Breakfast is one of the latter bands. Fronted by Falmouth native Jennifer Shevlin-Fernandez, the band just released its self-titled debut album. The band is based out of Orono, Maine, where all the band members attend the University of Maine.

Along with Ms. Shevlin-Fernandez, the band consists of Matt Donovan on guitar and bass, Benjamin Flanagan on bass and keys, Reggie Kollman on drums and Loren Pinkham on saxophone and keys.

I got a chance to catch up with Ms. Shevlin-Fernandez, a 2016 graduate of Falmouth High School, about the new album, her influences and what it’s like having to take a break from live shows.

LV: Who are some of your early musical influences?

JS: I grew up listening to a variety of artists. Some mornings I would watch VH1’s Top 40 Countdown and rock out in my living room. All that said, Amy Winehouse and Stevie Wonder were two of my early musical influences.

I had the entire “Back To Black” album downloaded on my iPod. Amy did an excellent job at telling her story. You can feel her emotions in her voice when she sings. It’s heavy but natural. “Superstition” is such a classic. Stevie Wonder acts like himself. It’s raw and real vocals. My current musical influences include Hiatus Kaiyote, Vulfpeck, PJ Morton, Crumb, and Lake Street Dive. A strong blend of R&B, soul, pop, and indie rock.

LV: What was the process of writing and recording your debut album?

JS: A lot of the songs on the album are fragments from various experiences in my life. I have many notes and audio clips on my phone with random lyrics or melodies that pop into my head. The writing process is more of a collaborative effort. I don’t know how to play an instrument, so sometimes it is difficult to explain exactly what I’m looking for in a song. In the past, I’ve recorded each part a cappella using Garage Band and just shared it during rehearsal. Everyone [in the band] is really talented and can pick up a part very quickly. We normally go from there.

The song “Hometown” is about Falmouth. When I was writing the song, I imagined driving down the windy backroads from Woods Hole to downtown Falmouth and the careless feeling of summer on the Cape. I couldn’t write this song without paying tribute to Pie in the Sky and their Monday night open mic nights, sitting on the lawn across the street listening to beautiful music. A nostalgic feeling, for sure.

The recording happened so fast. We had booked studio time back in March of 2020, and a week before we were set to record, everything shut down. Some of us moved back home while others stayed in the area. We decided to wait it out. When we returned to school in September, Matt asked if we wanted to record at his home studio. Since March, we hadn’t seen each other, so we were a bit rusty, but we recorded everything in two days! It was such an incredible experience. We were in three separate rooms, but all played together. We could see each other through the glass, which helped us really tap into that groove.

LV: Can you tell me a little about the name Midnight Breakfast?

JS: We’d been throwing around different names but none of them really “stuck.” Our university hosts a service day and concert every May, and that year we were invited to play. It was our first gig, and we needed to commit to a name.

A week before the show, my bandmate Ben came home one night and found a stack of pancakes in the fridge. He messaged the group chat and was like, “How do you guys feel about the name Midnight Pancake?” We thought it might be too silly, so we played around with some more names and ultimately decided on Midnight Breakfast. At first, it was only a temporary name, but then it just stuck with us.

LV: The pandemic has made life really tough for musicians, is there anything your band was able to do during this time that you might not have if you’d been focused on booking live shows and touring?

JS: Honestly, we took time to reset. We’re all college students with jobs and other commitments. We were able to slow down for a bit. I live near Acadia National Park, so I would go hiking and write whatever came to mind. It was pretty therapeutic but bittersweet because the ocean reminded me of home. Our original plan was to record our album in March and tour over the summer. I don’t think we ever imagined that we would self-produce our very first album. People wanted an album, and we had no way of getting into the studio. We wouldn’t have done it that way if the circumstances were different. Although we were unable to tour and perform live, we were still able to make music and that’s what matters most.

LV: Who is one artist you would love to collaborate with and why?

JS: I would love to collaborate with Rachel Price from Lake Street Dive.

She has such a great stage presence and seems so genuine and truthful. Her voice is so smooth and unique. Every time she sings, I’m just blown away by her talent.

Last weekend Midnight Breakfast headlined the benefit concert “Overdrive: Full Saturation,” produced as a livestream by the New England School of Communications at Husson University and benefitting the Bangor Homeless Shelter. The concert can be viewed on YouTube. Midnight Breakfast’s debut album is available now on all major platforms. For more information and to purchase merchandise go to https://midnightbreakfastme.bandcamp.com. The band can also be found on Facebook and Instagram @midnightbreakfast

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