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Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn:Breathing Exercises

by James Cattermole

Flow for days.

Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn translated nine years of friendship and musical partnership into their debut album titled Breathing Exercises, which dropped on Feb. 28. The Brighton-based rap duo gave tmrw track-by-track insight into their 15-track project.

1. “Breathing Exercises”

Frankie Stew: “We knew this was going to be the introduction as soon as we heard it. I actually felt it really set a tone for the album ahead, and cemented ‘breathing’ as a theme.”

Harvey Gunn: “For me, this track summarises what’s to come on the album very well. It felt like the perfect intro.”

2. “Adult Workers”

FS: “This has a religious feel throughout. I talk on the experience of going to a Catholic school but not really understanding it. As soon as I heard the choir-based sample, I knew what I wanted to say.”

HG: “This was the first song we made for Breathing Exercises, and [we] felt like it set the tone for the whole project. Love the music video, too—best one we’ve ever done.

3. “Good Will Hunting”

FS: “This is one of my favourite films of all time. I needed to incorporate it in my music somehow.”

HG: “I love the breakbeat drums on this one. I first got into music DJing a lot of DnB and Jungle so this was a nod to that.”

4. “Tony Stark (Skit)”

FS: “My inspiration for this one was playing around with different rhyme schemes, melodies and repeating them. This is one of my favourites off the album and was proper fun to make.”

HG: “This song came together really quickly in the studio. Franks started with this rhyme scheme and flow, and we knew it was something special.”

5. “Tortoise” (feat. Joel Baker & Ashley Henry)

FS: “Tortoise actually materialised in a funny way. We saw Joel Baker post a video of him singing the chorus and playing guitar on his Insta and thought it was incredible. We hit him up and asked if he wanted to co-write a song off it and got in the studio together.”

HG: “It was so good to link up with Ashley Henry to get the keys down on this one. I’d been a big fan of his for a long time, so it was a pleasure.”

6. “Dream Factory” (feat. Loyle Carner)

FS: “We’ve been trying to make a collab work with Loyle for a little while now, and as soon as we made ‘Dream Factory,’ we knew he was perfect for it. We got the verse off him, signed off the mix, and the whole album went to master the next day.”

HG: “This is easily one of my favourites off the album. It feels like some of our more old school tracks, and it felt good to return to that sound.”

7. “Humble Pie”

FS: “This song is inspired by my general life experiences in the last 12 months. I always find it the easiest topic to talk about. It doesn’t feel like proper writing when it’s just the same way I would talk to my friends, [and] that’s how I like to write most of the time.

HG: “I loved being able to have fun with the 2-step-esque hook on this one. I wanted to create a sound that was genre bending, but British through and through.”

8. “Free Fall”

FS: “This is an emotional song for me. I found it quite hard to write but think it suits the album perfectly.”

HG: “We looped up some guitar from Joel Baker, and Frankie did his thing to it. We knew from the off that we weren’t going to put any drums in this one. It felt right stripped back. We kept working on the production, and I felt the song really hit its stride once we got that little high-pitched vocal sample in the chorus.”

9. “I Notice” (feat. Manga Saint Hillare)

HG: “As the album took shape, we scrapped the first version we made and Harvey completely re-wrote the beat around Frankie’s verses. This second version was great, and we played it out at festivals in the summer, but still didn’t sit right in the body of work. We reworked the whole beat from scratch again, and finally hit gold. This song took by far the most hours in the project, and Manga Saint Hilare’s verse turned this into one of our favourites.”

FS: “Manga’s work rate is so crazy. He’s one of my favourite rappers at the moment so felt inspired to be on the same tune as him.”

10. “Electric Scooter”

FS: “I went to Portugal last summer and was going round the whole holiday on those electric scooters. It was too fun. They definitely inspired some of the lyrics to this song.”

HG: “Frankie always bangs on about how we wants an electric scooter. Didn’t think he wanted one that much to make a song about it, though…”

11. “Grown Ups (Skit)”

HG: “This guitar was actually sampled from the original version of ‘I Notice.’ I chopped it up and turned it into something new and it felt good to make use of a beat that was shelved.”

FS: “One of the first tunes we made on the album, Harv started playing the loop and it just caught me right away. Shouts to the Joker chicken shop too. All day long.”

12. “Water Colours”

FS: “I used to love art and music when I was at school. They’re the only two things, really. My dad also used to paint quite a lot. He used water colours, and that gave me the inspiration for this.”

HG: “Found it funny that I’ve had a few messages asking me if it’s me singing on this one (laughs). It’s Franks with some BVs.”

13. “Love, Actually”

FS: “My relationship inspired this. I wanted to try and make a love tune without it being too deep for once.”

HG: “As soon as I made the beat for this, I knew it was going to be a special one.”

14. “Harry’s Letter”

HG: “This song started when I heard this amazing sample by Frank Dukes, and I knew instantly it was going to be one where Frankie talks from his heart.”

FS: “Yeah, this one is inspired by someone close to me’s troubles and experiences.”

15. “Lost At Sea” (feat. Isaac Waddington)

HG: “Originally this song had a completely different vocal for the chorus, but we couldn’t get the sample cleared for it. We linked up with Isaac Waddington, and he wrote the incredible chorus and top-line that you hear in the song today, which turned it into something 100-times better than it was before. Isaac Waddington is hands down one of the most talented musicians we’ve ever worked with.”

FS: “This was inspired by the struggle and journey of life and the music industry. [It] can be tough at times, but it’s all worth it. I think it sums up the album pretty well, always had to be the final song for me.”

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