Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Breathe Out Exhales On The First EP

Six months after longtime friends and former bandmates Alex Clegg and James Goodhead put their solo projects on hold and started working together on a recording project, their new collaboration nearly fell apart. It wasn't anything that anybody aid. It wasn't anything that anybody did.

Just as the duo was starting to feel prolific about their work and even talking about starting a proper band, Goodhead had a heart attack. Lights out.

"I basically died twice," says Goodhead. "It set us back about a month, but the demos were being emailed back and forth with increased urgency. The first time I heard [our song] Deep Impact, I was still in the hospital."

Deep Impact is one of five tracks that make up the band's self-titled EP, Breathe Out, put out by Art Is Hard Records. The song is about loss, with the opening lines still a foreboding reminder as Clegg sings, "I'm still here, but I had my fill. The temperature is set to maximum chill."

The song is haunting even without the connection. Propelled by a wicked bass line and screaming distorted guitars, it sets down the eclectic indie rock/pop sound that is slowly taking shape in London.

"I think the eclecticism has helped us to stand out with out recorded music as there are a million bands doing the fuzzed out 90s influenced power pop thing," says Clegg. "I think we have a slightly more interesting take on that by mixing in other influences. The idea of this band has always been to do whatever kind of music we felt like."

Incidentally, Deep Impact wasn't the only song to see some hospital time. The music video shot by Goodhead in the hospital adds an eerily ethereal and out-of-body experience to the down tempo Elite/Corrigans, a song he had written almost year earlier and recorded only a month before the collapse.

"The lyrical content is so obviously profound to to me now, a young man saying goodbye to his friends and family," says Goodhead. "If things would have turned out differently, this song would have been some horrible epitaph but luckily things turned out okay. For the video, yes, I was fully aware I was making the video for that song and wanting a visual document of my time in the hospital."

The contrast in the composition alludes to how the original duo tackles their music. Each song starts as a demo and then is built out by the rest of the band. Originally, it was Clegg and Goodhead who wrote and recorded everything, but there is more collaboration since adding Stuart Dando and Nick Shaw with the result being a more balanced output.

"I kind of have two ways of writing songs. One is to spend a few weeks slowly building up all the parts  and the other is to just sit down with a guitar and let the whole song flow out in about 10 minutes," says Clegg. "Champion was definitely the latter. I had a true story about a mock execution, which was really upsetting but also kind of darkly funny and ironic. We tried to give it a raw, live kind of feel."

The track, which was one of the first highlighted by the band, carries a much lighter, campy 60s throwback pop rock sound with a few arrangements similar to early Weezer. While this might throw off some people who gravitate toward a certain sound, Clegg is right in that it makes the band more unexpectedly listenable much like their influences: Beatles, Blur, and even Brian Jonestown Massacre.

In fact, Goodhead had just downloaded the entire Jonestown catalog and was obsessing about the 60s U.K. psyche scene and often forgotten bands like July when he wrote Cut Out And Keep, which played as the B-side to the Champion single. Listen carefully and you'll catch what Goodhead calls cheeky references to Bob Dylan and David Bowie.

The song itself is about a stoned boy taking a beautiful girl hime for the first time in hipster London, circa 1960s. Bringing his new Telecaster home for the first time didn't hurt either. Goodhead says that nothing is more inspiring than a new guitar.

"We're planning to spend most of the summer recording as we've got at least ten new songs to get out. I think these will probably go toward another EP later this year," says Clegg. "As far as remaining independent, we always just take each opportunity and decision as they come."

By the sounds of things, Breathe Out has had a steadily increasing number of opportunities and gigs in London. Not too surprising. Making music is all they want to do. It's always been that way, ever since they first played in a hardcore band called Shooting Victor Francis together and even did a stint in a hip hop cover band better known as Monster Goodhead. And then there was Big Detail and Slam Dunk (Clegg was once a semi-pro basketball player, but that is another story best saved for another time.

The Self-Titled EP By Breathe Out Blows Over 7.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

The swirling 1960s guitars and infectious melodies tie every track together, but there is just enough diversity between each number that it seldom gets old. If anything, Breathe Out gets better with every listen. This time around, it sounds like they've found a sound to call home.

They also have a studio to call home. Clegg co-runs Sound Savers, a studio located in Hackney, East London. So even when the band isn't making their own music, they're making music with a half dozen bands booked at any given time.

The single Champion is currently listed on iTunes, but without the B-side, Cut Out And Keep. For that, the best bet is to order both songs from the Big Cartel. The self-titled EP that we love can be ordered directly from Art Is Hard. You can also keep up with Breathe Out on Facebook. If you want to hear more, they also have a double A-side single on Bandcamp with all proceeds going to charity.
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