The Politics Of Breathe
RipItUp 15th December 1996 - Jesse Garon
American critic Robert Christgau wrote recently that great music was born of bad politics (was that Christgau or Bruce Russell?). He said the more reactionary a regime, the more likely it was that musicians would feed their anger with great doses of energetic enthusiasm. Of course, he was talking about America, where the harsh is a lot hasher than here, but the same rules still apply - rock 'n' roll is a constant beast.
Taking Christgau's equation, is it a possibility that the new MMP government is to be one of the repressive back-pedaling? The quality of bands at present is certainly forecasting such. Breather from Wellington must be seen as an example. Going from strength to strength since their inception a couple of years ago. With last year's independent WP, Things Like These, Breathe managed to get the songs that were going through their heads out. While it was indicative of where the band were at the time, it is new EP Smiley Hands (out on Felix) that better captures the band's live power and sonic intricacies.
Four of the five Breathe band member - Andrew, Steve, Guy and Richard - explain the maturing process that lead to Smiley Hands.
"On the first EP we were concentrating more on trying to create an atmosphere. The songs were slower, more multi-layered. Sort of drifting around your head. This one is more just songs. There's nothin simpler about the songwriting just the delivery is more direct," says Andrew.
Things Like These showcased Breathe's first foray into the studio. That, plus the My Bloody Valentine/Curve listening diet had the band layering to their heart's content. Smiley Hands, with it's rumbling concrete melodies, is not suffering from too much or not enough. But it's the band's constant list of live gigs which has set their studio like on the straight and narrow.
"Confidence. We've definitely gained a lot of confidence especially in the last year. I guess that's through playing a lot and getting tighter," says Steve.
"We used to get ourselves into this really intense mode before getting on stage, and afterwards feel slightly depressed, probably because of the intensity we got into. Now we're more comfortable on stage. We enjoy ourselves a lot more." Says Richard.
Breathe took this more lucid creative vibe into the studio for Smiley Hands, and were helped along by Shihad's Tom Larkin, who acted as producer.
"It was really lucky to have Tom there, just as someone who could advise us and give us feedback. It would be impossible for us, who play together twice a week, to see what he sees. We're too close to the whole thing. And it was fantastic to have someone who would offer his ideas in a direct way like Tom - someone who'll tell you exactly what he thinks," says Andrew.
Breathe have had a following in Wellington for two years now, and with Felix behind them, that following should become national. Good news for all? Perhaps, yet let's not forget Christgau's comment and get ready for the worst. Great rock 'n' roll is everywhere - where are the politicians?