Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Interview with Dave from Ex-Breathers

A couple years ago my buds Steve and Mike started talking about this band Ex-Breathers from Tallahassee, saying they were awesome and I needed to check them out. For whatever reason I never did (Oh right, cuz I’m an idiot!), but fast forward a couple years later and I saw that Ryan Hex was working with them. Given that the Hex imprint has delivered an unbroken succession of ear-imploding sonic goodness over the years, I decided it was time to actually wake the fuck up and give this band a listen.
I’m certainly glad I did, because they deliver and then some. Their new LP “Past Tense” mixes the best elements of head-splitting noise rock with the more refined, pulsating grooves of DC post-hardcore. I’m not sure if that sounds intriguing or not, so just trust me when I say it rules.

Anyway, as always, I decided to reach out and had the following exchange with David. Hit the link at the bottom to give these dudes a listen, and do not miss them if they roll through your town.
I'm always interested in hearing about people's origins in music so talk a little bit about your childhood, your background and your introduction to punk, hardcore, DIY, whatever you wanna call it.

I grew up pretty normally in a small town in north Florida, so I got really into whatever independent music I could find online since there wasn't much else to do.  Some friends of mine found out I played guitar and knew a little about hardcore so they got me to play in a band with them.  Thankfully they somehow knew how to get on shows and we'd play a lot at this collectively owned coffee shop in Pensacola called End Of The Line Cafe.  That place was incredible and introduced me to more radical politics and punk ideals and music.  They also let me book shows there, which was so nice of them to let a dumb high schooler do.  The people who ran it really instilled a lot of great knowledge and DIY ethos in me, just through example.  I owe so much to them.
That sounds awesome. So who were some of the best bands you got to play with and/or book? Favorite memories from that spot?

The shows I booked back then (this was, like, over 10 years ago) were just some bad metal-core shows for my high school band to play, haha.  Just with other local high school bands.  Some of the bands that stick out that kinda opened my eyes a little were Light The Fuse And Run and Transistor, Transistor.  Two old screamo bands, but I remember them playing on the floor and getting everyone to be as close to them as possible.  I know a lot of bands do that, but it was my first time being a part of that and it really pressed through to high-school-me that we were all on the same level and there shouldn't be any hierarchy in punk.  I watched Bear Vs Shark through a window cause we got there too late to get in and that blew my mind just seeing them play.

Hey, never trust a kid who didn’t grow up listening to bad metal-core, haha. So I know for me, starting to book shows is what really made me start to feel connected to the broader hardcore and punk community, even more so than playing in bands. I wonder what your experience has been there....what would you say has hooked you in more?
Definitely booking shows has strengthened my connection to a more national community.  Especially through the DIY venue that Jack and I used to be involved with called The Farside.  We met so many rad, like-minded people through that, a lot of which we still play shows with now.

Who were some of those early bands you played in and what lessons would you say you took away from those projects?
I've played in a million bands in the last ten years that were never really heard outside of Florida.  Each one was pretty different (in my opinion) and I definitely learned a lot from everyone that I've played with.  I feel like they all kinda helped informed the songwriter I am now in different aspects.

Talk a little bit about the formation of Ex-Breathers....how did you come together as people and what were some of your common reference points or influences as you started to talk about doing the band?
Jack had an old band called Bleeder, and towards the end of that band I joined to play second guitar.  We were both also in a band called Dickkicker in which I wrote all the songs.  Bleeder ended, but Jack still had a bunch of songs, so the two of us continued with Adam drumming.  Originally it was all Jack's songs.  Then Dickkicker broke up, so I started writing for Ex-Breathers too.  We didn't really have any influences in mind, just wanted to play some heavier music.  We all have pretty similar tastes in music, so it kinda just ended up sounding like our favorite bands.  But hopefully that's always evolving.

So listening to your discography it seems like the first few releases were definitely high on the frenetic energy, things almost falling apart chaos, whereas "Past Tense" maintains some of that urgency and tension, but definitely also settles down a little more at times, locking into some Fugazi-esque grooves. Talk a little bit about the writing process for this new stuff, and the expansion of your sound.

I don't think there was really a conscious expansion of our sound; it's just us constantly wanting to do something a little different.  The writing process has always been the same: either Jack or I writes a song and brings it to everyone to see if we like it, and then we do our own thing to it.  So I guess it's always influenced by whatever we're listening to a lot of at the time. 
You mentioned earlier being drawn in by the progressive politics of punk as a young kid when you were first getting into things, what are some of the lyrical themes on the new record?

I can only speak for the songs I wrote, but those are usually just me trying to suss out my thoughts on different pressing topics.  On the last few records, those topics tended to be my own mental and physical health, but for this one there was definitely an attempt to stop singing about myself, haha.  Topics range from police violence against minorities, militarized responses to protesters, physical and mental violence against the LGBTQ community, as well as, OK, one song about my mental health.  And one song about people who make boring art for profit.
I know Hex worked with you guys on the 4 way split, how did it come about to work with him again and Exploding in Sound for the new LP?

Ryan's been so rad to us since we met a couple of years ago at The Fest.  EIS wanted to put the record out as a split release, and Hex still wanted to work with us.  That's really about it.  We're so lucky to work with two labels we really respect.

You guys just got back from a run that was fairly extensive to say the least....how were things, both in terms of the shows themselves, as well as with respect to the quality of the people you met along the way and the experiences you guys had?

This last tour was incredible!  Traveling to beautiful places we've never been before (we've never played out west before) in the same van as our friends Gnarwhal definitely made it one of our best trips.  The shows weren't as big as what some bands play, but it meant the world to us that a handful of people in most towns that we've never been to before wanted to see us.  Or at least they tolerated us while waiting for their friends' bands to play, haha.  We also definitely got to meet some rad new people that were doing cool things in their communities, which is always inspiring.
Talk about the dynamics of throwing two bands in one van. Did you know the folks from Gnarwhal going into it or were you just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best? That's so rad that it worked out. I'm sure sharing gear and expenses were obviously awesome, but was there any nervousness (in either band) that there could have been personality clashes?

We've known Gnarwhal for a few years now.  Both of us have booked shows for each other (and our other bands) in our respective cities, so we knew it'd work out great.  Kinda surprising it took this long to tour together, haha.  

From looking at photos it seems like sometimes you guys play with two drummers, sometimes just one. As a drummer myself, I have enough problems staying on track with the other musicians, let alone tossing a second drummer into the mix, haha! How does playing with a second drummer affect things, both live and in terms of writing?
We've actually only played with two drummers once a couple of years ago, and we're about to do it again as another one-off.  Ronnie, the second drummer, actually drummed for us for a little bit while Adam was in school and touring with another band, and he actually recorded drums for the four-way split we did with Gnarwhal, Woozy, and Ovlov.  Also, both of them grew up playing shows together, so they both have a good understanding of how each other plays.  It's actually really fun for everyone and pretty nuts that we know two people who can play those parts.

To close out, what's next for you guys? With a new record I assume more touring (Midwest pretty please)....are there any specific plans yet or you just taking things as they come?
We're writing some stuff now; don't really have any concrete plans.  I'm sure we'll tour the East Coast/Midwest again at some point.  We really want to tour outside of the country, if we can figure out how to do that.

Jam the Jams: http://ex-breathers.bandcamp.com/
Purchase: http://www.hexrecords.bigcartel.com OR http://www.explodinginsound.bigcartel.com

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