Sunday, 17 April 2016

Artist Interview: Famous Breathers

Famous Breathers are a duo from Rochester, New York, who I recently became aware of during researches into the "noise" genre. That said, they describe their debut album, Mosquito Buzzer, as "experimental rock" and I'd go along with that. I found the album to be an always interesting and different ride through 11 songs (singing is featured here from the sometimes Bowiesque David Glossner) whose average length is around the three minute mark. The album itself is always keen to stay fresh and doesn't settle into any ruts and has a few tricks and surprises up its sleeve. Whereas some albums can just deliver one flavor and you either like it or you don't, this album offers a variation of treats and this is good for it means that you keep listening to the end (as I did) and when you get there you are left with the impression of a duo who are happily experimental but also fresh with it. On my listening I never got the impression I'd heard this music before and I was encouraged to listen further by their inventiveness. The album makes use of an extended rock instrumentation that veers off into electronica and this gives a sound as fresh as it is varied. Being encouraged by my listen of the album I decided to invite the duo to give an interview for my blog and, happily, they agreed. What follows is the questions I put to them and the answers I received back.

1. What's the background of the guys in the band? How do you come to be Famous Breathers and making the music you're making together?

We are a duo. I am David, and the other Famous Breather is Brannon. I will start with Brannon's background as he is much more accomplished than I. Brannon is from outside of Fargo, and his first break was being selected to take Page Hamilton's (Helmet) lead spot in Glenn Branca's Ensemble. He recorded symphony's 8 and 10 with Branca and toured the world with the Ensemble. After his time with Branca, Brannon also played guitar with the legendary Am/Rep Noise Rock band Hammerhead. As a matter of fact, I first saw Brannon play with Hammerhead as a fan. I then heard that Brannon was living in my City of Rochester NY, and I was able to meet him and discuss our mutual music interests. We decided to get together and make some noise, and we just clicked. Brannon has also played with other notable musicians like Virgil Moorefield, Elliott Sharp, Tony Levin, Jerry Marotta, etc. as well as his own bands Oblivion Ensemble, Kill Myself on Monday, and solo work under the name Figure. I have been more of an underground musician, with my lo-fi psychedelic folk rock weirdness project To Gaze which was recorded on Fisher Price Tape Recorder, and gained a bit of a cult following. I have also recorded a lot of solo stuff over the years, played in a few bands, and currently have two solo projects Funshine Bear, which is  a noise project and Shiny Robot Face which is an electro-experimental-pop kind of thing? I have a hard time playing in bands, too many irons in the fire. I prefer solo, or duo's. 

2. What are you guys' top 3 musical influences and why?

That's a tough one. I think we both pull from so much. Brannon is a big Scott Walker fan, but he also really loves Slim Whitman. Personally I was influenced a lot by Mr. Bungle. That freedom to just record what you want without sticking to a genre or pre-defined sound was always attractive to me. But I have listened to everything over the years. Butthole Surfers are a big influence too, and early Ween. (One cool fact actually is that Kramer, who played with Butthole Surfers and Ween, and also was behind the famous label Shimmy Disc mastered Mosquito Buzzer.) But I've listened to plenty of pop, hip hop, metal, hardcore, country, punk... just everything. I also spent a lot of time immersed in the metal scene in Rochester as well, so I have a soft spot for heavy stuff and I know my friends and their bands influenced me as well. Some of my friends here have gone on to play in Mastodon, Today is the Day, Napalm Death, Nuclear Assault, Brutal Truth, and more. 

3. What sort of music are you trying to make and what techniques are you using to make it?

Going back to #2, we don't set out to make anything specific. We just play off each other, and build on whatever we come up with, each adding our elements until we are happy with the finished track. Technique wise, we do a little bit of everything... live instruments, programming, effects, keyboards, drum machines, live drums, samples, radio static, vocal sounds used as instrumentation... whatever works. I think you will understand when you hear all of the tracks on Mosquito Buzzer, there is a wide variety of sounds and instrumentation. 

4. What do you hope listeners get from your music, if you hope they get anything at all?

Mostly I just want someone to enjoy what they hear and find it a unique experience for them. I know at times Famous Breathers may sound like this or that, but overall I think it stands out as a unique record. Different. And there is a little humor injected into what we do, so a laugh here and there would be good too. We don't take ourselves too seriously. It's meant to be fun. 

5. What are your creative goals?

I think Brannon and I both would like to continue creating together as Famous Breathers, and at some point we will do another record which will sound entirely different than Mosquito Buzzer. In the meantime Brannon is releasing a new Kill Myself On Monday Record in May, and re-releasing the debut KMOM release "Hit" in June with additional tracks. It will all be up on Bandcamp. I will be continuing to record new solo material for Funshine Bear, and Shiny Robot Face. 

 6. What's the worst band ever and why?

I really hate to trash anybody that's making music that is true to them. And I can find redeeming qualities in a lot of bands/performers. If I had to choose, it would probably be Nickleback or Creed or something like that... its just so run of the mill boring to me. And I guess with bands like too, I don't like it when they take themselves too seriously. Cliche answer I know, but there really isn't much I hate. I'm not afraid to say I like some Katy Perry songs, or other pop tunes that many will see as garbage. I don't really give a shit, I like what I like and I don't care what people think... I don't follow what's cool or hipster. If I like a song, I like it period and I'm never ashamed of it. People like to be Haters for various reasons, but the sad thing is so many Haters deep down like what they are hating on... and just don't have the balls to admit it. Yes, one minute I may be listening to The Cramps, Then Boredoms, then Metronomy, then Eric B and Rakim,  then Glen Campbell, then Roy Ayers, then Bad Brains, then Gary Numan, then QOTSA, then B-52's, then Unsane... and then who knows... maybe Coldplay. Yes, I like some Coldplay so fuck off! 

7. If you can have one musical tool to use and nothing more which do you choose and why?

Brannon I know would choose guitar, he's an amazing multi-instrumentalist but amazing with guitar and can really express anything he needs to with that instrument. Personally, it would be my voice. I can build entire songs around vocal sounds, it's unlimited really. You can hear a lot of that on Mosquito Buzzer too, especially Lemme Know, Lemme Know, Lemme Know. If I had a second choice, it would be my Korg Kaossilator Pro, I just love playing with the thing and its so versatile as well. 

Links for some of David's current and past projects:

Brannon's other projects (some of them): 

Coming soon, new Bandcamp site for Kill Myself on Monday with new releases coming up.

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