GLONO contributor Jude Lemrow recently caught up with Missy Gibson and Mike Gibson of Breech. A lot has changed for this LA-based band since we last checked in with them in 2002. Bass-players have come and gone, a new child has entered Missy’s and Mike’s lives, and a new record is due to be released next week.
Tarnish and Undress is more lush and layered than some of Breech’s past recordings. The songs are edgy, powerful, provocative, and beautiful, as Breech fans would expect. GLONO talked shop with Missy and Mike and here’s what they had to say.
GLONO: A lot of people have come and gone. How has the lineup affected the music?
Gibson: Well, my whole life I have been striving for some kind of cohesive unit, or person to collaborate with and that’s a hard thing to come by. It’s a lot of trial and error, bared emotion, and time spent and I feel very lucky in that I found Mike (guitarist and multi-instrumentalist), because Mike is somebody who has been incredible to work with. We have brought out the best in each other.
GLONO: When I sat down and listened to Tarnish and Undress for the first time, some of my immediate thoughts were that the songs sounded more cohesive than the songs on some of Breech’s earlier recordings. The production values are more consistent—more like a rock band, whereas in the past Breech sounded more like an artist with guest musicians. Was this a product of doing the record yourself in your own studio, or was it a more conscious effort?
Gibson: Hmmm… I don’t think it was a conscious effort.
Flanagan: Well, the fact that all of the songs were recorded at the same time and the same place certainly helped. I know that for the Apron Strings record, Breech recorded six songs in Detroit before I was in the band and then Breech came back to LA and recorded six more songs. There were two new people in the band at that point and we played on some of the old tracks and it became sort of a hybrid thing. Tarnish and Undress is the first record, at least since I’ve been involved, that has been done in one place at one time. Maybe the fact that the songs were ones that we had been playing live for a year or two and we were already comfortable with them fostered more cohesiveness in the studio.
GLONO: Tarnish and Undress is very rich in that it has a lot of layers, musically speaking, whereas some of Breech’s earlier recordings sound more open and airy. Is that a product of working at your own pace and having more time available to experiment?
Flanagan: I had an idea in my mind as to how these songs should sound. Many songs involved extra instruments, in that the recordings would involve more sounds than a strict four-piece band would make. Missy has a lot of orchestral ideas, despite that fact that she likes to call me Steely Mike. (Laughter.) She would say, “What if a banjo came in right here…” Then I would dig out the banjo and say, “Well, what about this?” On some songs, there were a lot of things that got cut out. If I had the opportunity to do it all over again, it probably wouldn’t be much different.
GLONO: Tell me a about an adventure from on the road.
Gibson: We were playing a show in Phoenix and during one song I got off of the stage and I had a very long mic cord and I climbed onto the bar and I stood up and all of a sudden I felt this d-d-d-d-d-d banging on the back of my head. It hurt pretty badly and I could see everybody looking at me with expressions of horror on their faces. I felt a pain in my head, but I continued to sing the song. I saw all of this debris flying out everywhere and the first thing that I thought was, “This is brain matter!” I thought, “Well, this is cool, at least I will have died doing what I loved.” I ducked down and when I turned around I realized that I had stood up into a ceiling fan. Anyway, I just kept singing and people were looking at me with horrified faces and the band continued to play because they couldn’t see what had happened. I ended up with a pretty bad headache. My brain was okay. I didn’t have any exterior head trauma. Then people started bringing shots up to the stage. That was definitely a rock and roll moment.
GLONO: On the business front, what highlights has Breech experienced over the last few years?
Gibson: Highlights have included a lot of self-booked tours, which we are really proud of and which have been really incredible experiences. Some music from our last album had appeared on “Dawson’s Creek.” There was another Warner Brothers show called the Black Sash that featured some music from the Apron Strings record. There was also an independent film called In Memory of Me that came out this past year that featured some Breech music. We have had a really good response to Tarnish and Undress so far. It has been featured on XM Radio and Breech has also been added to the KCRW library here in LA. Making music can be feast or famine sometimes, just trying to keep our heads above water. That we are inspired to create music, despite the fact that we are not hugely successful, feels really good.
GLONO: Congratulations on recently becoming parents! A lot of the subject matter of Breech songs addresses the missteps that boys and girls make with each other. Do you see any old subjects in new light?
Gibson: I would say that I certainly do see some things in a new light, but I don’t know that that has found its way into my writing yet. Perhaps it remains to be seen. Certainly, my perspectives on life and the ways that I value and view things, et cetera, are being challenged. I mean having a child is just amazing. I know that some of my songs can be kind of heavy… For me, my songs and my writing are my ways of working things through, they are my way of working out things that are bigger than me. I like to explore the depths of emotions. I like to take emotions to extremes. Songwriting is a real vehicle for that for me. I would probably just be crazy if it were not for songwriting; I would probably be a total whack-job, pushing a shopping cart out on the street and talking to myself and pulling my hair out, if I didn’t have a place to put my emotions.
GLONO: Let’s talk about a few of the Tarnish and Undress songs’ lyrics. (Song samples.)
Girl of a Mess
“He’s got a habit and a band (what the fuck?) and a guitar
Sexless dreams and decay and indeed I don’t feel sexual at all…
I’m like a serial killer who knifes his victim until he comes
In this city of pure lust and addiction sucking the life out of each one.
How could I be responsible for this girl of a mess?
(Chorus) Flame is to ash as life is to death…
As a fire is expected to sprout from this smoldering ash.”
GLONO: Who is the addict?
Gibson: In that particular song, that character really wasn’t a boyfriend so much as someone who I was working in a band with at the time who I also had a close relationship with. If I had to give it a real specificity, whose crowded filthy boy’s room that is, that is definitely a specific person. His initials are M.L.
GLONO: That’ll keep some people guessing. (Laughter.)
Gibson: …And he was younger than me too. So that made me feel even older, weathered and old.
“I guess I found him undeserved, its best he found a willing girl
He left, I did not follow him to the door
I did not cry, nor part my lips to quarrel
Because I was frightened… Because I’m a saboteur…”
GLONO: Chunky syncopated rhythmic guitars drive this song of lost love. Who is the saboteur? Is it you or is it a character that you created?
Gibson: It’s me. I’m a self-saboteur, but I’m less of one now than I used to be.
GLONO: Is this song about any particular incident or a relationship with a particular individual?
Gibson: I would be lying if I didn’t say that all of my songs are completely personal, if not mostly personal, about specific things that have happened or that I have experienced or felt. Sometimes they are hybrids; hybrids of maybe past relationships in which I played a saboteur and maybe part of a current relationship. Sometimes, incidents or feelings can overlap from one relationship to another.
“There was comfort in the cold before the sun rose,
We laughed at stories never funny before.
Killing the silence with sighs, coughs, and yawns until the next day.
Choking on her surprise. And told him that day, ‘No more.'”
GLONO: “No More” is my favorite song on the record. Layered guitars in the opening give way to heavy rhythmic groove with piano accents lilting overhead. An easy dissonance provides a comfortable bed for the lyrics. In the song, what kinds of stories were never funny before that are funny now?
Gibson: “No More” is about losing my uncle and the experience of having to tell him he was dying when he didn’t know he was dying and having to actually be there with my aunt and my uncle’s wife and to actually tell this person that he is going to die. In such a situation there’s a certain tenseness, an almost nervous laughter, where almost anything you say… everybody was avoiding this emotion, people were filling the space with coughs and yawns and laughs that weren’t really necessary; comments about stuff on TV, and god forbid there was any silence allowed. Silence would allow the emotion to land and plant itself. The emotion behind it is still really heavy for me. I think Mike did incredible things with that song. It’s probably just my fault that we can’t do it live.
One of my favorites on the record is “Schubert Waltz.” Lyrically, it isn’t the most challenging, but the energy is very raw. I always say that when I’m in a bad mood, I feel very, “Rarr!” That song is very “Rarr!” to me.
GLONO: Rarr! That pretty much sums up the attitude of this record. RARR!
MP3s (courtesy of isound):
• Breech – “Keeper of the Key”
The release date for Breech’s Tarnish and Undress is October 8, 2007. The CD
release party will be on October 10, 2007, at The Lounge Theater in Hollywood, California.
Previously: Breech – Just Add Water from June of 2002.