Take A Deep Breath, Charleston, At This Month’s Free Music Friday

If you’re a frequent traveler at Free Music Friday, you’ve no doubt seen Cedar Plank Salmon, one of the more unique bands to play the venue. Well, CPS is still around, but Tim Gurnig has a new gig, and it looks to be an interesting proposition. Here is a Q&A via e-mail in which Tim explains the band’s direction.

As always, Free Music Friday is at Top of the Roc, Friday night at 9 p.m. No cover, but you must be 21 to enter (sorry, minors). You’ll also get to see the final shows from Victim to Victor and Pretty and the Useless, and one band that will survive, at least – StinkStone. (event Facebook page)

Here’s a song from an earlier version of the band to set the scene.

I’m listening to the earlier recordings this AM. As it’s a previous version of the band on the recordings, maybe tell us how this version of the band is different in sound/direction?

T. The short answer: heavier and more aggressive. “The Fall” which people can hear on our bandcamp is one of our strongest songs right now. But it has so much more energy when we play it live than that recorded version. We push tempos more, and it really works. When it starts it just explodes and it’s like we’re all falling forward together. When Blaine (guitars/vocals) recorded that song he tracked some extra guitar parts and they’re all wooshy delayed stuff. It’s very textural, and what I’m doing on the song now is also very textural. But I’m playing this blown out fuzz part that’s very combative and slides between intrusive and just a background part of the overall momentum.

 How did you meet up with these guys?

T. Charles (bass/guitars) and I met when we both worked at street fest. He was running sound and I was stage managing. I felt like we really hit it off from day one. He’s one of those people that everyone seems to instantly hit it off with. I knew right away we’d be friends.

 Blaine (guitars/lead vocals) and I were interns at Empty Bottle at the same time. We actually met loading in the Black Lips for a show at Logan Square Auditorium. Over time we became friends, just seeing each other at a lot of shows and talking about music. He sent me the early recordings he had for Deep Breath back at the beginning of February and told me he was trying to put together a band to fill them out. Charles came into the mix because he was having a show at his house for this experimental/noise project Dirtbike. I invited Blaine since he only lives a couple blocks away. Blaine asked Charles about playing bass in the band that night after I left and I could not have been more excited when he told me.

How would you describe your sound via an analogy, or, what do you hear in Deep Breath’s sound personally?

T. It varies from song to song for me. We have one song called “Cold Air” which we wrote with 3 guitar parts, because technically I’m playing the “bass line” on guitar. There’s a lot of separation and space in the music, and Charles plays this really chorusy guitar part that just sounds huge. The whole thing just sounds so big and vast to me. I always picture a wide open savannah in Africa or something. It just sounds very boundless and spacious to me.

In a review of our most recent live show someone wrote that our sound reminded him of wilderness, foliage and highlands in northern Baja as he peers over the edge of a gondola lift. Which I thought was a pretty cool analogy.

Charleston obviously knows you from Cedar Plank Salmon. What should they expect from Deep Breath?

T. Some of the same, but also something very different. Cedar Plank Salmon has always been a bit more rooted in improvisation than people possibly know. People might be surprised since most of the music I make has a strong pop sensibility while it leans towards, shoegaze, punk and noise, but when I come home and put on a record or go to a record store I’m gravitating a lot towards Jazz, especially lately.

 Sam and I have been playing music together since grade school in various forms. So we can get behind our instruments face each other and just go, for better or worse. We have a lot of fun with that, but there’s not always the structure that gives you a feeling of security when you’re playing a live show. There is NOT a whole lot of counting happening in Cedar Plank Salmon. We often just feel each other out and as a result songs vary widely from one performance to the next. I wouldn’t say that Deep Breath is the polar opposite, but there is definitely a lot of counting and structure. It’s entirely necessary when you have 4 people playing vs. 2.

We spend a lot more time in Deep Breath woodshedding a moment of a song and trying to get it just so. We also just haven’t known each other nearly as long as people or musicians. Truth be told I met our current drummer, Robert, this month, I’ve known Sam since kindergarten. There’s a lot that goes into that, and there’s a sort of culture shock that goes along with playing music with a new group of people after playing with one person for so long. You have to learn a new language and find out how to have a conversation again. Deep Breath has gone swimmingly since very early on. Within the first couple of rehearsals there was already a great dialogue going on between all of us, both with our instruments as well as talking about the music in between run throughs.

 Do you perform covers? If so what kind?

T. We don’t at this time, but it’s something we’ve always talked about. There’s a question for us of when is it appropriate to do a cover and also what is a good cover. We feel like you need to bring something new to the song or you’re not doing anyone justice. Not yourself, not the original artist, and not the audience you’re performing it for. That can mean a lot of things too. It could be as simple as the energy you bring to it’s live performance or it could be a totally new interpretation of the words and music someone else put out there. Charles and I were working a show this Monday for Baltimore’s Lower Dens, and they closed their set with Maneater by Hall and Oates. It reminded me a bit of when The Ex-Bombers used to cover “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League. It’s a song everyone knows, but they sort of forget that they do. And when you get to that chorus it’s just a treat for the whole room.

 Has the group as currently composed written any songs together?

T. It’s a process. When we all started playing together Blaine had like 3 or 4 songs that I’d say were complete. J (previous drummer) was already playing drums on them at the time, and they’d worked out bass parts which they taught to Charles. I had carte blanche though, and came up with all my parts. Blaine continued to crank out new ideas, but from then on Charles and I were involved much earlier in the formation of these songs and I would say we had a very strong hand in their composition. However we’ve just started working with a new drummer Robert. He’s bringing a new energy to the songs on drums and making them a lot more rock and roll, which I think we’re all excited about. And we can’t wait to start working on new ideas together.

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