Interview: I The Breather

I The Breather are quickly climbing the proverbial ladder to become one of the biggest names in modern metalcore. Their second full-length album is an intensely passionate, technical affair, and its positive reception has afforded the band the honour of being billed alongside legendary acts such as Slipknot, Anthrax, Slayer, and many more for a full summer run on this year’s Rockstar Mayhem Festival. The young Christian artists clearly take their music and message extremely seriously, but without exuding a shred of arrogance. We had a candid discussion with drummer Morgan Wright in order to talk about all that’s new with I The Breather, as well as hear his thoughts on how the band and their faith fit into the contemporary heavy music scene.

 

Earlier this year you guys released your sophomore album, entitled Truth and Purpose, via Sumerian Records. Now that the record has been out for a while, how would you describe the overall reception from listeners?

I’d say great! We’re all very pleased with the ground we’ve been able to cover so far with this record. And being on Mayhem this summer will expose a lot of new listeners to our album. So we’re stoked to even see the future progress of the ground that we can cover with that CD – because we’ll be playing a lot of new songs on this tour off Truth and Purpose – so it’ll be cool to see the future ground we can cover. But it’s done great so far, and we’re very pleased!

What do you think the band’s biggest improvement has been since the release of your first record?

I’d have to say our ability to write better songs. When we were writing These Are My Sins, our first release, everything was pretty much super rushed, and we basically stuck to one formula for every song. And that didn’t really allow us to differentiate our sound too much. When you listen to it, it sometimes gets monotonous – and that sucks to say about a release that you put out, but it’s just being truthful and everything. We focused to write on a bigger scale this record, and we worked with some great producers who helped us put together some big sounds, and I’m very pleased with how the songs have turned out. And they’re just structurally sound – they’re way more sound songs. The songs breathe a lot. Just feeling certain parts, you can get when a chorus is happening; you know when a verse is happening. So our ability to write better songs as a group has definitely improved on this record.

What made you guys want to reincorporate clean vocals into the mix on Truth And Purpose, after not having used any on your first full-length?

We just wanted to be a more versatile band, and reach out to more people, and we felt that bringing back clean singing would be a way to do that. So that’s mainly the reason that we brought that back. And I think it’s going to stick with us now that we’ve seen the ground that we’ve been covering, with having the clean vocals and everything.

You guys were chosen to support August Burns Red on their North American headlining tour earlier this year. What was your reaction when you first found out that news?

Oh man, that tour was a dream come true. Those are some of our best friends. We were on the tour with Texas In July as well, and Silverstein was on it, and we had known Texas and ABR going into the tour. And finding out the news for us to be on that tour was just incredible – everyone was so stoked. It’s kind of like us finding out the news we’re on Mayhem, because everyone was just blown away by it, and it was surreal. So it was such a good opportunity for us to be on that tour; it opened up a lot of doors for us.

 

 

You guys will be heading out on this year’s Mayhem Festival tour, as you’ve mentioned, alongside Slayer, Anthrax, Slipknot, and many more of the biggest bands in heavy music. As a younger band, what are you expecting your reception to be like at these massive concerts?

We’re going into it with the mindset that we’re going to have to work to win over fans, and everything, because these guys have diehard fans, and there [are] people coming out to these shows who are strictly there to see Slipknot, or see Slayer, you know? So we’re given the opportunity to play in front of a new audience. So we’re going to give it 110% every day, and go out there and kill it. And hopefully we appeal to that crowd. And I think we will; I think it’ll be good. I’m very confident in our set list – all the songs we’re playing on this tour – so I think we’ll be able to apply our music to their likings. We aren’t the odd band out on this tour, it’s cool, because there’s The Devil Wears Prada, As I Lay Dying, who are up our alley. So it’s cool to have those bands bringing out their fans as well, so we can captivate their fans and just get to play in front of a new audience. So it’s going to be good; it’s going to be real good.

Christian bands are sometimes criticized by people within the religious community for catering more and more to secular audiences as their career progresses. Has this criticism ever been directed at I The Breather, and if so, how have you handled it?

Yeah, we’ve never been criticized for us playing or taking a secular tour. It’s just what comes with the music industry; you can’t stick to just one thing. And I know some bands do that – some Christian bands do stick to strictly Christian tours – but for us, we like to branch out, and we play the complete opposite of [exclusively] Christian tours. So we’ve been in the midst of some tours we never thought we’d be a part of, and those have been some of the best tours we’ve been a part of. But we have never faced any criticism for us branching out and taking a secular tour. Mainly because it’s our choice, and we want to be on the road, and we want to be able to reach other people and different platforms, so we can’t just limit ourselves to playing Christian tours every tour. And we like doing these secular tours; they’re amazing.

Several bands in the heavy music scene have criticized people or bands who claim Christianity in order to gain some sort of personal advantage. Have you ever encountered a band that lied about their faith? And what specifically do you think motivates certain bands to do this?

I’ve never encountered that, but a lot of people are into playing up things nowadays. Like if you watch TV today, you’ll see people playing up this “Jersey Shore” thing, and how Jersey’s so hip and cool. And you can do that with God; you can go into Hot Topic and see t-shirts with Jesus’ face on [them], and they’re making a profit off of it. But we aren’t like that; we do it for the right reasons. Everyone in this band has a strong faith background, and we’ve grown up strong believers and followers of the way, so everything we do is faith-based, and that’s what we strive to do – keep our faith first. But back to your question, it’s just people seeing an opportunity to make some money off of something, you know?

Was there a certain moment earlier in life that really piqued your interest in heavy music?

Probably when I went to see Chevelle. I saw Chevelle at the Norva in Norfolk, Virginia. And at that time they were the heaviest thing I was listening to, musically. I was a big Blink-182 fan, and I loved pop-punk and stuff, and then I remember my brother took me to a Chevelle show and I was just blown away. I was like “wow, this band is incredible!” And they were playing these heavy riffs and screaming, and everything, and I was like “oh man, this is so sick!” So I think that was like the turning point, where I started getting into heavier music, and heavier music started influencing me. I started listening to the Deftones a lot, and got into them, and then after that I kind of went through a Glassjaw phase. So heavy music has been a part of my life since I was probably in my sixth grade year of school. That was definitely the turning point for me, when I knew I wanted to play in a heavy band – when I saw Chevelle live.

 

What is one of your favourite books of all time?

I’m a C.S. Lewis fan; I’m reading Mere Christianity right now. I don’t really have a favourite book, though. It’s always hard to choose your favourite band, or song, or something. But I will say I’m a big C.S. Lewis fan.

Can you share one of the funniest moments you guys have had while on tour?

Let me see, there are so many funny things that go on! There was this one show we played in Dayton, Ohio at The Attic. And I’m terrified of bugs, snakes, and spiders – anything like that. Shawn [Spann, vocals] had found this huge, dead, moth, and chased me around the venue with it. And after that I made an alliance with some of the dudes on the tour. Shawn wasn’t paying attention, and he came out the venue, and we were all hanging out back. But we just scooped that guy up, and there’s a dumpster right next to the door, and threw this guy in the dumpster, for payback for chasing me around the venue with a bug.

Now, which member of I The Breather is the most likely to wrestle a grizzly bear, and why?

I’d say Shawn. The only reason I say that is because he gets compared to Bear Grylls a lot. He really looks like Bear Grylls, the Man vs. Wild dude. So I’d have to say Shawn Spann, our vocalist. 

Alright! And what is the best video game console or handheld of all time?

I’d go with PS3, for sure.

That’s it for the questions that I have! Are there any words you’d like to leave with fans who are going to be reading this?

Yeah! Please come out to Mayhem Festival, come say hello, come to our merch tent. Our merch tent will be set up all summer long. And we’ll be doing some signings, and we want to meet you guys, so please come out to the tent and meet us – come out to watch us, and look out for the tour dates as we approach a city near you!

 

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