Formed in the wake of the now-defunct Bernard, A Slight Breeze is the brain-child of ex-Bernard bassist Ryan Adams. About a month ago I had the opportunity of interviewing him in his small St. Augustine apartment where we discussed the unique sound of ASL and the break up of his former band. Interview by Julio D. Anta
Do you write most of the music?
Ryan Adam’s: Yeah, I guess. I’ve been writing and recording for maybe two years, pretty much when I got my computer. I started writing, and sorta had intentions for some of it to end up in Bernard, but it just never happened. So, when Bernard was over, I thought, I have all this stuff, I might as well do something with it.
What do you write mostly on?
RA: In terms of instruments?
Yeah, what do you usually start on?
RA: It depends, I usually start off on guitar. A lot of times it’s started off with a bass riff, or a keyboard line, then build around that. I usually write in sections, so I might start one section off with a bass riff, and then record the guitar over that. Then, in the next section I might want the guitar to do something completely different, so I’ll make the bass around the guitar. So it tends to weave in and out.
And do you record it all on your mac?
RA: Yeah, everything is done on my computer.
Is the EP the full band or all you?
RA: It’s all me. I actually had everything recorded before I even had the band together. It was nice, all I had to do was get friends of mine that I really wanted to play with and say, “here’s the stuff, I can teach you the parts”, and we could just go out and do it. We didn’t have to wait around to start writing together and kinda get the feel for it. So it’s been really nice.
But I think with the guys I got, we’re gonna start writing together more.
Have you guys written anything together yet?
RA: No, it’s been kinda hard. Four of the guys live in Jacksonville, and then one guy lives in Fernandina Beach which is another 30 minutes north of that. So it’s hard for us to get together. We’ve only practiced a hand full of times. Trying to find time to get together, and then writing on top of that is really difficult. We haven’t really gotten to that point yet, but hopefully, in the couple of months we’ll be able to start doing that.
We’re not in a rush though. I wrote enough stuff, that we’re still it working out for the live setting. So we have enough to keep us busy, we’re not really wanting new material yet.
Other than the drummer who you played with in Bernard, have you played in other bands with the rest of the guys?
RA: Yeah, Jared was in Bernard. Joel who we just added on guitar actually played in Bernard also, back when we were a four-piece. The other guys I’ve never played with, but I’ve played with bands that they’re all in.
We’ve all become friends over these past couple of years, so I really wanted to get them involved primarily because they’re my friends and I love hanging out with them. So they understand what I want to accomplish music, and we get along which is a the primary thing. Plus they’re all great musicians.
So, when did A Slight Breeze start as a full band?
RA: We started talking about it in the middle of December, and our first show was in the middle of January. It was also the first time we had all played together. We had practices were one guy couldn’t make it, or two guys couldn’t make it. So I guess it became a serious idea in the middle of December.
How long have you been doing it on your own?
RA: Probably, since two summers ago. I had gotten the laptop for Christmas a few years back, then that summer, I starting teaching myself how to record and write. It’s great just from a musicians point of view to be able to record your own stuff and write that way since your able to play with yourself. I’m a very visual person, so it’s great that I can see it all laid out, and structure it that way.
Also, as a multi-instrumentalist, if I come up with a bass riff I really like, I can record that. Then think what I would want to record over it, and just mess around. So it’s helped me learn other instruments in the process.
What about the name, where did that come from?
RA: A Slight Breeze came from a book called “Haunted Weather” by David Toop. It’s about music in the past 50 years, where it’s going, and how it’s not as simple as it used to be. In terms of how it carries you mentally, emotionally and spiritually. In the beginning of the book he talks about coming across one of his dad’s journals, and how it was to read it. His dad would write down the most asinine things, and he said that one day all his dad wrote in the journal was that there was a slight breeze that day. I really liked that image of a slight breeze.
It just stuck. It’s the name I’ve been using for the graphic design stuff I do, and I’m planning on writing a series of essay’s that would all fit under that name.
Do you want it all to go together? Or is the music it’s own entity away from the essay’s?
RA: I think because it’s all coming from me it’ll probably end up correlating anyway. I write about whats important to me, whether it’s writing, or writing music. My focus isn’t to make an audio accompaniment to whatever I write.
Have you ever thought of doing a concept album?
RA: I’ve thought of doing concept albums but it wouldn’t be like that necessarily. You can say our albums are concept albums because they have the same overlying idea behind the music, but it’s not like I’m writing a rock opera about Viking’s.
So, you said A Slight Breeze got it’s start once Bernard broke up. What exactly happened with Bernard? There was never an explanation.
RA: We we had been touring a lot and once we came back home from our last tour with Edison Glass, things were really tense between the three of us. It escalated, and I think the three all did things that in retrospect wish we wouldn’t have done, and said things we shouldn’t have said. At the end we had a meeting with our manager, we just yelled and spat at each other, and kinda hashed it out. Thats when we decided that it would probably be best if we just stepped away from it now, because the reality is that some people just can’t work together. So we decided we couldn’t work together and that seemed like a really good time to stop before things really got serious.
We had tours booked that we were gonna do. The Sleeping At Last tour was in two weeks. This whole spring we would have been doing the To Write Love On Her Arms tour which would have coincided with our nation wide album release. It was weird because the band called it quits three days before the album was going to go out to the manufacturer. It was better to end the band then, instead of letting things get worse and decide to call it off when a lot of people were depending on us.
Is there a possibility of Bernard ever re-uniting?
RA: I don’t know, I mean I don’t want to speak for the future too much, but there was a while where we weren’t talking. Jonathan moved out to California to help The Myriad write their new album. He just got back a couple of weeks ago, and we’ve seen each other a few times, and it’s been great. We’ve been friends longer than we’ve been band-mates, especially Jared and Jon. They’ve been friends for six or seven years. Jonathan and I have been friends for over three years. So, it’s good that we can go back to just being friends and not business partners.
Being in a band, being in a business with friends is really hard to pull off. I don’t think we started off doing it right, and it just accumulated.
Going back to A Slight Breeze, only one of your songs have lyrics. The rest are all instrumental. How do your live shows work? I heard you play projections behind the band?
RA: Yeah, we’ve been messing around with a couple of idea’s. When we played as Bernard, one of the things we did was have projection running at the same time. So, we had the technology in that band to create our own videos and sync them up with the music perfectly. We haven’t been able to do it with this band, we use more of a streaming idea. We have a couple of films that we play behind us that are kind of non-scripted objective things just to give it a visual element. We’re using lights, and are trying to figure out how to set-up on the stage.
That song with the lyrics we haven’t done live yet, and I don’t know if we will. I actually wrote that song for Jared, he was going through some really hard times around a year and a half ago. So, I just wrote that for him, and it ended up having lyrics because it was written with a very specific idea. The thing that I like about instrumental music is that you don’t really get the musicians idea’s, instead you can formulate your own about what it’s about and how it makes you feel. So for that song I wanted to be a bit more specific since it was for him.
Is it hard to connect with the audience since there are no lyrics for them to sing-along to or get a message from?
RA: We’ve gotten varied responses, which I suppose a lot of bands do anyways. The same thing happened with Bernard, were people walk away are just like “I don’t get it, this is horrible”. They don’t like the repetition. We’re very repetitive with the way we write, It’s very circular writing. But a lot of people love it and they really connect with it. I think it really depends on what our listeners are bringing to the table. Since we don’t really have anything for them to immediately grasp onto, I guess the listener has to work a little harder to get something out of it. Some people find it hard, and others find it really easy.
Do you guys play the song’s exactly how they’re recorded, or do you give them room for improvisation on stage?
RA: We’ve messed with them a little bit, and kinda re-arraigned some of the song’s so there a little better formed. I taught them the parts the way I recorded them, but since they’re obviously better than I am at their individual instruments I’ve given them free reign to add their voice into the parts.
What influences your song-writing?
RA: Pretty much whatever I’m listening to at the moment. But, of course theres instrumental post-rock bands that I always find really interesting and influential like, Explosions In The Sky, and Godspeed! Black Emperor. Also band’s that use a lot of layering and texture like Mogwai, Mew. Mews new album kinda just freaked me out. I got it and it was just so well put together. Brian Eno is also a really big influence, so is Philip Glass especially with what I’ve been writing recently.
What would you define A Slight Breeze’s sound as?
RA: Haha, so I guess you want more than that. Well, usually when people ask me I just say we’re instrumental rock, or post-rock. Some people would say ambient rock but I hesitate from that term because I think that ambient music is such a definite genre, and I don’t think we fit into that necessarily.
Any last thoughts or comments?
RA: Thanks for doing the interview. Whoever reads this can listen to us on myspace.com/aslightbreeze, and buy our EP I Am Not Prepared To Receive That Which I Desire Most there too.