Pittsburgh’s art-rock four-piece Working Breed, presumably the city’s only band to prominently feature both trombone and musical saw, returns in May of 2023 with its first full-length since 2019, Gaslighter. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, Gaslighter represents a new and more rock-forward face for the veteran group known for its expansive musical vocabulary and energetic, theatrical live show.
Plenty has changed since Working Breed’s last release, 2019’s Hieroglyphica. After a period of attrition, founding members Erika June Christina Laing (lead vocals, synths, trombone, musical saw) and Michael Dugan (whose guitar drives the band’s sound) rebuilt their lineup with scene veterans Jake Churton (bass, also of Donora) and Jeremy Papay (drums, also of The Regal Sweet and formerly of Squonk).
If in its first five years Working Breed was prone to more sprawling compositions and emotional dissonance, the band’s new configuration is committed to the premise that simple is good. The songs on Gaslighter each started with a riff from Dugan’s guitar, developed with the help of three finely tuned sets of ears, and ultimately aligned with a lyrical theme Laing derived from her lived experience.
You could call it a breakup album and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But Gaslighter isn’t just an angry ride about one character or another. It’s an exploration of loss of all sorts, from a time when loss wasn’t far from anyone’s mind. Written starting in 2019, on the eve of the pandemic, the record’s construction and recording spans an unparalleled time in our history as humans as well as a time when the members of Working Breed worked through the transformation that comes alongside grief and difficulty.
The end result, though, isn’t a downer by any stretch of the imagination. Gaslighter has Zeppelin-style heavy riffs and shifty time changes as on the title track, and it’s got the surreal sweetness of a handmade music box on “Ballerina.” It’s also got what Laing refers to as “angry trombone” on “Next Quick Fix” and nods to math rock from a couple of decades ago, as on “Crow’s Nest.” There are subtle touches, too: Laing, a neuroscientist by trade, recorded the entire band’s brain waves and interpolated the sounds into the record for an Easter egg that isn’t necessarily noticeable but might just get under the listener’s cerebral cortex anyway.
Recorded by Jake Hanner (of Donora, and a true workhorse upholding the quality of Pittsburgh’s rock scene), Gaslighter is a snapshot of the current moment for a band that abides by the philosophy that it’s about the songs first and foremost, and the attention and accolades will follow if the music speaks for itself.
Working Breed releases Gaslighter digitally with a celebratory live show Saturday, May 6, at 7 p.m., at Little Giant (100 Asteroid Way, Allentown). A vinyl release in partnership with Pittsburgh-based Hellbender Vinyl is planned for later in 2023.
Launch Event Details
Date: May 6, 2023
Location: Little Giant, 100 Asteroid Way
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