Me: We are here with Jordan from The Breathing Process. Start at the beginning. I know I’ve listened to some of your tunes, of course I’m a metalhead, so there’s that.
Me: Good stuff. Really good stuff.
Jordan: Thank you!
Me: You are very welcome! Tell us about the band. How did you guys get together? How did you guys get started?
Jordan: Oh, Man! The whole rundown, huh?
Me: The whole rundown for us noobs!
Jordan: We technically have been a band since 2003, but I don’t really count much of the formative years because we were just a local band that changed styles all the time, trying to figure out what we wanted to play, I guess.
Me: What you wanted to play when you grew up?
Jordan: Yeah! Basically. In 2003 I was like 17. I’m 32 now.
Me: You’re still a kid!
Jordan: Aww, thanks!
Jordan: The band actually started in Connecticut, that’s where I’m from, where I grew up. I don’t really count the years between 2003 and 2007. We were practically a garage band. We played shows and stuff and we got fairly big in the local underground scene there. But it wasn’t until 2008 when we got signed that we actually started being a band and had a sound that we were going after. So to me I count 2007 or 2008 until now as the actual history of the band. Before that I was just a high school kid that played guitar and thought I was cool.
Me: But that’s still a pretty good run. The average indie band probably breaks up and reforms 35 times in a year, (laughing) so you guys had a pretty good run at it. You are signed now…
Jordan: No. We were signed to a label called Siege of Amida, they’re a subsidiary of Century Media. We were signed for two albums and we released them and did the tour cycles on both of them. We were on the road for a long time – like a good three or four years straight it seemed like. We’d go out for a month or five weeks and come home for a week and go out again for a few weeks. It was full-time for everyone in the band at the time. After the second album, we toured twice I think. By then we were all like 25 or so and all of us had spent the previous 4 years touring and playing in a band. I guess adult life kind of hit everybody. 25 you’re at the cusp of the age where you start to feel guilty about living at home with your parents. Didn’t have any real job experience because We’d just been in a band the whole time. So we kind of all just needed a break from that kind of lifestyle. I moved to out to Pittsburgh and took a lot longer than we ever intended from not being active as a band. Just because you get used to working a 9 to 5.
Me: Sadly…very sadly…
Jordan: Sara is actually from Pittsburgh, she’s the only one that’s from here. But back when we were from Connecticut, our keyboardist was from Pittsburgh, also. So we’ve always had kind of a dual citizenship, I guess you could say, between Connecticut and here. I’d just been out here a lot, so it seemed like a good place to move. And it’s a lot cheaper than Connecticut is to live. Sara joined the band when we were still from Connecticut and she did tours with us and stuff, then I moved here. Really what took the longest was finding band members that wanted to do a band that plays a lot, releases albums and stuff like that.
Me: In my experience, it’s hard to find people who are dedicated to one band.
Me: It seems like everyone I know is in 5 bands because they’re afraid that the one band they’re not in is going to be the band that makes it.
Jordan: Yeah. Did you ever watch the show Parks & Rec?
Jordan: So you remember Ron Swanson when he says “Never half-ass anything, whole-ass one thing”
Jordan: Exactly like that with bands. If you spread your creative energy too thing, nothing you do…well, I can’t say nothing because plenty of people are in multiple bands that are all good. But for the most part, you’re better off focusing all your energy on one thing other than spreading it out because then that one thing gets all the energy you have.
Me: What I’ve noticed is a lot of the guys who do a lot of different things usually focus on one thing at a time. When you look at Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, he has the Bombastic Meatbats on the side so when he’s not doing Chili Peppers, he has the side thing. I find that a lot of…I don’t want to say professional musicians, because you’re clearly a professional musician…Me: A lot of the bigger musicians, shall we say, who have the side projects and do the side projects, focus on the side projects when they’re not doing the main thing.
Me: And I think that’s what a lot of the smaller bands miss.
Jordan: I guess it’s kind of a different thing when you’re an enormous sized band, they don’t have to tour full time, and the Chili Peppers haven’t toured in I don’t even know how long. When they do, it’s a huge thing but they have a lot more downtime between things because when you’re that big you don’t have to constantly bombard the market with your music because you’ve already established yourself. You can take a little bit more time for side projects and stuff. But I agree definitely that a lot of people when you have multiple projects you kind of have a hard time prioritizing because of what you said, the fear that if I just do one and that doesn’t work, I’ve been wasting all my time.
Me: I’ve run into that a lot, actually. Compare and contrast – you’ve been in the music scene obviously heavily in Connecticut, and now heavily here in Pittsburgh.
Jordan: What I really love about the Pittsburgh scene is there’s a really big underground scene in Pittsburgh. A lot of people go to shows of really obscure bands that you really have to dig to find. A lot of places, people only go to the shows for the really big bands that they know. I think it’s because it has such a big bar scene. A lot of shows that you go to have pretty good turnouts or a lot of people just know about really underground kinds of stuff. When we were there, Connecticut, not even just Connecticut – New England in general because it’s so small it’s all one giant scene, you’d have hardcore bands, metal bands, grind bands all that play on the same shows because everybody went to all the same shows. Connecticut is also a lot more violent in the underground. Pittsburgh hard core shows definitely get pretty wild for sure. There aren’t a lot of venues in Connecticut or New England in general…
Me: Well there’s not a lot of space in New England in general to put venues…
Jordan: Exactly. So a lot of the shows up there are in VFW halls and stuff where you rent a PA system and just do an underground thing. But a lot of kids would go to those shows because that’s what’s around. In Connecticut there’s the Webster Theater and Toad’s Place are probably the only real venues for smaller or mid-level bands if you aren’t playing an arena or an amphitheater, those are the only two places to go. Whereas in Pittsburgh in Southside alone there are 3 or 4 pretty decent-sized venues to play and East Liberty has a few now, and Black Forge, that coffee house they have shows there a lot.
Me: Black Forge did it and what is it? Roboto?
Jordan: Yeah Roboto is where you find all the hard core shows around here which is pretty cool. I would say in Pittsburgh it seems like more people are more in-tuned to underground stuff which is cool, whereas Connecticut it’s a more hardcore area than almost anywhere so you have a lot of hall shows and stuff like that as opposed to venues here. I like both. We actually haven’t played in Connecticut in a long time even though we were from there.
Me: So you guys were signed and you also did the Indie grind or you’re back to doing the Indie grind, actually.
Me: What are some of the major differences between being a signed artist and being an Indie artist? What are some of the plusses and some of the minuses? Because there’s still a stigma in the music world of “I gotta get signed! I gotta get signed! I gotta get signed!”
Jordan: Definitely. I guess I can start with the pros. Being on a label changes your public persona completely because it’s a coveted thing for a musician. You’re in a signed band. You can go to your job and be like “My band is signed” and they’re really impressed by that because it means a lot to anybody. It helps raise your exposure level because a lot of people just follow labels or bands that are on labels. A label like Metal Blade, there’s people that just check out bands because Metal Blade just signed them so they must be good or they must be in line with other bands I like on Metal Blade.
Me: Who was it – was it Century Media? There was a label that just decided to put out an app – one of the metal labels just put out their whole catalogue for streaming for all 200 bands or so that are on their label. If labels starting doing that I think it could be interesting competition for Spotify.
Jordan: That’s a good idea. I think Spotify is exactly why labels are starting to look at that stuff because the money they make per stream is next to nothing so it makes more sense to make…not a streaming service that’s nearly as big as Spotify is but at least for their own artists, it’s a good platform since people prefer digital nowadays anyway. When I was younger I had a huge collection of CDs and I always swore by them. The other night we played a show in Kent, Ohio and one of the bands on the tour package I really liked had CDs and I found myself asking “Do you guys have a digital version of this because I don’t own a CD Player anymore.” I don’t have one in my car, I don’t have one in my apartment. It sucks because I’m so used to digital streaming – it’s really convenient.
Me: All of my stuff used to be on vinyl.
Jordan: It’s funny how vinyl has kind of come full circle and now it’s kind of a cool collector’s item now. Back to the label comparing and contrasting – having a label is really helpful because when you’re doing stuff like submitting for tours and stuff like that, your backing is everything. Aside from just your album sales and stuff, labels usually contribute to marketing for tours, they’ll pay for the advertising materials or they’ll pay for magazine promotion for the tour itself. If you have a label that has a good reputation for admat support then you’re more likely to get on tours than if you don’t. Then obviously the money is nice, but typically it doesn’t work how most people dream that it does, like how it did in the 80s, where they were throwing millions of dollars for these bands off the street with one song. CDs were so cheap to manufacture for them that they could afford to throw millions of dollars on a band that played one show. So nowadays you get a sum of money and it usually covers the cost of the record and a 90-day promotional period before it comes out. But it’s not free money, you have to pay it back and all that comes out of your revenue before you see a dime of it. If your album doesn’t do well, then you’re just basically forever in debt to the label. We still get invoices now from the record before the one we just released. Our previous record was released in 2010, which was eight years ago. Our label spent a lot of money for us to record that album and we still get invoices now for money they’re still recouping off of it. And this is 8 years later. We were inactive for a long time, too.
So the independent side of it – the pro to that is that you have no one to split your money with. So anything you sell just comes straight to you. Granted, you don’t have the album budget and stuff, it requires a lot of self sufficiency. For us for example, we have three guitarists, the third one that isn’t Sara, he is an audio engineer as his profession. So we were able to record and produce the whole album ourselves. He doesn’t do it for free, we still pay him, but it’s significantly less than going to a bigger producer’s studio or something like that. Not every band has that luxury, so it’s a little bit different for us, I guess. But that’s a huge cost for an album is the recording itself, that’s usually what costs the most money. So now when our album is released and people buy it, it doesn’t go to the label and then we get our royalty percentage. We just get a hundred percent of it. OK, I couldn’t say that – for digital streaming there’s a digital royalty share with whatever service you’re using. So for us, we use CDBaby for all the digital distribution. That gets in on Apple Music, Spotify, Google, stuff like that. And we use Bandcamp for our physical CDs, and our shirts and stuff. Bandcamp takes like 10% of each sale. Which isn’t bad – a 90-10 split is a lot better than the other way around which is what you see on labels a lot, the artist gets a smaller percentage than the label does. But one thing you really miss out on, which we found out with this record is marketing like a marketing budget. Any half decent PR firm to do an album campaign is going to cost a few thousand dollars. And that gets your album out to all the big media outlets like magazines or big websites for reviews or advertisements. And that’s one thing that any of us really knew anything about because we were signed for the last two records so the label takes care of all of that stuff. We just play the music and go to where they tell us to go. Whereas doing it on your own, that I feel like we could have probably gotten a lot…actually our album sales for us being independent is actually pretty good in today’s climate for having zero marketing push, but if we had the foresight to be like “OK, this is where we need to focus our money is on a marketing campaign” then we probably could have gotten a lot more a lot faster if we had kind of thought of that first. But like I said we were never used to doing an entire album completely independently.
Pros just being that you keep a lot more of your own money if you release it yourself. For us, we’re in kind of a unique position because we were signed before, we’re not a big band by any means or even close, but we are at least fairly established and people know our band all over the world. It’s a little bit of a leg up from like a local band or a band that hasn’t really traveled a lot with their bands, because we toured for so long we have a fanbase. It makes it a little easier to sell records and such. It’s nice to have a revenue stream just from selling albums because that really is rare nowadays. If we could have done it again, I probably would have waited a little bit longer to try to figure the label out or put more money into marketing.
Me: Speaking of marketing – new album is coming out, right, Samsara?
Jordan: Oh, it’s out.
Me: Oh, it’s out now – new album is out now! If you’re reading this, go buy it!
Jordan: Yes! Buy it today. Buy it yesterday!
Me: Buy it both days!
Jordan: Right – yesterday and today.
Me: Samsara – as previously mentioned, it is available on all streaming platforms. It is available on Bandcamp.
Jordan: So – the physical copies we did a limited run with digipaks. We printed, I believe, 500 and we’ve probably got like 100 left, maybe a little bit less than that. I think like 90 percent of our album sales are digital because like I said most people stream nowadays, anyway. For the physical copies we’re not printing the digipaks ever again, if we do them again it’ll probably be regular jewel cases or cardboard sleeves or something like that. But the digipak version is a limited edition.
Me: Limited edition!
Jordan: That is available on Bandcamp.
Me: See that? Limited edition – go buy that now!
Me: I like to know what your creative process is – do you write the music first? The lyrics first? Is there a theme? Is there a story arc? Is it just one-off songs? That’s the kind of stuff I’m most interested in, hopefully everyone else is, as well.
Jordan: Yeah – I guess you could say we write the music first. Every album we’ve done has had some kind of theme or concept behind it because we’re all into weird things like the universe and energies and stuff like that. I don’t know we’re all weird hippies, I guess.
Me: Weird metal hippies…
Jordan: Yes! So for our last album, for example, it was based on the Tibetan book of the dead…
Me: Oh, interesting – OK.
Jordan: So obviously it was an old album so there’s no need to go too far into it. Long story short, in Buddhism it’s basically a guidebook, they believe there’s a journey between death and Heaven or Nirvana. You don’t just die and then ascend, there’s a whole other journey to go through. The Tibetan book of the dead is basically a guidebook on how to get there, to put it in simpler terms. It’s a lot more complicated than that, but to kind of simplify. Our vocalist is more of the one who would know the ins and outs of the overall concept. To sum it up, it’s an album about redemption and self forgiveness, would be a good way to word it. With the current one, Cody had an overall idea about what he wanted the lyrical concept to be about and we took it song by song. We would write the music and he would figure out what lyrics would go to that song and then when that was done we work on the next one. With our last record we wrote all of the music first and then deicided to lay this concept over everything and then figure out which lyrics went with which songs. This one we did it one at a time.
Me: So you actually had two different writing processes for two different albums. That is interesting!
Jordan: Our very first album we wrote in a similar way to the the second one where we had all of the music done before any of the lyrics or vocals came over or anything. So this one was kind of different in that we finished each song before moving on to the next. With us having the ability to record stuff all the time, it makes it a lot easier to work that way because we can kind of hear what it’ll sound like as a finished product, before it has a final mix or anything like that or before we track it for real. We’ll do all the preproduction ourselves so we can kind of hear what the final songs will sound like or get an idea of it. That’s pretty much the creative process for it. We kind of took it song by song and then we did all of the orchestral stuff last. We kind of fit that in between where it would go. We’re actually writing the next one now. This one we’re approaching even different than that where it’s kind of a combination of the two. Some stuff is just purely orchestral parts that are written already that we’re writing the rest around. Almost everyone in our band plays guitar which is kind of funny. We have three guitar players as it is, but then our bass player is a really good guitar player, as well and our drummer is also a really good guitar player. So everybody has stuff they can contribute. Like this past record we didn’t really write like that because we didn’t have six people at the time, it was a few less than that. Now we have a lot more minds added to the mix. So far it’s coming out really cool because everyone has a slightly different style of playing so we’re kind of figuring out how to mix it all together.
Me: So the one thing that I’m curious about, because my band plays melodic metal…
Jordan: I checked out your band, by the way…
Me: What’s that?
Jordan: I checked out your band, by the way. I did some lurking around.
Me: Uh-oh – now I’m scared.
Jordan: You guys are really good, I like it.
Me: Thank you! Thank you very much! I really appreciate that.
Jordan: Sara really liked it, too. She likes a lot of power metal and operatic kind of stuff. I do, too, but she loves it more.
Me: Funny story – I used to run into Sara all the time when I went into Guitar Center. And we used hang out and chat a bit because we were the only chicks there that actually played guitar. So when we were emailing back and forth before this and you mentioned Sara, I was like, “I know that name! Wait a minute!”
Jordan: Yeah, she worked there for a while. She doesn’t currently.
Me: I’m not sure I blame her for that one. (laughing) I know what I go through trying to find the PERFECT melody line. How does that differ from writing for the harsh vocals? Because I was listening to a lot of your stuff and you guys have a lot of harsh vocals and what really interested me was that you had a lot of harmonized or almost harmonized harsh vocals on a couple of the tracks I was listening to, which is not something I’m used to hearing.
Jordan: It sounds rather other-worldly, I think. Though a lot of bands do it now.
Me: How would you say, if you know because I don’t know if you’ve ever written for a more melodic vocal, but how does that process for writing for what I like to refer to as the growly-guy voice compare to writing a traditional melody line?
Jordan: OK, so on our second record Sara actually sings a lot so we’ve kind of done both. We were going to do it on this record but we had kind of like a re-establishing period of time…Here’s Sara…
Sara: Hi! How ya doin’?
Me: I’m good! Long time, no see!
Sara: Yeah, I know…where the…
Jordan: Guitar Center
Sara: I know her from Guitar Center…
Jordan: That’s what we were talking about.
Sara: Of course! I’m no longer there unfortunately.
Me: Fortunately or unfortunately?
Sara: Unfortunately. I miss it because I liked being part of that experience for people because music is a very emotionally connective thing for me. Especially when people remember when they get their first guitar and it was just special for me to be a part of that experience, especially for a little girl. So that I miss because that was rewarding for the soul. Beat is the soul, basically.
Jordan: Your question was…
Me: What’s the difference between writing for melodic vocals versus the harsh vocals?
Jordan: Melodic vocals, I think, you have a lot more to factor in because you have to be in the same key then you don’t want to write melodies that are just matching another instrument because there’s no point to that, I guess it’s not that there’s no point, but you have to find somewhere to fit it as well as find the notes that fit it that aren’t redundant. Harsh vocals – this is how I actually explain this to my friends that don’t listen to death metal is you have to think of it as more of a percussion instrument rather than a voice.
Me: That’s interesting
Jordan: It’s more based on rhythm and patterns than pitch and note.
Sara: And emotion
Jordan: And emotion, yeah. Singing portrays that, also. Screaming – writing for that is more based on the rhythm of the song than any of the notes. Most screaming is atonal and you don’t really have to factor key or anything into it. It just has to sound scary.
Me: Would you say it’s more analogous to rap where you’re very conscious of the rhythm, and the structure and the meter as versus having to do all that and stay in tune?
Jordan: Have actual notes! Yes, that’s basically it, yeah. It’s very comparable to a rapper, just a completely different voice. I would say not as violent content but that’s a lie because most screaming bands talk about more violent things than most rappers do.
Me: The good thing is, though, most of us can’t really understand what you’re saying.
Me: So it doesn’t matter:
Jordan: I could argue that with Rap now, especially, nowadays. (laughing) It’s always funny to me, there’s guys that I work with that only listen to Rap and when I show them my band or other bands like it or when I pull in in the morning and I have it blasting at full volume, they’re like “How do you listen to that? You can’t understand what they’re saying.” And I say “Can you understand what so and so rapper says?” And they look at me like “you’re absolutely right.” It’s always a funny argument to have at work. I don’t think either of them are easier to write than the other because when you’re solely writing vocal patterns based on rhythm, especially metal and metal like us where it’s very fast and abrasive, you have to really have to work to figure out patterns that are still listenable. And I say listenable, for people who listen to this kind of music, they don’t hear it the same as people who don’t. People who don’t listen to Death Metal or Extreme Metal I should say, just view it all as kind of noisy and there’s nothing really discernible about it whereas people who listen to that kind of music usually can actually understand what they’re saying. So, you’re really trying to find ways to make it catchy.
Sara: It’s an instrument in itself, it has to account for everything else going on in the song. It’s just like with orchestration. Jordan can probably explain this a little bit better because he does a lot of the orchestration and composing, but you know, in order to cut through the vocals are always front and center, always.
Sara: But in order achieve the impact or whatever emotion that you’re trying to go for for the part, placement, cadence, rhythm it’s going to kind of depict where the song leads to. A good example is the end of one of our newer songs called Sungrazer, it’s like a build up and then it just goes into a heavy part and kind of gives you that tension and release. And that’s what I think metal really does for people, a lot of people that listen to extreme metal – it’s a tension release kind of thing.
Me: So you’re coming up on a couple of shows in Rhode Island, yes?
Jordan: One is in Rhode Island, one is in New Hampshire and we’re playing a fest in New Jersey and I think there’s a show in New York.
Me: Sorry about that!
Me: I’m sorry about that – New Jersey. Nobody should ever have to go to New Jersey.
Jordan: It’s in South Jersey or Philadelphia, it’s not the bad part of Jersey – it’s the nice part.
Me: So – Facebook, Twitter, Website – where do we find you and where do we buy stuff?
Jordan: So, we do not use Twitter
Me: Thank you.
Jordan: That’s first and foremost.
Sara: Thank you!
Jordan: We’re on Instagram, we’re on Facebook, we have our own website which is kind of barren at the moment, but it’s there, it exists…
Sara: It’s TheBreathingProcess.US
Jordan: Yes. There you can find a lot of our lyrics to the songs which some people can’t find all the time. Our Facebook is Facebook.com/theBreathingProcessUSA and then Bandcamp is TheBreathingProcess.Bandcamp.com
Sara: Bandcamp is where you’re going to be able to access most of our merch, albums, digital records, stuff like that.
Me: That’s a hint – go buy stuff!
Sara: That’s our go-to site.
Jordan: Our tour dates is on our Bandcamp, also and our actual website whenever one of us gets around to updating it.
Me: I know that feeling except that I’m the only one who does the updating so I can only blame me.
Jordan: Now they’ve made it really easy. I figured out this ingenious thing, there’s apps like one is called Bands in Town, basically any time that you post an event on Facebook or that an event is posted that you’re tagged in, it automatically it registers to one of the sites the promoter uses. So on our website, I just have a Bands in Town widget installed so any time one of our shows goes up on Bands in Town, it shows up on our website without me having to actually put it there.
Me: That is brilliant!
Jordan: Highly recommended!
Sara: You can also find music on CDBaby.
Jordan: All Digital platforms!
Me: All digital platforms – go stream! Go buy!
Jordan: If you’re an iPhone use and you can see through your cracked screen on Apple Music
Me: Hey! My screen’s not cracked yet!
Jordan: Not yet!
Jordan: If you’re an Android user, we’re on Google Play.
Sara: Of course Youtube.
Jordan: Youtube, Spotify
Sara: Google Play and Youtube are pretty much the same.
Jordan: We also have music videos on Youtube. Very easy to search – just type in our band name and it comes right up.
Sara: Nupervoid would be the newest music video we have. That was released a good year, maybe six months…How long ago was the album released?
Jordan: It’s been out for like six months, maybe?
Sara: That was one of our promos for the new albums.
Jordan: Did you happen to check that out before this?
Me: I did, of course!
Me: I actually came home from work and went “Alright! We’re going to check some stuff out before we talk to people.” Jordan and Sara from The Breathing Process – thank you so much!
Jordan: You’re welcome!
Sara: Metal and Peace!