It's been over four years since RESPIRE released a teaser trailer for their 'Demonstration' digital EP. Since that momentous demo the band has flourished, releasing a pre-LP track titled "Anthems For Falling Stars" on the 'Zampler #4 - Flip Six Three Hole' cd compilation before their widely heralded full length LPs 'Gravity and Grace' (2016) and 'Dénouement' (2018). As those first four songs on the demo and the comp track never really had proper RESPIRE releases, I asked the band if I could release some tapes compiling their early work, to which they agreed. But before we continue, take a gander at that initial teaser trailer:
So, as for the cassette compilation of early work, it is titled 'Début' and has a run of 64 copies on Hi-Def, Real-Time HiFi transparent cassettes with black metallic liners and purple bridges. 32 copies come on premium white silver cardstock while the other 32 are on two-sided pink/purple cardstock, each with hand painted foldout jcards, are numbered /64 and come with a limited Zegema Beach Records sticker. Here are a few photos if you'd like a closer look.
And lastly, I asked RESPIRE if I could ask each member a separate question, combining all of the answers as a sort of post-Europe tour wrap-up interview. And without further ado, the interview.
The Six Members of RESPIRE: An Interview
EGIN (vox/guitar) please appease the gear nerds. What do y'all use? And how has the band's sound adapted to losing a committed trumpet player vs. gaining a committed violin player?
Our gear lineup is a comically revolving roster of breaking/broken/borrowed from one another’s stuff. With 3 guitar players, 18 strings, 3 heads, 3 cabs, dozens of pedals and cables, there’s a lot that can (and does) go wrong. When we recorded Dénouement, we rented a couple extra amps - my absolute favourite being the Roland JC-120. A ton of the lush, full bodied clean tones you hear on that record are thanks to that bad boy. Live, I play through a ‘75 Sunn Solarus head, a Strymon Blue Sky reverb pedal, Empress Tape Delay, Voodoo Labs Sparkle Drive Mod overdrive, EHX Big Muff Tone Wicker fuzz, and a Red Witch Medusa chorustrem.
To be honest, the idea of “gear” and “tone” is a bit elusive when it comes to Respire. A majority of what creates our tone on record I think comes from our classical voices - the strings, horns, sax, etc. We (the three guitarists) always joke that we put all this work into our individual and collective tones, only to have it upstaged and pretty much erased in the mix by the pros. With that said, the transition from Emmett to Eslin (trumpet to violin) I think really opened a new chapter for our sound and composition. Trumpet always cuts through everything and works solely as this big, epic melodic force. A violin fits within the mix, tying the elements together while also providing melodic backbone. It’s much easier to build with violins, and in turn I think the violin core makes the trumpet solos even more powerful.
ROHAN (guitar/vox) you've toured Europe a few times now, the first with Foxmoulder, a band you were in since its inception. What are the differences and similarities to touring with Respire vs. Foxmoulder?
The Foxmoulder tour was an introduction to European DIY and absolutely eye-opening. The deliberate collectivism of their actions, the commitment to solidarity with marginalized individuals, the activism inherent to their scene, and the longevity and continuity of spaces and music communities were inspiring - I came back determined to do more and do better in Toronto. We also had a great time and made so many amazing friends (like Eaglehaslanded, the wacky Serbian band we toured with).
That being said, touring with Respire is a whole different animal. Since there’s so many of us, even in the darkest moments, there’s always one or two of us that want to have a good time and end up instigating shenanigans. Once they begin, it’s hard not to join in and lift the dark cloud that sometimes hovers over tour when things don’t go well. It’s been great to come back and catch up with old friends (and meet new ones!). We’ve also had some more recent releases and have a wider audience across Europe with Respire, so there tended to be people who already knew us, which made the shows really special!
DARREN (guitar) what's it like touring with all those goddamned members? And three guitars to boot? Muhahahaha! Seriously what's it like setting up and tearing down for shows?
As I'm sure that you can imagine, touring with six (or seven) people can be logistically challenging; trying to coordinate schedules, potentially manage multiple vehicles, organize gear and manage stage space are all things that we have to consider every time that we play. On the positive side, touring with a large group of your best friends is something special. I've toured with smaller bands in the past, and while tour in any form is an amazing experience, touring with a larger band and sharing the experience with more friends makes it all the more special.
I want to say that we've gotten much more efficient with set-up and tear-down over the years (although I may just be lying to myself). Inevitably though, there is just a lot of gear to account for and we are usually forgetting a pedal board here or our cymbals there. Luckily, we have mostly managed to avoid any gear-related disasters so far.
TRAVIS (drums) what the band's best show on tour? Why? What is the best tour story?
The best show on this most recent tour was probably when we played in Slovakia at Family Fest. That was a wild night. We had made so many new friends by that point; Tengil, Nionde Plagan, Zmar, Malisa Bahat, Shallov all played the same feat and we all got to hang out and party. Love/Lust and us didn’t know what to expect going into it. Everyone at the stage we played loved every band and fucking went off when we played. We also killed it somehow, all while sharing around a bottle of whiskey. It was the perfect representation of what our scene is truly about, the amount of love and support from everyone was insane. It all ties into my favourite story from this tour. Family Fest was this enigma the whole time leading up to it. It was going to be the first show with Emmett there (trumpet). We went and stocked up on food and booze before picking him up from the airport. We got to the airport and just rolled up cheering as we saw him outside waiting, high fives were had all around. We were on this high the whole time we drove to get to the fest. We rolled up to this campground and there’s already people stumbling drunk at like 4:00pm. We get to our cabin (all the bands had cabins to stay in) and met up with everyone. I think we all immediately just started drinking, we didn’t play until like 10:00pm. The party didn’t stop until well into the morning. There was a huge main stage where they were playing like classic pop hits and EDM after all the bands finished. People were scattered everywhere. It was just nuts. There was a guy wearing a Doge mask just stumbling around talking to all of us. I could go on and on about stuff we saw, people we met, and things that happened that night. It surpassed our lofty jokey expectations of it being the Slovakian Warped Tour.
BEN (bass) what band/bassist is your biggest inspiriation? (if you say Caspian I'm gonna laugh)
You know who never gets enough credit? Michael Anthony from Van Halen. He had to deal with these huge egos taking up all the attention, plus drama with singers, meanwhile he's there laying down some solid work filling out the sound behind all that soloing, plus providing the backing vocals that really were iconic to their sound; then he gets booted out without a care so Eddie's son could play bass? I mean, talk about unappreciated. Really, the band's best work was always when he was involved, never mind the Hagar/Roth era debate. But he always stayed classy, so respect.
Biggest inspiration though, probably Caspian; I love that band.
What was the best band you saw on tour?
This last question is a trap, but if we're talking about just this year I can side-step a bunch of people, haha; I was truly amazed at the talent and musicianship among Joliette every lucky night I got to watch them.
What band would you dream of playing a show with? (still active)
Well, it was the goal to try to play with Suis La Lune some day, but... (still sad).
It would be a dream come true just to get to see Raein play (they're still active, right!?!?)
ESLIN (viola) being the newest member of Respire, what has it been like just kind of jumping on at some shows at first, and then doing two full European tours? How does the experience relate to your previous musical endeavours? And shit, what are your previous musical endeavours?!?!
From the moment Respire asked me to play a show with them, they've been the most welcoming, inclusive and supportive musicians I've had the opportunity to work with. Despite the fact that they had already been friends forever and a band for a few years, from day one they made space for me, musically and emotionally. I think I wasn't even through the first rehearsal and Egin told me I could come back and play whenever I wanted. The decision was made pretty easy when it turned out the next shows would be in Europe on tour.
After arriving in Hamburg on our first tour, I was launched into the DIY scene with absolutely no idea what to expect. The amazing collectives and the inclusiveness that awaited us was inspiring and something that all music scenes should strive for. It's been quite a change from the classical music world, which is what I studied in school, but I love the creativity and passion everyone in the DIY scene embodies. They're all accomplishing so much for their communities and supporting each another's artistic outlets. The freelance musician world can at times be a pretty negative space so it’s very freeing to be experiencing a musical world where judgment and cynicism of one's ability is left behind. I’m currently in the mindset that whether I'm playing classical symphonies in a concert hall, or post rock in a DIY space - it's an honour for me to be have found a space in our musical world and to be doing something I love so often.
RESPIRE: What is it like looking back at the demo recordings now, after tours, two full lengths, etc?
Pretty hilarious to be honest! I don’t think we knew what we were doing at all! The very nature of a project with many members, complicated arrangements and never-ending layers is that the learning never stops. Learning how to properly utilize three guitars as well as orchestral elements, and learning how to record it all to create a uniscent ‘sound’ is something I think we’ve been figuring out through every recording process. So imagine what listening to the very first songs you’ve written and record as a band (a wild five years ago) is like…
In all honesty it’s cute. We had some rad ideas, made a lot of goofy mistakes, and I think we took the best of what we had and evolved in (hopefully) thoughtful, inspired, and artful ways.
What information can you share about Anthems For Falling Stars?
If Respire had any notoriety, it would be about Anthems For Falling Stars. Friends at our hometown shows regularly shout “Anthems!” as part of a long-standing joke about us and our perplexing relationship with the song - a song we’ve made shirts, patches, totes, and even a stage banner out of - that you’ll never hear live. Individually, I think we’re all on a spectrum between outright hating the song and being embarrassed by it. Most of us feel there are some really cool moments on it, but it shows its place in the pre-Gravity, post-Demonstration timeline. It was a song originally meant for Gravity and Grace that we did off the floor at defunct DIY space Soybomb (RIP) as part of a video that never saw the light of day. The recording/filming process was so long and arduous I think it stained our whole feel of the song. We scrapped it completely off the track listing, which I think was the right thing to do seeing as it sorts of stands out. I guess it’s an early song where we still doing that learning, still experimenting and figuring out things that don’t quite work (long drawn-out spoken-word bit, I’m looking dead at you).
What is next for you after the Envy Love tribute comp?
We’re back to writing new material, and have some exciting tour plans for 2019 we can’t wait to share.