DC Setlist Q&A with Amanda Kleinman of Heavy Breathing
[First published on DC Setlist on November 10, 2011.]
One of DC's more creative acts, HEAVY BREATHING, creates an "experience" at their shows not to be missed! They've gotta gig at GOLD LEAF STUDIOS tomorrow [11-11-11] night! Meet band member, Amanda Kleinman, as she warms you up for what promises to be a great evening...
Q. Who is HEAVY BREATHING? Please introduce the band and tell us how you met.
Erick Jackson- guitarist and computer master.
Amanda Kleinman (me) synth and organ.
Jeff Schmid- drums
The Rhythm Machine- the computer
Erick and Jeff have known each other since elementary school. Erick was aware of Jeff since first grade. Jeff was the kid who could draw monsters, super heroes, and goblins. So Erick kept tabs on him until 6th grade when he finally had a reason to ask Jeff to play- Jeff had a Commodore 64 and finally, when there was a cool game to play, he allowed Erick to visit. They played video games and drew drawings of barbarians chopping off heads.
I met Erick in high school art class. He was the only person in my class who had long hair and was slightly scary. One Thursday night in September or October, I was on the phone with a friend and the call waiting sound chirped. When I clicked over, the voice on the other end indicated it was Erick from art class. I had never given 'Erick from art class' my phone number. He just looked up Kleinman in the MC directory and figured out which were my parents. Erick and I started hanging out because both wanted to start a band. The three of first jammed for fun in 1990. We went to separate colleges though I did live with Jeff in a few vile group houses for a 1 ½ years in P.G. County. We were all in several bands before we ultimately formed The Apes in 1999. We decided to start the Apes for 2 reasons. We knew that we could at least tolerate each other if we had to sit in a van for endless hours. Also, we knew we wanted to tour. You never know a person until you travel with them. People can keep themselves together when conditions are comfortable, but on the road, people crack quickly. We knew we could trust each other to maintain a baseline of sanity and functionality while on the road. The Apes were together from 1999 to 2008, released multiple albums, toured all over the US , Iceland , UK , and Europe . We had 3 singers and loved each one. We played over 500 shows.
In 2010, we started Heavy Breathing. We decided it was time to just be a 3 piece (like Peter, Paul, and Mary)
People are familiar with DJ's and rappers performing to recorded tracks. In 2010, we decided to combine live instuments (guitar, drums, and keys) with electronic vocals and sound.
We asked ourselves, why not eliminate the singer, create the vocals electronically, and have the musicians become the focus of the live show? And that is exactly what we did.
Our computer is our fourth member- we refer to it as "The Rhythm Machine" and it bears equal weight and importance in our band. Rhythm Machine is spontaneous and provides ideas and accidents much like jamming with a person. Bottom line is that many humans at some point in their lives think they want to be in a band. However, when they realize how much work/commitment/dedication it requires, they lose interest and move on to other things. There is nothing wrong with moving on!
Q. How did you pick the name of your band? You had to know we were going to ask...
A. Coming up with a band name is always the hard part. I was watching a movie about the Zodiac Killer and I fell asleep while watching it. When I woke up, the sceneplaying in the movie at that moment showed a screen was an image of a piece of paper that read “heavy breathing". And I knew that was it. (quote from Erick)
Q. Is it true you try to release a song and image each month? Cool. Where can we find it & what types of "images" are you referring to?
We do, in fact, write, record, mix, and release one song per month. Each month we address a specific element of our playing/song-writing/technology/or mixing technique. Having our own release timeline forces us to produce effectively and to learn quickly. It’s enjoyable to work on one song at a time rather than try to make a stock pile of 8 songs at once to bash out in a rushed studio session. When we do the album, we will incorporate a different process. For us, images and sound go hand-in-hand. The images we create and catalog can drive our sounds. The images are all on our website. Erick does many of the images and he takes my drawings and turns them into a usable color .gifs ( as opposed to deformed line-drawn portraits that they encompass in their original form).
Q. For those who are new to HEAVY BREATHING, how would you describe your music and who does most of the writing?
A. We just call it electronic rock. Our music contains rock riffs, energy, hooks, volume, and movement. Heavy Breathing can mean heavy breathing that comes from sexual fatigue, from fear, from high output of energy, or being a creep breathing heavy on a phone, doing too much blow , hyperventilation, someone choking you. Our sound is about the combination of all these states. You gotta breathe to live, live spelled backwards is evil, and it always has to be heavy!!!
Every time we write a song, we use a different process. Sometimes we start with a jam with all 3 of us. Sometimes it’s a sound or a rhythm from my synthesizer. Sometimes it’s the vocal that Erick has been writing on the computer. Jeff does the live recording. Erick does the mixing and baboom!
Q. When's your next gig? Give us the deets!
A. Friday, 11/11/11 at Gold Leaf Studios located at 443 I Street NW Washington, DC. Doors are 8:30 and I think we are headlining, going on at 10:00 pm. We are playing with Indian Jewelry and Painted Face.
Q. Rumor has it your releasing an album on VINYL!!! When & where can we pick it up?
A. In the Spring! Location- hopefully, in the back of a running van.
Q. How's it feel being the only female in the band?
A. I would say a better question is “How does it feel to be female and be in a band?” Gender has never been an issue for me as the only female Ape or Heavy Breather. I do not know any other life. I know that most of my peers are married, have children, and some are divorced. Most own homes, have careers, buy new cars, have retirement funds. I was not born with the same set of drives, motivations, reward mechanisms as many of my peers. I get excited when I have drawn something that I know makes me laugh. I love finishing a song. I love being outside. In my 30’s, I’m finally comfortable in my own skin. Working with Erick and Jeff is not always fun, and it is not a sensitive- feel-good circle. I have not always been the easiest to work with either. Jeff and Erick are wise beyond their years and their experiences. They have always called me out on my issues before I even knew I had them. I need to work with people who can get the job done, who can push me past my comfort zone, and who can keep me in check. It is never about who has a male or female sex organs. Jeff and Erick do not have feelings that get hurt. (I actually do have feelings that get hurt, consistent with female tendencies I might add) It’s just the 3 of us, for better or worse. Man, Women, Kangeroo...it makes no difference
Q. Any tours in the not so distant future?
A. That is the plan. We are, however, also beginning to undertake a different kind of show experience. We are combining forces with a secret man and a secret sound system. We will soon have the capacity to take over an entire venue and transform an evening into a wild journey of colors, sights, sounds, smells, stimuli, and rainbows in the dark! We have to do this because going to shows can be quite boring. Traditional venues are often highlight bands going through the motions with little interest in creating an experience.. There is no menace, no excitement, no wonder, and certainly no danger.
I ask myself if we can create a full evening event where there is an element of unknown, a veil of mystery. I feel we have to do this. When you have been to thousands of shows and played hundreds of your own shows, you can guess exactly what will happen if you do not plan something that will tickle all of your senses. First and foremost, we have to keep ourselves interested.
Q. Turn us on to music you like! And tell us: What are the five songs (& artists) that have been looping on your iPod this week?
A. I actually have been paying for the premium Spotify service. I love it. Its the most delicious squirt of doggy biscuit liquid in a fine porcelain vase that follows you from house to smartphone to work to the woods (if you listen to music in the words..I do not usually listen to music in the woods, unless I'm using it to change my mood).
- Chrome: Half Machine Lip Moves (the whole album)
- Aerosmith: Toys in the Attic
- Bee Gees: Jive Talkin
- LL Cool J: Radio
- Eazy E: Eazy Does It
I just want to add that everyday I feel blessed, fortunate, lucky, grateful for this life and this wild range of experiences. I love Washington DC. I love Mt. Pleasant, my roommates, job, band, community, and park.
Every person that has ever come to one of our shows, hosted us for the night, helped us with repairs, sound, equipment, driving, my students that come to shows when they are kids and keep coming back when they are adults, dudes that drive from other states to see us play-- those people are awe-inspiring. Every person that we have ever played music with- I have loved, treasured, and learned from. We make music just because that's what we do. We want to make great experiences so we can share that music in a way that helps people feel alive in a sensory-rich set of moments.
Life is so weird and so short and it takes a lot of work to keep showing up everyday, with an open heart, and an open mind, and a willingness to take risks, to feel, and to be real. We can count on one thing impermanence. So we must make each moment a full moment.
I love Erick and Jeff. They are my brothers. I love Heavy Breathing.
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