Creativity within the AP community is tremendous, and there's nothing like stumbling upon an underground band like The Breathing Light, going DIY all the way, whether it's making music, shooting videos, putting shows together, or speaking out for LGBT rights. That's right, DIY "romantic punk" from Alabama to Chicago.
AP contributor Nathan Leigh interviewed The Breathing Light's KyleO, check it out below.
Tell me a little about The Breathing Light's origins. You got started in '08 in Alabama, right?
Yeah, it started off with me and my friend Sean. We were both in Art History class. We were talking about, you know, going to shows, and what it was like in the Huntsville scene, and during that time there wasn't like. We only knew of one kid—one black kid—in a band, but we knew a whole bunch of black kids who played guitar and stuff, but they never had a band. So were just like “what would happen if we made a band and started playing shows?” Cause we had never seen that shit in the scene. So we were just like “yeah, let's try it.”
Sean kinda wandered off, and we ended up getting our first show. And I would randomly run into people who would jam. It just kinda built from one show and one person jamming to another person. And people kept rotating in and out, and it kept building and building with more shows.
You guys are based out of Chicago now. There's that tradition, especially in the blues, of artists from Alabama traveling up to Chicago, do you consider yourselves descended from that tradition?
You kinda hit it really on the head. Cause like, before Breathing Light, to build up my skills, I would go down to open mics that they'd have down there in Huntsville where they were playing blues. There'd be these old black men in their 60s playing on combo amps on a luggage carrier. And you'd go in to these little bars and I'd sit in with some of the kids from my college that could play jazz and stuff. And we'd just sit around and play covers of Jill Scott and Eryka Badu. And some of these people were seasoned musicians. They'd gone on tour with people. And so I would hop in while they'd be playing and I learned from listening and sessioning with some of those people.
And then to come back up here and just back and forth. I have a friend who's a tap dancer, and I guess he's really knowledgeable about the jazz scene in Chicago. And we would go to open mics up here where they'd be playing free jazz. And I would sit in on those too, and they hated me. They did. They didn't want me to play. They was just like “you play kinda like this heavy metal punk stuff and your soloing is too much.” And I'd be like “but you guys play this crazy stuff I can't even follow.”
Well it's funny because a lot of your newer stuff, which is a lot slower and spacier, you use a lot of jazz chords and unusual forms. Did the experience of sitting in on these jams influence this direction?
Yeah it has, but it was like that even before. I remember when I was a little kid, my mom was kinda iffy about us listening to hip hop music because of cursing and stuff, you know. So whenever we would roll around in the car somewhere she always had it on the smooth jazz station. So I'd end up listening to to Anita Baker and soft rock stuff like that. So when I thought about that, at least, punk rock, I was like damn I know what punk rock sounds like and I know how it is, but it felt like it was missing something to me. So coming from those jams I would have in Alabama, I heard it as a little kid, but I was able to learn how to play it when I was there. So I guess listening to it over and over again it just made its way in there.
So what drew you into DIY culture and punk rock?
I guess when I was in elementary school and I tried to play basketball with a whole bunch of kids. We had this one bell on the outside of the school, like a ringer bell. We didn't have hoops at the time, so we'd aim for the bell and it'd make a “ding!”
And that counted as a basket?
Yeah, yeah. So I wanted to get into the game, and I ended up getting the ball and throwing the motherfucker over onto the roof and they hated me ever since then. I mean all the other kids there were like “You know what? No you're not gonna play with us.” And a lot of those kids were black and I was just like “Damn.” So I guess I just mosied over to the white kids who had like skateboards so I was like “I guess I'll skateboard.” I was just an outcast forever and it just continued.
Chicago has that legendary DIY community. Are you guys finding yourselves a place in the community?
Well, yeah. I mean, you talk about Chicago man, Chicago is a very complicated place. Especially for DIY culture. There are so many different scenes and some of them are not even connected to the others. We have I guess a family in the South Side, Southwest Side. Where we are is technically in the south suburbs. So there's a lot of kids out here, but they don't know anything about DIY culture. But they have the spirit of “I don't give a fuck, I'm gonna do my own thing.”
We're slowly connecting with all these different people. And we're getting to a place where we're making shows, and we're connecting with people who are making their own shows. And it's people of color. It's all people of color, and white kids too. It's this all inclusive type of thing.
You guys seem to be pretty constantly recording. Do you have any plans for a full length recording coming up?
Yeah. I mean, there's so much music. We have songs, and we took them down cause we wanted to re-record them. We also have stuff that's for online, and then stuff that we want to do for a full length. We're in the process of making that stuff happen. I mean, Trey is in Alabama. He's working. And he's constantly back and forth, so when he comes we get a lot of stuff done. That's one thing to be looked out for. We're in the process of getting all that stuff together as well as putting more online.