Sometimes it takes the right environment to push a band to their full potential; to gain the inspiration to flesh a project from fun with friends to something they want the world to hear.
For The Breezes, that place is Breakglass Studio.
“It’s a really special place, it’s formative for The Breezes for sure,” said James Benjamin, singer/multi-instrumentalist for the local psychedelic indie group. “When we first went to Breakglass, it was just me and [singer/guitarist] Danny [Leznoff]. Right away there was a kind of magic to it.”
Benjamin loved the studio so much that he became an owner. With co-owners Dave Smith and the Besnard Lakes’ Jace Lasek as mentors, Benjamin grew as a producer and sound engineer in the three years it took to complete The Breezes’ self-titled debut LP.
With bands big and small regularly passing through Breakglass, his work there is a constant learning experience and one that has been instrumental in The Breezes’ evolution. This year, some notable projects he’s worked on include Purity Ring, Stars and just recently, Arcade Fire.
With access to a studio that hosts some of the city’s heavyweights, Benjamin and company had the opportunity to do something much more ambitious than the bedroom recording experiments that made up the band’s previous release, Update My High, tracked in Benjamin and bandmate Adam Feingold’s old St. Urbain St. apartment.
“A lot of the stuff you’re hearing coming out of Montreal is DIY, low-key production, the idea of the production is to have that DIY aspect to it,” said Benjamin.
“I find this record is refreshing because it’s not like that, this is a studio record. We thought a lot about every sound on there, and when the mixing time came around they were done on this incredible Neve console, that is one of the greatest sounding consoles in the world.”
The Neve is the Breakglass pride and joy, and a piece of history—Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti was recorded on it.
All that hi-fi care on The Breezes is most evident when the strings come in, giving off a rich, Motown-esque vibe on a couple tracks, notably the retro-wave “Promethean Eyes.”
“They were recorded using a super cool, old-school microphone technique,” said Benjamin. “We used these awesome Coles ribbon mics, and those are classic for recording strings, they’re really dark and rich.”
The record shows some of the many faces of The Breezes, just short of a jukebox of contemporary indie sounds with chilled-out, synth-driven tracks, Beach Boys-emulating straight pop tunes, and a bit of intentionally sloppy indie rock.
At times there’s even a Radio Radio-like sense of humour, a band they opened for at Metropolis last year for their biggest show to date.
“When we were on tour, somebody told us we were The Clash meets Beach Boys, and I never forgot that. I thought it was a pretty hilarious combination of sounds,” said Benjamin.
“In some ways The Breezes is a best-of record. We have an enormous bulk of songs, but we really chose the ones that would be the best premiere for us, what we hope is sort of a unified, almost quality-controlled record.”
Their varied sound is due to Benjamin, Leznoff and Feingold all sharing songwriting duties equally, fleshing out their songs together during the recording process.
Now that the debut LP is completed, the band is wrapping up the business side of things, including independently distributing the record across North America and Europe. They’re able to pull it off because of the connections they’ve made over the years, the European distro being taken care of by an old friend of Benjamin’s living in Amsterdam.
“Through Breakglass I work with all kinds of different bands, big bands and small bands, so I’ve gotten to see what works and what doesn’t,” said Benjamin, referring to the daunting task of releasing a record without label support.
The band is expecting the newly pressed vinyl edition of the record to arrive any day now, which will be available at their album release concert next week at La Sala Rossa—a show that will feature guest performances and live strings.
Their vinyl is being shipped from the Czech Republic by custom manufacturer Pirate Press. While LPs have witnessed a renaissance over the last few years, there’s not yet a closer vinyl pressing company with the band’s desired intersection of price and quality.
Until the show at Sala, The Breezes are setting the stage for the new release.
“You’ll be seeing The Breezes popping up all over town in the next week or two,” said Benjamin. “We’re going to see just how far we can go with it.”
The Breezes + CFCF + Suite / Dec. 11 / Sala Rossa (4848 St. Laurent Blvd.) / $8.00 advance, $10.00 door)