This article was originally published on June 27 2023. It has been updated.
Michael Espinach—the man who used to be the sole person behind industrial-pop sound generator BREATHERRR—had little idea he would ever become more than a one-man band
Taking cues from Trent Reznor—who basically produced and created solely under the Nine Inch Nails banner, assembling a rotating door of band members as tours came and went—Espinach took his industrial-pop sound into the studio largely on his own, with occasional appearances from other artists, sure, but almost entirely solo.
That is, until BREATHERRR’s latest album, “BLISS CONDITION,” which was just released on vinyl, where he had been formally joined by long-time collaborator J.P. Bendzinski on bass, as well as Joel Jasper on guitar and vocals; Paul Rhoda on guitar; Ernie Mora on the synth and guitar; and Patrick Tapia on drums and samples.
Having made their debut at Alex’s Bar as a full on band in May of 2019—then it was Espinach, Bendzinski, as well as Tyler Lindgren and Jacob Connelly—they’ve since then garnered some genuinely solid gigs— like opening for HEALTH with Youth Code at the Teragram Ballroom in DTLA. (Espinach has been an avid remixer of HEALTH’s work.)
“That was the most people we had ever played to and for the people there who knew my work as a solo artist, I think it was definitively that performance where they were, like, ‘Oh shit, okay, now I see where you trying to go with all this,'” Espinach said.
The weight of solo artists is no lie: With Espinach both writing and producing his records entirely, booking his shows, performing his own shows, and juggling residencies (along with booking other bands attached to those residencies), there comes the eventual wall of burnout.
“Dude, it just hit me: This was a lot to be doing myself,” Espinach said. “I was burnt out.”
And that makes sense: BREATHERRR’s entire sonic library is a reflection of Espinach’s therapy sessions—both literally and metaphorically—where things he learns in therapy are the inspiration behind any given lyric. And with that artistic catharsis comes a weight: Rightfully rage-y at times and, like many Millennials, just trying to find his damn space in the world, Espinach’s music carries definitively weighty attachment.
“If I am having a shitty day similar to something I experienced even years ago, I am like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve been through this—and I have tangible proof because I wrote a song about it,'” Espinach said.
And while that reflection and catharsis allows him to reflect on things more objectively in the present, it didn’t alter the fact that his last album, “FEAR FLORA,” pushed him to the ultimate wall, vowing to never take on the entirety of his art on his own. With that, the invitation of collaborating with others provides him with stories, perspectives, and histories that don’t necessarily align with his own. Or, in his words, yes, they both may listen to The Cure, but someone else might listen to Hank Williams as well.
Since then, collaboration has altered BREATHERRR’s, well, everything: From the way in which Espinach performs—”When your sole purpose is to sing the song, I can focus on that one job instead of everything; it offers a sense of liberty”—to how the expression of aesthetic comes out—”Yeah, people definitely found the promo art for this album sexier”—to the sound Espinach hears in his head—”Sometimes, J.P. will come back with something and there is just no argument there: It sounds definitively better than it did before—it seems BREATHERRR’s missing cog has been collaboration.
And this record is a reflection of that: With demos starting in 2019, BLISS CONDITION is the simultaneous culmination of Espinach’s personal growth and the band’s ability to work cohesively under duress.
Initially planned as a staggered release where they would release a new song monthly across 2020, the pandemic hit the very month they planned to release—and that was, in the words of Espinach, problematic.
“Looking at the whole pandemic objectively, it’s clear that we really had no idea what the fuck was going on,” Espinach said. “Most people were looking for comfort—and these heavy-ass doom songs dealing with catharsis and struggle… I’m not established enough to have that fan base where they’re a hundred-percent in automatically. It was a letdown and liberating at the same time.”
Working through Google Drive, the entirety of “BLISS CONDITION” was done on just that—Google Drive—spanning the previous demos and across another two years. The effort and work put into the album—three videos, promo shoots, the production itself—warranted fishing for label backing. And yes, the band had a few bites but ultimately, nothing to to back their full record.
So what is a heavy-ass band to do? Throw as big of a release party as they could with the resources they have—which meant a show at the Art Theatre back in June with Furcast—and, of course, releasing some vinyl.
What to expect while putting on the vinyl? Well, Espinach hopes you’ll do what he does live: Dance’n’thrash.
“Well, I’ve always told myself, perform live like you’re dancing in your room when no one is watching—and this record brings out a lot in my body,” Espinach said, slightly chuckling. “That’s you at your peak absolute self, when you’re in your room dancing with no one watching—and after listening to this record in various parts for years in my room, I have to be able to share those moments. Like, ‘Fuck yeah, our music is making me thrash and move my body in these ways’—so that is what I want people to do when listening to the album.”
We’ll echo you, BREATHERRR: Fuck yeah.