Louder Than War’s Philip Allen catches up with Emily Breeze, lead singer of two-piece Bristol based band VENTS, a band whose twitter bio simply reads “Sex and death music”.
Emily Breeze began her musical career as the songwriter / frontperson of a five piece country / rock ‘n’ roll band. Her debut album, ‘Penny Arcade’, released in 2010, confirmed her musical obsessions as well as her utter commitment to performing. Described at the time by the Sunday Times as, “Rebel music! The bastard child of P J Harvey and Johnny Cash”, it soon became obvious that Emily lives and breaths the music see loves. Her new two piece band VENTS, have a darker, more gothic sound partly because of their use of a drum machine rhythm section. She is joined on guitar by Rob Norbury. I sent Emily a selection of questions in hope of learning a little about what makes herself and her current band tick.
Louder Than War: How would you describe the sound of your new band and what influences do you think helped?
Emily Breeze: The sound of the band is largely defined by the fact that we use a drum machine. I find the contrast of cold artificial beats with the sonic wash and stab of the guitars exciting and it provides an engaging foil for the lyrics. Our core influences boil down to The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, Nick Cave, The Birthday Party and Leonard Cohen although VENTS has stylistic leanings which are indebted to Suicide, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Bauhaus and Portishead.
Louder Than War: How do you approach writing music, has it changed over time?
Our songs usually start with a guitar riff and a vocal line both of which will be subjected to intense scrutiny and are mercilessly torn to shreds until something we both agree on materializes. Very few ideas survive this process and it is common for us to play a song live once before deciding to kill it.
My approach has changed immeasurably since i began co writing with Rob. Previously i would write the song structure, chords and lyrics alone before bringing them to whichever band I was working with. I love the collaborative writing process in VENTS. Rob’s ideas inspire me on a deep level and it is a pleasure to respond to them as opposed to continually trawling my own shallow waters.
Louder Than War: Why and when did you start playing music?
My mother is a musician and i was lucky to grow up listening to her Leadbelly and Bo Carter records which i have now stolen. I began writing and performing seriously in about 2002 after attending a songwriting workshop run by Patrick Duff which was part of “new deal for musicians” (New Labours right on dole scheme) I will always be indebted Patrick for the confidence he endowed me with and his continuing support and friendship.
Louder Than War: How has Bristol music scene changed over the year since you started?
When I began doing gigs in Bristol the Choke nights used to book really interesting abrasive bands. It is fiercely d.i.y and anti commercial. The new generation of bands in Bristol appear to be young, ambitious and focused on reaching a wide audience. I think Fear of Fiction are running a slick operation and it’s good to see the bands they are working with getting some national exposure.
Louder Than War: What has been your highlight and what was your low point during those years?
The ten years I have spent in music are a blur of shifting amps, decrepit vans, disappointment and euphoria. The highpoints where inconsequential moments like lying on the floor of the van driving back from god knows where with John e Vistic and Howlin Lord completely blasted singing ourselves ragged along to dead flowers by the stones. As for the low points, well i think the perpetual hum of poverty and the sneaking suspicion that you are completely inadequate will cover that one.
Louder Than War: How do you balance making music with life’s little necessities? (Paying the rent / job / relationships).
Paying the rent and making money are nagging peripheral chores that receive the least amount of attention possible because like most musicians we are diseased with a ridiculous dream which consumes everything in its path. I would not advise anyone to take up this lifestyle.
Rob and I share this obsession so we implicitly understand each other. In that respect the relationship aspect is perfect. We would always prefer to be in a dark basement playing music than doing whatever the hell it is that other couples do in their spare time.
Louder Than War: What band would you like to tour with, if you had a choice?
We would love to tour with Nick Cave, Portishead or Savages.
Louder Than War: What is your opinion on the current British music scene?
If there is a current scene I am not aware of it. Everything is atomised by the internet and Rob and I are fairly insular and retrospective in our tastes, although the Pop Noire labels output is fierce and stylish.
Louder Than War:If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
A responsible adult with a proper job and money who owns a car and goes on holiday.
Louder Than War: What was the first record you bought?
I am banned from HMV for life after being apprehended for shoplifting Nevermind by Nirvana and Da Chronic by Doctor Dre when I was 14 although it seems I have already outlived HMV.
Louder Than War: What does the coming year have in store for VENTS?
We have been recording with the supremely talented Drew Morgan and Adam Combes and will be releasing those tracks before the end of the year, as we have no recording output everything we have done so far has been through word of mouth so getting some tracks out there is our current priority.
We are also excited about collaborating with some filmmakers to complete the aesthetic of the band. As a two piece we are still looking at ways of developing our songs and the sound we have onstage, we have been through an array of different equipment and approaches and are still looking for the perfect system which will allows us to create an epic wall of sound.
Other than that we will continue on the recurrent cycle of writing, recording, releasing and performing until we drop dead.
VENTS will be performing at Start the Bus in Bristol on Friday 20th September as part of BML (Bristol Music Live) Party alongside Headliners, Throwing Up and fellow support, The Silk Report. & as part of the SLOW DEATH Club night at the Exchange, Bristol on Saturday 19th October.
All words by Philip Allen. You can read more from him in his author archive.