The past four years have been a firewalk for Working Breed.
The four-piece, which has haunted Pittsburgh’s music venues big and small for nearly a decade, didn’t so much evolve as disintegrate and reassemble over the pandemic epoch. After a series of lineup reshuffles, the current group – Erika June Christina Laing, Michael Dugan, Jake Churton, and Jeremy Papay – coalesced in 2019 just before the world stopped.
Even aside from the obvious that we all experienced, there was change afoot among the four. Relationships grew and dissolved; loved ones passed, leaving spiritual chasms. Amid all of that, and a landscape where live music (where the band has always thrived, and derived much of its energy) dried up for a time, the group penned, refined, and recorded Gaslighter, its second full-length.
Gaslighter, held up against 2019’s Hieroglyphica, is a study in contrasts: The earlier album featured sprawling songs often clocking in at well over five minutes, interspersed with quick interludes of musique concrete. Gaslighter tracks rarely exceed four minutes and center on big riffs. In short, while “art rock” is an apt description for the band’s entire oeuvre, the “new” Working Breed is feeling permission to let the pendulum swing more to the “rock” part of the formulation.
Let’s focus for a moment on what hasn’t changed since Hieroglyphica: Two members of the band’s core, Laing and Dugan, remain, as does the outfit’s expansive musical vocabulary. Laing serves as main vocalist, but her voice isn’t restricted to just her voice. She brings a variety of other instruments to bear at different points throughout, from synths (not so uncommon in a rock band these days) to trombone (we’re getting more quirky) and musical saw (as mesmerizing as it is dangerous).
If that sounds like a formula for overkill or a one-person-band-style novelty act, it’s not, thanks to the band’s restraint and the fact that it works in the service of the song. The addition of Churton, who’s honed his pop sensibility for more than a decade with Pittsburgh indie household name Donora, and Papay, whose credits range from rock bands to the circus (literally) and whose drumming chops are on another plane, helped to ground Working Breed as a rock band and boost Laing and Dugan’s faith in their ability to ride a riff for three-and-a-half minutes and focus on a single lyrical and emotional theme to match.
Don’t take that to mean that the Working Breed of 2023 has lost the “art” part of its mission. While other bands are busy debating the relative merits of adding cow bell in the studio, Working Breed recorded their own brain waves and added them to tracks on the record. (Laing is a neuroscientist by day, a sort of Clark Kent occupation for someone who throws on shiny blue tights and light-up wings for Working Breed’s live shows.)
For a band whose history stretches back to the halcyon days of the Obama administration, and who’s shared the stage not only with plenty of Pittsburgh names but with national acts like Jefferson Starship, Working Breed has a simple mission at the moment: Get their music into people’s, well, auditory cortexes. Gaslighter, just over half an hour of cathartic, singalong anthems, shapeshifting math-rock rhythms, haunting saw sounds and self-professed “angry trombone,” is as much a treat for the ears as it is a statement of intent. The fire of the past four years is down to a few dying embers, and Working Breed is stronger (and catchier) for it.
Stream/Download HIEROGLPYHICA HERE!!!
GASLIGHTER due out May 6th 2023!
Erika June Christina Laing / Vox, Trombone & Trumpet, Musical Saw, Synths
Michael Dugan / Guitar, Vox
Jake Churton / Bass
Jeremy Papay / Drums
Catch us at an Upcoming Show!
Check out the Working Breed’s live performance opening for Jefferson Starship!