"In this season of the band, we’re so thankful we get to be a part of the dialogue between us and the people at our shows."
Listening to Wasting Time and Temporary Tears, the latest two singles from NEEDTOBREATHE, you’ll applaud the South Carolina rock outfit for the smile-inducing efforts that rise from absolute opposites of the sonic spectrum.
Riding a wave of creative contrast with these releases was a sure-fire way for NEEDTOBREATHE, the band’s guitarist Tyler Burkum, to prepare fans for their eclectic, genre-defying new album, Caves.
“Our band, especially now, the shows and the records are all over the place,” he says. “Obviously, they’re still within a certain realm of music, but during our show, you could be like ‘This sounds like ten different bands’.
“People barely listen to records in order anymore – we still think of it [Caves] as a record, but at the same time, when the songs are very different, almost different genres, it’s kind of like we made our own playlist.
“Maybe you hear it and be like ‘Oh, is this a collection of different songs from different records?’, [but] it kind of doesn’t matter. It’s fun to have a song like Wasting Time with Old Dominion.”
Recording Wasting Time, this fun rock song was purposely taken over the top through a collaboration with Old Dominion. Not being a country band themselves, NEEDTOBREATHE felt Old Dominion’s radio-friendly brand of country rock would suit the sound they were aiming for.
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“Wasting Time, on the record, it’s like four minutes long; when we play that song live, it’s about 12 minutes long,” says Burkum. “It’s not like a psychedelic Led Zeppelin song that goes on for a long time, but it’s a really fun moment; it’s a good vibe.”
By stark contrast, Temporary Tears featuring Foy Vance is remarkably sombre and was treated as a contender for album closer because of the fact. The band thought of the track as “last song of the show, last song of the set,” according to Burkum.
Having accounted for a modern style of music consumption – in that people are less likely to listen to full albums, preferring instead to – NEEDTOBREATHE have been able to retain their distinct brand of rock whilst introducing new elements that allow the band a bit of creative breathing space. Burkum explains, “We’re not going to bend to it, but we know if our songs are a little different on the record, we kind of go ‘I don’t think we need to lose sleep over that.’
“We do listen to the record and go ‘We hope this is like a good show’. We almost look at the songs like a set list, like, ‘Where will we play this live?’ and just knowing that it’s not a dealbreaker if the songs are all the same. Sometimes I think that’s a cool thing, sometimes that’s how our shows are, so we try not to get too precious, to overthink it.”
The writing and performance style of Caves that Burkum describes serves well those who aren’t twenty-odd years familiar with NEEDTOBREATHE. Attendees shouldn’t expect to hear rock, pop, or country, but they can expect to hear NEEDTOBREATHE. Agreeing, Burkum says, “Right now, with the way genres are so blurred, how lines are so blurred, younger people don’t come to a show and go ‘Man, these are a bunch of different styles’, they just go, ‘This is music.’”
Live shows play a pivotal and large role in NEEDTOBREATHE’s career, leaving the band, as Burkum puts it, spoilt for choice in how they were able to put together this album. “You know, you get some records, and they all sound like they could have been recorded the same day.”
In NEEDTOBREATHE’s practice, a sense of cohesiveness in their material, particularly in Caves, that summons that blanket reaction of ‘This is music’ is achieved, according to Burkum, by, in part, having a good time. “Some records have been way more on the nose, cohesive sonically,” he says, “but I think maybe emotionally this record… We have a band called Outsiders, a song from a few records back. The band started in a really small town, and it always felt like we were on the outside. There’s a bit of a chip on our shoulder to be like ‘We Belong’. And I think with this record, there’s a gratefulness we wanted to come through.”
Elaborating on what he means by “gratefulness” in Caves, Burkum says, “We are extremely grateful and thankful to be doing what we’re doing. But I think a very big emotion in the record is a gratefulness, and not so much that chip on our shoulders, trying to, you know, say that we belong. We’re kind of just going, ‘Hey, we’re grateful to be playing music.’ It’s so easy to miss the point, but I think in this season of the band, we’re so thankful we get to be a part of the dialogue between us and the people at our shows.
“It’s not necessarily intentional, but I think there’s a gratefulness that we don’t take for granted; we don’t take it lightly. There’s no finger-pointing kind of songs. It’s just a sweet season for our band.”
NEEDTOBREATHE’s new album, Caves, is out now via Drive All Night Records. You can listen to it below.