Coming from all walks of life within the music scene, Eastcoast quartet Breathe In has injected a new level of energy, intensity, emotion, and freshness into the rock industry with their first new single, "White Flag."
The end of a chapter or the start of a new one always brings forth endless possibilities. We never know where those adventures are going to lead, but the freedom and expression of trying something new always breeds something cathartic and different from anything we have ever experienced before. For the members of Breath In, the Eastcoast quartet came from different walks of life in the music scene, but each wanted something different to test their boundaries in the unknown to see where their strengths could flourish elsewhere. Thus, during the pandemic, guitarist Brian Kang (Madame Mayhem, ex-Another Day’s Armor), bassist Rob Gnarly (Echo Black), drummer/cinematographer Paul Illge Jr. (ex-The Danger Days), vocalist Jay Russell, set out to create a studio project that would not only combine the best of their experiences and talents but would also represent the journey of five talented musicians who dared to dream bigger and gambled to look beyond what they had always known.
“White Flag” is a statement piece. Instrumentally, we intended to write something that makes an impact; like a final boss battle. Heavy, but easily accessible. Everything from the guitar leads to the over-the-top solo. I wanted to deliver a fighting energy like “This is who we are; take it or leave it.”
Inspired by a unique and stunning combination of metalcore, pop-punk, classic heavy metal, power metal, Japanese and Eastern musical acts, anime, and video games, Breath In has created one of the most beautifully ethereal, technical, and thunderous experiences that stand out in the rock scene right now, "White Flag." A song that focuses heavily on refusing to hold anything back both musically and lyrically, Breath In illustrates this point and the idea that your previous achievements do not determine your future successes, and "White Flag" is just the beginning of their next success story.
Thank you for visiting Into The Void! You guys have been in other bands before and other media forms, but what inspired you to start Breath In? How has being in other projects carried into shaping this brand new chapter in your lives?
Jay: Ever Since I was young I’ve wanted to be a lead vocalist in a band. I never liked the idea of seeing “Jay Russell” solo and the reason is because I love live music and if I can’t play it live then I won’t play it at all. It's not just Jay Russell playing the song, it's the band!... Also, half a million people constantly asking for 3 years is a great push too.
Brian: Thank you for having us! Breathe In started as a studio project during the pandemic. I found Jay through his YouTube covers and his TikTok. I loved his sense of melody and lyrics so I reached out to him to audition for my old band who was searching for a replacement singer at the time.
Unfortunately, the band disbanded before a new vocalist was settled on so Jay and I just kept in touch ever since.
With previous projects and I guess by extension the whole state of the Western rock scene, there’s no sense of true creative freedom or expression; almost to a blatantly disingenuous level. Everything sounds the same and there’s a hyperfixation on staying within a formula for writing radio hits or the next viral deathcore breakdown. With Breathe In, I always want to emphasize creative freedom and expression over just writing for the sake of a hit.
Paul: I've always loved metal & playing music in general. My previous band, The Danger Days, was more pop punk & hard rock, which I also loved playing, but when Kang asked me to join this new metal project, I had to say yes.
I come from a background in cinematography, working in a variety of films & shows from across the U.S. & Japan. So I wanted to bring that expertise to this project as well
What are the musical influences that shaped "Breath In" and "White Flag"? You guys draw from video games and anime influences as well. How does that further enrich that experience?
Jay: As far as the music we're currently writing, we draw influences from bands like Linkin Park, Falling in Reverse, Bad Omens, and for me, Nickelback. But that’s the beauty of being in this band because we all bring different styles to the table. The song “White Flag” wasn’t written by me instrumentally however when I was shown it I loved it from the jump! It got me thinking of anime where people fought wasn’t to be f*cked with; Goku from Dragon Ball Z, Gojo from Jujutsu Kaisen, Yusuke Uremeshi from Yu yu hakasho, and so much more!
Brian: My background is generally metalcore and pop-punk, but for Breathe In, it was a lot of Japanese bands that influenced my writing for us.
I know I’m sounding like a music weeb, but there are no boundaries for a lot of bands from the East. With Japanese and Eastern acts, there’s a lot of sonic variety without any fear of having to stay in a specific niche. Like the Sonic Frontiers soundtrack for example. They have Kellin Quinn singing to some of the heaviest Drop F instrumentals I’ve ever heard! Or even bands like Crystal Lake, Nocturnal Bloodlust, Crossfaith, & Dexcore. The energy they put into their craft is insane! It’s all so refreshing.
Where this all ties together is we want to create sounds that get the adrenaline flowing as if you were fighting a final boss or watching the climactic showdown of your favorite anime. Something akin to the feeling of discovering Linkin Park for the first time.
Paul: I've always been a classic heavy metal & power metal fan. My biggest influences for my general style & this song in particular are Iron Maiden, Manowar & Sabaton. I'm not much of a modern double bass kind of player. I much prefer using the toms & cymbals to accentuate the rhythm & leads.
Lyrically, "White Flag" addresses the importance of not holding anything back. Given that you have a discordant background with prior bands while also being the start of something new and uncharted territory for some of you, does this lyrically play a role in that, and is this part of a larger theme for an album or EP?
Jay: I’ve never been in a band before, so this is my first time doing all of this. With Breathe In, my role is being the front man, so ironically there’s A LOT I HAVE to hold back on but at the same time let it be known to not mess with me or you’ll be waving a White Flag!
Brian: “White Flag” is a statement piece. Instrumentally, we intended to write something that makes an impact; like a final boss battle. Heavy, but easily accessible. Everything from the guitar leads to the over-the-top solo. I wanted to deliver a fighting energy like “This is who we are; take it or leave it.”
Paul: I got along well with the guys in The Danger Days & we're still friends. So getting along with these guys felt very natural. I've always loved music where the lyrics tell stories & are generally uplifting. A lot of power metal themes are about believing in yourself & fighting for what you believe in. As of right now, this song isn't a part of a bigger album or EP but the theme of being true to yourself will be recurring with future releases.
How does the creative process for "White Flag" differ from your past band's experiences?
Jay: I'm going to spill some secrets here: Brian & Paul both wrote their parts for the song. However, I was struggling to write even the FIRST word of the song and had nothing. It wasn’t until I was in the studio after finishing a different take that I came up with some of the lyrics & melody. We only had 2 days for vocals and 1 day was already spent on another song, so I stayed up all night and wrote the first verse and chorus to "White Flag."
On the drive up to the studio, I wrote the 2nd verse, which took about 30 minutes haha...... However, being a solo artist, I usually have melodies in my head and then I'll work on instruments around that.
Or I’ll play around with stuff and write melodies or lyrics to that but now I feel we’ll take the time to vote on parts and choose the strongest lyrics and riffs etc.
Brian: Other than Paul and I, none of us live in the same state. This was the first time all of us worked on something where the whole band wasn’t within a 30-mile radius of each other. Almost all of the writing is done virtually. We only get together when we need to go into the studio for recording or to shoot promotional material like music videos & photoshoots.
Secondly, our band operates like a small record label. Every member brings a valuable skill outside of music to the table. With older projects, there was a lot of outreach for graphical work, cinematographers, marketing, etc. which would cost a lot. For Breathe In, we have that all in-house. Paul is a professional cinematographer, Jay is a sound engineer and social media sensation, I handle marketing and minor graphic design, Rob engineers his own pedals and does graphic design, and Mr. Shredz is a CPA/Tour-manager/Live Sound Engineer/Business Relations expert.
Paul: The only significant difference in the creative process is that we are spread across 4 states. Most of our meetings are virtual which limits the amount of time we spend face-to-face. Fortunately, Kang & I are close enough that we can collaborate on the new demos in person. Then we send them to the group & discuss our ideas to make it the best it can be.
While it's still early days, what have you taken from this experience that has impacted you or made this a better experience for you?
Jay: Not to waste any time! I live in a different state from them so when we meet, we hit the ground running! And we video call and talk and plan a lot.
Brian: It’s the first time I’m pursuing a project because I genuinely want to. In my previous bands, I was younger and I didn’t have my priorities straight to say the least, haha. Now that I’m a little older, I’m lucky to have had eye-opening experiences that made me question my motivations and what I want with my life. It’s the first time where I feel like I don’t have to prove anything. I’m just here to write good music and go on a f*cking adventure!
Paul: This experience has allowed me to meld my two areas of expertise together in a fun way. Directing & editing behind-the-scenes documentaries & music videos while also recording live drums has been a great experience.
What can we expect from you guys moving into this year?
Jay: World domination! We are going to make music no one else can. “White Flag” is a Rap and Power Metalcore song, so you can try to guess what we’ll make next but you won’t get it until it's out. So expect the unexpected! What I can say is expect to hear more of our music on the radio. Octane wherever you can listen to music and or numbers skyrocket!
Brian: We just started, so it’s going to be a slow grind to make a name for ourselves. We just want to keep putting out good music, with a couple of singles lined up next year. We’re hoping to make our live debut at some point next year if we play our cards right!
Paul: Besides new music, there's going to be a bunch of behind-the-scenes videos. A whole documentary of us recording the first couple of singles & a few videos about our time shooting the “White Flag” music video. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for all that stuff!