In anticipation for This weekend’s Deutschtown Music Festival we wanted to interview Erika Laing of the band Working Breed. Erika plays vox, trombone, keys, musical saw and percussion. Also in the band is Sam Stein on drums, Mike Dugan on guitar and vox, Jonah Lee Petrelli on bass and Chelsea Attwood on vox, keys, guitar and percussion. Be sure to catch their show at the outdoor Park Stage on Cedar Ave and East Ohio St at 1pm July 12th at DMF.
Photos by Randy Jarosz at Kaya Fest 2014
Sound Scene Express: What’s the origin of your band name “Working Breed?” Have you changed the band’s name before?
Erika Laing: We had a helluva time selecting it actually – for one hot minute we were gonna go by Goodnight Ned, a line from The Three Amigos, and close every show with that campfire song they sing, Blue Shadows on the Trail – ah but turns out there is a pretty excellent band already named that in Dallas, so we kept thinkin’ of new names till we all resonated with Working Breed. It really suits us, because we are a highly productive group, and the name doesn’t constrain us to any particular genre – it just is what we make it.
SSE: What genre of music do you consider your work to be? Who are your major influences?
EL: I’m never sure how to pin down our work into a genre, because the fun thing about the group for us is that we have pretty eclectic musical influences individually, and we write our parts with those influences, then blend them together in the final song. But, broadly, our songs fall into a couple of genres that incorporate rock, country, and indie sounds with horn elements, and we pretty much will try any style. Like we’ll write a spy sounding song, then a French reggae sounding song, and then a sweet little love ditty. I like to think our strength is our diversity.
SSE: How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?
EL: Actually, not that long! We started playing together in November or so of ’13. Dugan and Jonah have played together a long time, since teenager-hood, and then they played with Sam in a different band called The Dressed Frets. At some point they just wanted to jam with some new people, and Dugan brought Chelsea, who he knew from college, and Sam invited me, who he met doing a funk band jam. The musical chemistry was palpable from the start!
SSE: What are your day jobs? If any.
EL: This is a fun one to answer, because we come from diverse backgrounds. Chelsea is an artist, and art teacher. Jonah is a personal trainer. Dugan sells carpet. Sam works in educational software. Erika works in clinical and research neuroimaging applications. It is pretty much all over the map.
SSE: Who writes your song lyrics? What is your inspiration?
EL: Right now, almost all of the song lyrics are written by myself and Chelsea, with a handful of songs written by Dugan. A good rule of thumb is – whoever is singing it wrote it. The inspirations all come from real life for all of us. Certainly for me, it is a cathartic act, and I always have a real intent behind every single word choice (even if it is a goofy song like Antsy). Listeners always add their own interpretation anyway, so we sing what we feel and what is true to our perspectives on life.
SSE: When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music together?
EL: Somewhere around end of 2013 we got together, and seriously, everyone just wanted to make something new and fun for us, and that is exactly what it is.
SSE: Where have you performed? What are your favorite venues?
EL: We have performed all over — in a church, Howler’s, Hambone’s, Lava, CMU Spring Carnival, the sidelines of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Kaya Fest… Kaya Fest was super fun, playing for all those people, and the Marathon too, because we jammed out for a long time and the runners were really pumped up. The venue doesn’t matter as much as the mutual energy feedback loop between the band and the audience. That magic can happen anywhere!
SSE: What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?
EL: The rehearsals are real spontaneous. Everyone has a crazy schedule, so finding time is hard, but it is really important to all of us so we work hard to make it happen. Usually we mess around with new fun stuff a little bit, maybe a jam or a spontaneously derived cover, and then we will go through whatever songs we have for an upcoming show. We write a lot too. We have separate sessions of Chelsea, myself, and Dugan, and we additionally individually record things and send them around, adding parts here and there, so even when we can’t rehearse we are still writing.
SSE: What’s your ultimate direction for your band? Are you seeking fame and fortune?
EL: We seek playing music all the time, and for bigger audiences. We just have a lot of fun and want to share that with as many people as we can.
SSE: What are your thoughts of the Pittsburgh music scene?
EL: I love it, well I love Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is the perfect size such that there can be a few scenes and then when they merge it can be very exciting. Probably, there should be even more merging. But there are lots of people out there giving the scene a burgeoning feel, by putting together festivals of all local music, like Deutschtown Music Festival and R.A.N.T in Lawrenceville, or by writing up their perspectives on the local scene, such as exactly what you guys do. These things add a lot to the Pittsburgh music scene. Moreover, all the crazy good press Pittsburgh has been getting lately makes it pretty well poised for great things to happen, as I believe the city is experiencing a renaissance.
SSE: How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? Do you have a website with sample songs or a demo CD?
EL: We have a video available here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTBJ9YP4a94
And we are working on a record called Method, which will be released in 4 3-song EP-like chapters, Observation, Hypothesis, Experimentation, and Theory. We just finished recording Observation at The Wilderness Recording Studio with Jay Vega and are just thrilled with it. That EP will be released just as soon as the artwork is finished, so stay tuned!
Oh, and a few tracks from our live show on 88.3FM WRCT are available, you can check them out here: http://workingbreed.bandcamp.com/releases
SSE: When is your next show?
EL: We have a show on July 7th, at the Wytch Haushouse party at 201 N. Graham St , playing with City Steps, Andre Costello, and Rhode Island visitors. Roz and the Rice Cakes. Then after that, we play the Outdoor Park Stage (Cedar Ave and East Ohio St) at 1pm at DeutschtownMusic Festival on July 12! You can always find out about all our upcoming shows at our website,http://www.workingbreed.net, or on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/WorkingBreed.
SSE: Is there any thing else you would like to add?
EL: Just a big thank you for taking an interest in our music! We are a band that likes to write and have fun, and we are very thankful for all our supporters out there. As Dugan would say, How bout’cha Pittsburgh?!