Still from Video – Director of Photography: Kevin Kukler
Single artwork by Lennon Michalski
If you know anything about local art-rock band Working Breed, then you know they’re not scared of taking creative risks. (Any group that features a musical saw and multiple brass instruments really can’t be.) Their songs are energetic journeys, often trying on a wide range of rhythms and influences (such as jazz, funk, and Latin) within a single track. This could easily get messy. But the confidence, shrewd instincts, and raw musical talent of each member make these experiments successful. The recent addition of keyboardist and backing vocalist Chloe Wiecz to the band only solidifies this.
You may have noticed they’ve been quiet for a little while. They’ve been hard at work on an upcoming album, Transparent Raven, as well as a music video for its first single, “Turtle Race.” But on Friday, December 14th, you’re about to see the results of their efforts. A release show at Spirit that night—including openers Wreck Loose, a big-screen premiere, and a karaoke afterparty—will mark the occasion. A limited amount of 8” lathe-cut disks, featuring a studio version of their upbeat track “My Chimera” on the B-side, will also be sold at the show.
All I can say is: hold the hell on to your seats.
Don’t be fooled by the cutesy title. “Turtle Race” is a dark, searing, and vulnerable work of dramatic art.
Directed by Eric Lorenz, the almost eight-minute long mini-movie expertly depicts the raw ache and anger of an extramarital affair from the point of view of the one betrayed. Laing describes the song and video as “so much about my own life, it is like an artfully rendered docu-drama.”
“The content is an intensely personal healing story of a long, slow, steady process of grieving a dead marriage, and I am afraid to share,” Laing revealed in a Facebook post about the video in November (quoted with permission.) “Loss comes in many forms—death, divorce, disaster, incarceration, assault, accidents—but grief doesn’t have much of a place in our society. We hardly pause even after great tragedies.” She continued, “The result is that many people feel they have to struggle alone as their feelings swallow them whole, living double lives and wearing masks.”
Consider this mask ripped off and shredded. From the initial unsettling warble of Laing’s musical saw to her high keening cry at song’s end, you can feel her pain and grief coursing through every note, every word, every shot. With “Turtle Race,” Working Breed demonstrates the boldness and boundary-pushing of younger artists alongside the pain and maturity and self-awareness of more experienced ones. The results, especially when paired with the adept film crew they recruited, are magic.
The band consists of Laing on lead vocals, saw, and trumpet/trombone; Mike Dugan on guitar; Jonah Petrelli on bass; Chloe Wiecsz on keys and backing vocals; and Jeremy Papay on drums. Guest musicians Jacob Nathanson (cello), Patrick Forsyth (violin), and Becky Gard (harp) also contributed to this track.
Scenes of Laing trapped in chains (as well as with the band, playing in a basement hung with additional chains) are intercut with the story of the video: Laing’s husband leaving their home to meet with his mistress. Laing accompanies him, ghostlike, singing into his ear as he betrays her. And the cheating isn’t just implied—it’s shown. This is an effective choice that really drives home the damage he’s causing. We also get shots of Laing alone, highlighting her isolation, and edited shots where there are of two of her, as if she’s talking herself through the processing of her grief. The lyrics, fittingly, are hard-hitting, with lines like, “Every day of my life is a dial tone.” And the chorus has her listing off all many the things his lover can have, such as “your turtle race” and “your turpentine,” before insisting, “But your sorrow/your sorrow, is mine…it’s all you left behind.”
She wears various outfits and levels of makeup throughout the video, representative of various emotions: despair, nostalgia, anger. This transition to anger (around four minutes in) can be heard in the music too. The rhythm picks up, and charged guitar lines from Dugan start to take precedence over the brooding, sweeping orchestral sound of the song’s first half. The band begins to emerge from the basement as Laing repeats, “If you love somebody, you’re f***ed.” She starts off low and gritty, but gradually ascends in pitch as the storyline progresses.
I don’t want to spoil too much more here. The cinematic vision and production of such raw emotion is something you really should see for yourself. If this is a sign of things to come from Working Breed, the long wait has been worth it.
“If even one person’s pain can be eased, if my story can help even a single person feel less alone,” Laing wrote in November, “then I am willing to reveal myself. It seems more important than ever. And maybe especially around the holidays.”
So don’t miss celebrating this release with the band on Friday, December 14th, at Spirit in Lawrenceville. Both tracks are now live on Bandcamp, and you can stream them below. Doors open at 9 PM, with Wreck Loose kicking things off around 9:30. The video will be shown at 10:30, with Working Breed taking the stage for a full set afterwards. Karaoke and dancing will be hosted after that by DJ Gam Gam, so get your best singalongs ready too. Cover is $10 for this 21+ show. Check out the Facebook event page for more details, and keep up with Working Breed directly here.