Brian Paulson is a veteran of Phoenix’s punk scene, with a 20-year CV of tomfoolery that includes Resort To Distort, Warfair?, Rotten Youth, and more. His bandmates — singer Harvey Gross, guitarists Tyler McIntosh and Casey Garcia, and drummer Tony Rivera — are similarly well-traveled, making minor waves as Roughin’ It some years back.
Yet as Paulson explains it, their latest endeavor, as the frenetic and foreboding Heavy Breather, is their finest work yet.
“At least personally, I’m happier now than I’ve ever been,” Paulson says during a recent phone call. “I’m sure it’s better to play with ringer-type professionals, but we all just click and we’re getting so much more out of it.”
Part of that joy is the band’s seamless integration, with deep personal ties fostering near-instant creative synergy (despite Paulson joining six months after the fact). However, their cohesiveness runs deeper still, as the members share a singular disinterest in the trappings of rock stardom.
“We’re not looking for a career; there’s no delusions of grandeur,” Paulson says. “We enjoy ourselves, and that’s what makes us more approachable. I’ve definitely jammed with other bands who operated with that ‘making it’ mind frame. I think we are genuine as to who we are and what we play.”
The band’s goals, then, have proven far more grounded: touring outside Arizona (check), regularly releasing music (including the Worse and Fast Nickel EPs), and a slew of routine shows across Phoenix. Yet as much as this initial success is based on sheer perseverance, Paulson instantly highlights two key names in Heavy Breather’s ongoing musical journey. The first is Danny Levie, owner of The Lunchbox and ardent supporter of the band.
“Danny is so gung-ho about helping the local scene,” Paulson says. “I think people like him are what make underground scenes happen. Somebody like him is really generous and wants to help.” Not only has Levie consistently booked the band at Lunchbox, he’s using his own Hip Priest Records to release their debut full-length, Worser. (Lunchbox hosts the June 1 release show).
To complete that 10-track LP, however, Heavy Breather turned to another ally, musician/producer Jirix-Mie Paz — formerly of Phoenix’s own Gay Kiss — who previously recorded Fast Nickel.
“He’s such a talented dude,” Paulson says. “Punk bands have a hard time recording and capturing their sound. He’s been playing in bands for so long, he’s learned all these ins and outs, and he made us sound awesome.”
That aforementioned sound is a near-perfect replication of Heavy Breather’s live outings. It’s a punk cacophony too nebulous for predetermined categories, equal parts brash and contemplative, explosive and measured, destructive and earnest. Whether it’s the primal slam-dance anthem “Sacrifice,” the driving ferocity of “Coffee Stains,” or the sneering cynicism of “We Lose,” Worser is a journey into Heavy Breather’s singular beating heart. So wear some earplugs and work gloves.
“We just try to bring as much energy to the table as possible,” Paulson says. “We try to write songs in a way that we capture the dynamic of what we do on stage. All of us write songs — I have three on the album — and we each have our own touches that we try and then turn into a Heavy Breather song.”
At the end of the day, that’s the singular thread driving Heavy Breather onward, a goal of transcending personal achievements and building up the surreal Phoenix scene they’ve long called home.
“There’s been times when the local scene has been all split up and when it’s been more mixed in,” Paulson says. “I feel like Heavy Breather fits in because our music is a little different. We can play on different shows and make all these great friends. If anyone will have us, we’ll play a show.”
Heavy Breather. 8 p.m., Saturday, June 1 at The Lunchbox, 4132 East McDowell Road, 602-293-3893; lunchboxphx.com. Tickets are $5 via The Lunchbox.
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