“We’ve never had a bad show,” J. Cameron Lewis, drummer for Wilkes-Barre band 3 to Breathe, says.
At first blush, such a statement might sound arrogant. For Lewis and bandmates Mike Kaminski (vocals, guitars) and Nick “Danger” Davison (bass), though, what constitutes a “good show” may not be what you’d think.
“We went to Delaware once to play a show with four other bands, and all but one of them canceled, so it was just us and this other band,” Kaminski recalls. “We basically played for the bartender and the sound guy. The bartender’s friend worked at a pizza place, so he brought over some pies. We played, the other band played, and then we just hung out and ate free pizza. We got to play on a stage we’d never been on before and we got free pizza. It was so worth it.”
“Yeah,” Lewis adds. “Playing is like pizza. When pizza’s good, it’s good. When pizza’s bad, it’s still good.”
That “it’s-all-good,” “we’re-in-it-for-the-music” outlook came in handy for 3 to Breathe as they undertook the long, slow journey towards the release of their first full-length, “Life After Survival,” which the band celebrates this Friday with a special show at The Factory: Underground in Wilkes-Barre.
“Life After Survival” has been in the works for almost two years, but even before that, the band had been intent on putting out a full-length since forming in 2008. A free-to-download, seven-track EP released that same year only whetted their appetites, and the appetites of fans.
Part of the wait stemmed from the standard cocktail of responsibilities that divide an independent band’s loyalties: work, family, friends, etc. But another big part for 3 to Breathe was making sure that they were fully prepared before jumping into things so that the album could be the best it could be.
“We wanted to have a professional, up-to-industry-standard recording,” Davison says. “For the EP, we just wanted to have something that didn’t sound like it was recorded on a laptop that we could give to people to say, ‘Here, this is us.’ But (the full-length) is what we always wanted our music to sound like.”
Still, the quality of the recording outlets they had access to wasn’t the only thing 3 to Breathe’s members needed to work on before heading into the studio. While many bands have to take time to “find” their sound, 3 to Breathe was always certain of its identity – the members describe it as progressive post-grunge: think Nirvana meets Tool, with an intense emotional bite.
“It was more of a comfort thing,” Kaminski says. “A number of the songs on the full-length are as old as that first EP, and there are songs that are brand new in comparison. But they all fit together. We just had to become more comfortable being us.”
That kind of comfort hasn’t always come easy, with 3 to Breathe’s signature sound wedging them uncomfortably between NEPA’s more fully developed heavy metal and indie rock scenes (“We’re either too soft or we’re too hard for everybody,” Davison says). But at the end of the day, none of that really matters, for the same reason that there are no bad shows for 3 to Breathe.
Simply put, they don’t do this for you.
“I do this for me, and everything else is a bonus,” Kaminski says.
“I appreciate every person that comes to one of our shows, whether that’s 100 or just one. Anybody who walks up to me after we play, it doesn’t matter how tired or sore I am, I will hug and thank anybody that’s there. This is an amazing outlet and experience for me, and it’s just as amazing to be able to touch somebody with it.”