Arts & Life

Just Breathe, Get Psyched

His Fender Deville amp is plugged in, and the dark stage at The Nugget was illuminated by a purple rope light on Thursday; he began to play serene music, but he transitioned into something startling, confusing and somewhat spiritual.

Michael Espinach started making music about five years ago in an instrumental psych-rock band called I’mU with his friends Devin Davis and Stu Miller.

Eventually the band broke up, but Espinach said he had to keep making music. In 2013 he released his first solo album “Resin Ballet” under the name Breather.

Espinach graduated from Cal State University Long Beach in 2011. He studied religious studies with a concentration on eastern philosophies like Buddhism, Daoism and Hinduism.

“I found an affinity with Buddhism,” Espinach said. “A lot of different eastern philosophies promote centeredness and finding your center because things become so erratic.”

He said his music is a new form of psychedelic rock, which he has dubbed “post-psych” drawing from elements from older psychedelic music, as well trip hop, drone, industrial and noise rock.

The voice memos iPhone app was praised by Espinach, which has aided his music making process. Prerecorded sounds from his house heater and coffee maker are a few examples of sound bites he used.

Inspiration for Espinach comes from many musicians, ranging from Slayer and Pink Floyd to Miles Davis and John Coltrane. He called Billie Holiday “the best hangover music.”

The band Swans is a perfect example of what hopes to do with his music, he said.

“When I saw them recently, it was definitely a spiritual sort of thing,” Espinach said. “Two and half-hours to three hours, the use of repetition is a mantra.”

He said Swans shows are like Buddhist chant sessions that hit frequencies, which resonate in your body and can even “hypnotize you.”

Recalling the experience, he said he lost his equilibrium and footing during the performance. He remembers seeing a man tremble and fall to the ground from the powerful music.

“I think that what’s really cool about sound is shaping something so chaotic and how you can make it into something moving,” Espinach said.

Working and writing on his music for the past five years gave him a lot of time to figure out what he wanted to do sonically and thematically.

“Catching someone off guard and keeping things interesting and unpredictable keeps you on your toes,” Espinach said. “If you keep someone on your toes, they’re going to be more aware of what’s going on.”

During live performances as Breather, he is often likely to bust the strings on his Fender Jazzmaster from intense sonic psychedelic repetition, but always has his Fender Jaguarillo on stage for backup.

The music often flows like a dream. Audio clips from movies like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” are played exclusively on his live versions of songs thanks to his Roland SP404, a music sampler, that also has all of drum, bass and synth tracks loaded.

The voice memos iPhone app was praised by Espinach, which has aided his music making process. Prerecorded sounds from his house heater and coffee maker are a few examples of sound bites he used.

The ability to be able to soundtrack a certain emotion, time or season is one of the best things about music, Espinach said.

His favorite time of the year is Christmas time; it’s a collective experience all religions have their own version of.

“It’s a fleeting thing and that’s why I’m attracted to it. It’s a rare sort of moment … where you can do certain [activities],” Espinach said. “I think that has a big thing to do with the music I make.”

Fascinated by the philosophies he studied at CSULB, he said he hopes his music transcends what is simply just heard.

“Michael Gira from Swans once said that the whole point of what he does is ecstasy, as in euphoria,” Espinach said. “Creating something euphoric and cathartic is the most important aspect of what I do. Something that removes you, but also makes you aware of where you’re at.”

To learn more about his music visit

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