Dominic Appleton Gary Mundy Ari Neufeld Tristram Latimer Sayer
Breathless are an English dream pop band formed in 1983 by Dominic Appleton (vocals, keyboards), Gary Mundy (guitar), Ari Neufeld (bass) and Tristram Latimer Sayer (drums). Across nearly four decades, Breathless has released seven studio albums, one compilation album and 13 singles and EPs, all on their own label, Tenor Vossa Records.
Their music has been described as "melancholic", with AllMusic's Ned Raggett calling the band "underappreciated" and saying "the majority of Breathless' work has squarely fit into a lush vein of haunting, epic music unafraid of a moody theatricality".
Dominic Appleton and Gary Mundy knew each other from school and had played earlier in a group called A Cruel Memory. Appleton met bassist Ari Neufeld while working at London's Virgin Megastore. Neufeld recruited Appleton as a keyboardist for a band she was currently in, but the two soon realized that while they were happy making music together, the band as a whole didn't please them. They split away from the group and started working on songs, with Appleton taking over vocal duties and suggesting Mundy for the guitarist role. The name "Breathless" was taken from Jean-Luc Godard's French New Wavefilm of the same name.
In April 1984, Breathless released their first single, "Waterland"/"Second Heaven". The band recorded "Waterland", "Second Heaven", and an unreleased song entitled "The First Issue" at Denmark Street Studios in London two weeks after drummer Tristram Latimer Sayer joined the band. They recorded a follow-up to their debut single with "Ageless", a three-song 12" single released in November 1984. The sessions for the single actually yielded an entire album's worth of songs, but according to Neufeld, "We were young [and] inexperienced in recording", and the band ultimately was disappointed in all but three of the songs recorded. The recording sessions at Alvic Studios in West London marked the first time the band would work with engineer/producer Drostan Madden, who had been recommended to Breathless by 4AD's boss Ivo Watts-Russell. The EP Two Days from Eden followed in August 1985, prior to their debut album, The Glass Bead Game, which was issued in June 1986. The band recorded with John Fryer at Blackwing Studios in London. Another EP, Nailing Colours to the Wheel, was released in November 1986.
Three Times and Waving to Heartburst (1987–1994)
While recording their sophomore studio album, Three Times and Waving, drummer Latimer Sayer left the band. He was subsequently replaced by Martyn Watts, who played on four tracks on the album (the other five tracks feature drumming from Latimer Sayer).Three Times and Waving was released in November 1987, and the album cover features a 1961 painting from Jean Dubuffet entitled "Spinning Round". The year 1989 saw Breathless release their third album Chasing Promises and the follow-up single "I Never Know Where You Are". According to Neufeld, the band had originally intended to use a re-recorded version of Chasing Promises album track "Moment by Moment" for release as a single, but were "so pleased" with the recording of new track "I Never Know Where You Are" that they decided to make the song the A-side. The song would also feature prominently on the band's next album as the opening track.
The double A-side single "Always"/"Flowers Die" was released in the summer of 1990; the former was a non-album track, while the latter—a cover version of a song originally by the Only Ones—would also feature on their fourth album. Neufeld said, "We felt that we wanted a slightly rawer, less produced sound for our next record and decided to have a change of scene and go back to recording with Drostan [Madden]", so the band produced their fourth album, Between Happiness and Heartache, with Madden and Ken Gardener at Rooster and Blackwing Studios. The album was released in October 1991, while the first proper single, "Over and Over"/"All That Matters Now", followed in November. A music video was also produced for "Over and Over", directed by Damon Heath.
A compilation of tracks recorded between 1983 and 1993 was issued as Heartburst in March 1994, preceded by the 1993 non-album single "Don't Just Disappear". The band took a recording hiatus after the release of "Don't Just Disappear" and did not release any new music until mid-1999.
Post-hiatus and recent recordings (1999–present)
Breathless re-emerged in 1999 with their fifth album Blue Moon, an album featuring a more prominent drone rock influence. Two singles were released from the album: "Magic Lamp" in June 1999, and "Walk Down to the Water"/"Goodnight" in June 2000. Following album Behind the Light was released in June 2003 and continued the band's sonic foray into space and drone rock. In 2006, Martyn Watts announced his departure from the band, but in 2011 Breathless announced the return of original drummer Latimer Sayer. The seventh Breathless studio album, Green to Blue, was released in November 2012, issued as a double album. Green to Blue was the first new recording from the band following a nine-year hiatus, and features special guest and This Mortal Coil/4AD alumna Heidi Berry providing backing vocals on album track "Just for Today".
Most recently, the band reissued Blue Moon as an expanded double CD and a first-time pressing on double vinyl in February 2016.
Between 1986 and 1991, Appleton was asked by 4AD label founder Ivo Watts-Russell to contribute vocals to the 4AD supergroup This Mortal Coil, appearing on three tracks on their 1986 sophomore album, Filigree & Shadow ("The Jeweller", "Tarantula" and "Strength of Strings"), and one track on their 1991 album Blood ("I Am the Cosmos"). Appleton was one of a select few artists to contribute to This Mortal Coil who was not a 4AD signing. Watts-Russell said of Appleton, "Without exaggeration Dominic Appleton is by far my favourite living male vocalist. He has such a beautiful, sad voice and comes up with melodies that do the same".
Prior to Breathless, Appleton and Mundy played keyboards and guitar, respectively, on Anne Clark's 1982 debut album, The Sitting Room.
Breathless established their own record label, Tenor Vossa Records, to release their material. Tenor Vossa's roster has also included releases from Richard Warren, Laymar, Beat Milk Jugs, Bender, Scenic, Moly, Your Black Star and photographer Steve Gullick's musical project Tenebrous Liar.
In the 2012 interview with Pennyblackmusic, Appleton said that his lyrics are autobiographical. "I find it really hard to sing about things that aren't real or I can't relate to", he said. In a 2016 interview with Pennyblackmusic, Appleton acknowledged the band's melancholy sound, saying, "I think that's what Breathless do best. In the past people have criticised us for our melancholy sound and I felt defensive about it and tried to justify it. I just don't care now, the fact is that's what we do and what I love about what we do. The bulk of the music I listen to is melancholy and I know Ari and Gary are the same. I listen to pop music too when I feel like it and I enjoy it a lot but it's a different kind of listening. I don't understand why people find melancholia a negative thing in music. I think it's positive, it's reflective and thoughtful, it's complex and it's wonderfully indulgent and emotional. It's not wallowing in self-pity, it's losing yourself in self-reflection and nostalgia".