In Memoriam

I first met Jeff Breeze on the night of January 10th, 2009. The Boston Typewriter Orchestra was playing at a venue called the Whitehaus, which was literally someone’s Jamaica Plain apartment in a two-story house. Despite holding regular events, I get the sense that doing so probably wasn’t kosher as they were secretive about giving out the address. It wasn’t even on the flyer. It was a slushy night and I remember kids shucking a bucket of oysters at the kitchen table.

Jeff was impossible to miss when he walked in the room: tall, barrel-chested with a (let’s face it) skullet and a pink sweater. If he and the band exchanged more than introductions and pleasantries, I don’t recall. It was fairly low key meeting him and a fun night.

A month later he sent us an email inviting us to perform on his radio show Pipeline!, which highlights new music from New England bands and includes a live performance. The station is located in the basement of an MIT building, broadcasts on WMBR 88.1FM and airs Tuesdays at 8:00pm. Jeff ran it for 17 years.

At the time, his last name either wasn’t mentioned, didn’t register with me or I disregarded it as coincidence. On March 24th, 2009 we performed a half-hour set that I recall going really well; a few surprises, some unexpected laughs, and a great opportunity. After we played, he asked us if we had any shows lined up, one of which was a private fundraiser at a golf course in my hometown Stow. When he mentioned that he had grown up in Bolton, I asked whether he was related to one of my substitute teachers from elementary school. Turns out she’s his mother and I told him about how I had gone to a Ministry concert with one of his younger brothers back in high school. So Jeff and I grew up in neighboring towns and went to the same high school, but he was one year too old for us to have crossed paths and started college when I started high school.

In August of 2009, I needed to step away from the group. Being in grad school and handling the grueling logistics of, yes, a typewriter orchestra were starting to wear me down. During my time away from the group, I think I only saw them perform on one occasion before Jeff joined the group in 2013. I rejoined in 2015 and Jeff would be my bandmate for the next five and a half years.

Jeff’s contribution and impact on the group cannot be understated. He worked tirelessly in every facet of what it means to be in a band, effectively handling most of the management. The ties he had built for decades in the local and interstate music scenes were invaluable in navigating the live, touring and recording experience. He ran the band’s Instagram account like clockwork and his photography kept it fresh, current and engaging. He handled and laid out the design for all of our merch, culminating in the release of our most recent album. From the album design to the lockgroove in the vinyl to the hidden track to the writing and stellar performance, Jeff is all over it. 

During rehearsals and in live performances, he almost always sat directly to my right. Whenever I was a bundle of nerves worrying about sound, performance or even whether we should be doing the gig at all, Jeff was a calming and confident presence. In the BTO sound palette, he supplied a lot of the odd supplemental percussion and his irreplaceable deep voice was our backup and response vocal. His tradeoffs with Jay in “Breaktime” were always a guaranteed laugh. While I mostly tried to focus intently to keep the wheels on the careening bus that is our live shows, Jeff would occasionally crack me up with an unexpected and obnoxious noise or some mechanical failure. When we were recording a series of bumpers for the Beyond Yacht Rock podcast, he accidentally sent a desk bell flying across the room with a big, dumb clatter to the ground. I laughed so hard, I was wheezing. This take can be heard on the track “50 States in 50 Podcasts”. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve typically been one of, if not, the youngest in any circle I happened to run in. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who exuded a big brotherly quality like Jeff did. And reading some of the remarks online, I know I wasn’t the only one who felt this because at least two or three other people warmly described him the same way: like a big brother. For my part, this certainly came with the knowledge that we had the shared experience of growing up a few miles apart, separated by a county border, in rural Massachusetts. When I rejoined the group, I was delighted to learn that he lived just a few short blocks away from me in Somerville. I walked past his place almost daily and one of the last times I saw him in person was to listen to the new album in his apartment. It sounded massive and I knew we had a release we could be really proud of.

He had an enviable and encyclopedic knowledge of music that can only come from a profound love of the art. He amassed countless records from his regular trips to yard and estate sales and bought indiscriminately while keeping an eye open for any good deals on passable typewriters or other instruments. He had a particular affection for Harry Nilsson.  

He enjoyed trips to Revere Beach and Long Island, pick-up softball games at Foss Park and watching curling. He was well traveled in the United States and was a terrific writer. 

He kept a running blog as an ice cream aficionado and could tell you where to get the best cone wherever you might be. He had talents in the kitchen and had a knack for knowing where to find any kind of food or ingredient. One day I was lamenting how you can’t find Utz Crab Chips in any stores in New England and he directed me to the Christmas Tree Shop about a mile away from my apartment. Sure enough, they were there. Once, while being a dork, I jokingly asked him if he considered himself a bon vivant. Of course he did.

During the pandemic, I was working on a transcription of some choral music and was soliciting some mix advice. Jeff put a bug in my ear to try to rework the song “Pipeline” in a similar fashion because he was looking for a new take on it for bed music. I was flattered that he used it for the last few months, my messy timing and amateurish mix notwithstanding.

Jeff’s last Pipeline! broadcast was November 3rd, 2020. He signed off by saying “Be safe. Be good”. Rest in Power, friend.

– Derrik Albertelli

Obituary for Jeffrey W. Breeze

Bolton-Jeffrey W. Breeze, 47, passed away suddenly Sunday, November 8, 2020 in his Somerville apartment. He is survived by his parents Roger and Leslie Breeze of Bolton, brothers Timothy Breeze and his wife Rebecca of Milton, and Peter Breeze and his wife Eileen of Northborough, along with nephews & niece Tommy, Maggie and Declan.

Jeffrey was born in Baltimore, Maryland and later grew up in Bolton. He graduated from Nashoba Regional High School, Class of 1991 and earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri in Columbia. Jeff was an editor and writer for many magazines.

He had an absolute love of music and was very involved in the Boston Music scene. Jeff performed as the proud bass member of the Boston Typewriter Orchestra and led all efforts of promotion. In August 2020 Jeff and fellow orchestra member, Alex Holman appeared on the Kelly Clarkson show. The Orchestra was able to record during this pandemic a new vinyl record – Workstation to Workstation.

Every Tuesday night at 8 PM since 2003, Jeff hosted and directed MIT’s WMBR Pipeline! radio show live. Each week he would introduce a new local band who would appear live on the show. Somehow, he followed up with each band and would often promote their new engagements on air. He was working on this Tuesday’s show over the weekend.

Jeffrey also had an ice cream blog and one of his favorite locations for Indian Pudding ice cream was at Rota Spring Farm in Sterling.

Jeffrey loved the Long Island beach house and got up early every morning to capture the sunrise. In the afternoon he would be found digging for clams, whether it be for the half shell eating, stuffed clams, or making Gramps’ clam chowder.

Curling was also a special interest for his statistical mind, learning almost every international team and their roster. He enjoyed the opportunity last year to try his own hand at curling with the Broomstones Curling Club in Wayland.

Jeff was always ready for a pickup game of softball or wiffleball. He played softball every Saturday with his brother Tim and their team at the Somerville fields. Whenever he found a wiffleball he would find someone, often his nephews to play with, whether it be catch or hitting the ball as far as possible.

Family was important to Jeff. He never missed the chance when anyone was off to see out of state relatives to be part of the journey. Jeffrey cared about everyone and found ways to show it continually.

Our Type of Album

There really is not much repertory for a typewriter-based ensemble. Once you get past Leroy Anderson, the landscape is rather barren, adorned only by flourishes that are as non-musical as most uses of a theremin. So, needless to say it takes a while to add something significant to that, especially with a practice only once a week, and a random hope of remembering riffs if the recorder isn’t going full time. When we got enough ideas together, this time we booked a real studio to see if our magic could be captured.

The results are in and Workstation to Workstation is the record that we have been hoping to make for years. Thanks to the work of Converge’s Kurt Ballou we were able to capture the thump as well as the thwack of our machines, and the results sound as massive as we were hoping. It’s even bigger on vinyl with wide grooves giving plenty of space to those thumps. You can buy the vinyl, or a download, or an array of options on our bandcamp page.

Links? We’ve got ’em for ya:

bostontypewriterorchestra.bandcamp.com
www.instagram.com/bostontypewriterorchestra
twitter.com/bostypeorch
www.facebook.com/pages/Boston-Typewriter-Orchestra/244268159799

Streaming Links for your service of choice: music.apple.com/us/album/workstation-to-workstation/1529757213
open.spotify.com/album/4ab4xnl92vY7iAuJ3VPUVn?si=cKipKl-hTre3LkTbaIG2qQ
music.amazon.com/albums/B08GZN74BD
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLw5SiTR-31WZh-S2Vx_O3KeYi1nfzNoX5

Don’t Let The Stars Get In Our Eyes…

Something about Boston Typewriter Orchestra intrigues people. Some see us as a novelty and total lark, or else can’t discern our music from background noise like a Zoom filter. True story: as Alex and I were preparing for this interview, we tried to practice playing via Zoom. I heard his first key strike and then I could hear his breathing. Apparently the default setting for Zoom finds what we do to be just noise and filters it out. Our hopes of learning the tricks to performing in a world full of lagtime were not answered, but we did figure a way to fake it for our appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show

Tune in Monday, August 17 to your local NBC affiliate in mid-afternoon, and hopefully you can catch a minute or two of us back on national TV again! or just view it here:

Pre-orders for our new album Workstation to Workstation are also now open on our bandcamp page! Vinyl records and downloads and a special for those who want to dress like their favorite BTO member!

Stuck at Home Typing Alone

The Boston Typewriter Orchestra has been having as much difficulty making music as anyone else in this divided time. However when Great Big Story called and asked us to record a song for the quarantine, we jumped at the chance.

Of course our first pitch to try and do a cover of Asia’s “Heat of the Moment” was vetoed since they couldn’t get clearance, so we opted to crank out a version of “Unprisoning Your Think R.H.I.N.O.” from our forthcoming album Workstation to Workstation.

This live version was recorded to a track so follows closely with the studio version. The album is in the process of being completed and is set to be pressed on vinyl and hopefully ready for your turntables by the end of the summer.

Let’s Meet Up

Sometimes when we play shows we get stuck waiting for things to happen for far longer than our performances ever are. When we went to Chicago last year to open a benefit dinner for the American Writers Museum, we pulled a total “hurry-up-and-wait.” With our instruments set up, we were relegated to a Green Room in the Four Seasons, and while we were well catered, we didn’t have much of anything to do. What we did have were a bunch of phones and a song that we decided to make a video for….

We handed off the footage to George O’Connor, and he matched what we made to the audio from our recent sessions at God City with Kurt Ballou. More video ideas to come as we slowly release these songs through the course of 2020…

Chinese Typewriters

It’s weird when people have been asking about the BTO and wondering where they can see us play. Since the answer to that for much of the year so far had been Chicago, it seemed a bit irrelevant for our local fans. While Chicago was a blast and both of our shows were a hoot, it’s nice to have a spot in Cambridge where we are playing and can invite people to see us. That’s why we’re taking our act to the Hong Kong in Harvard Square. It’s a venue that had been known as a hub of comedy, so it’s fitting that we’re the sort of band that fits just right there.

Joining us for the night of fun is a DJ crew who do things the way I did when I used to take over the gym/cafeteria in junior high and did it all on cassette. The Hartford Yacht Goats are a crew that brings the soft rock flavor and dolby hiss to any great night, and we’re taking them out of Connecticut for the night and showcasing them to a whole new audience. As the other primary contributor to the Beyond Yacht Rock podcast, it’s nice to have us join forces like Voltron.

B&E is a duo that will be playing a live set during the evening. With the most un-googleable name, the accordion-guitar duo features Brendan’s former C4RT bandmate Ed, and we’ll find out just what it’s really all about when you do too, since you’ll already be sitting at a table right up front. We haven’t been let out to have fun in the more ribald environment of a night club in ages, so make sure you’re there, because witnesses will be needed.

June 14, 2019  7-10pm
QWERTY Laundry: A Night for Fun
with B&E
and music from the All-Cassette soft-rock DJ squad Hartford Yacht Goats
Hong Kong Restaurant
1238 Massachusetts Ave, Harvard Square, Cambridge MA

My Kind of Town, Though Windier Than We Might Like

People who track our touring radius know that the one time we made it to Washington DC was the true anomaly on our appearances. Aside from a few flirtations with NYC and the Catskills, all of our performances have been within New England. Thanks to overtures from the American Writers Museum, we’re gonna try to sneak a bunch of typewriters through TSA and visit Chicago for a couple days.

Our perception of a Chicago Typewriter is more than a mere Thompson submachine gun…
it’s a Thompson supermachine gun outfitted with a daisy wheel!

While the AWM performance is for a fundraiser for them and you may need $5000 for a table to see us open and close the show, we have added a gig on Monday April 8 where we are going to play at the venerable Phyllis’ Musical Inn. If you’re in Chicago, come early, as we are scheduled for a 6pm start time. Or if you see a bunch of Bostonians wandering around the streets carrying typewriters, try to point us in the right direction.

Monday April 8, 2019 6pm
Phyllis’ Musical Inn
1800 W Division St, Chicago IL

Tuesday April 9, 2019
American Writer’s Museum fundraiser <private event>
Chicago, IL

Checking the Inbox

So we went on a Corporate Retreat this fall up to Salem, where we spent a few days at God City Studios under the watch of Converge’s Kurt Ballou. Using his studio and some innovative techniques to their best, he recorded a bunch of our new songs which we begin unveiling today with this wonderfully short teaser of a song that has been animated by Zak Kirwin

Movie Stars: Full Video Extraction

In the movie California Typewriter, out performance is right in the middle of it all. But you also don’t get to see an entire song as we are often overlaid with members of the band talking. Since the director Doug Nichol first made his mark in the music video game (Madonna’s Truth or Dare, Pulp, the Cars, Wet Wet Wet, et al) and even is a 3-time Grammy nominee (Aerosmith’s “Pink”, NKOTB “Hanging Tough”) and winner for his work on Sting’s Ten Summoners Tales , it’s nice to finally be able to show this clip of “Entropy Begins at the Office” the way you might have been able to see it on V66 back in the day…

Westward Ho!

After spending the first half of the year playing surprise shows and private events and then heading into the studio to lay down some tracks, we’re venturing Westward over the fall to play a series of shows along the Mass Pike (or maybe more appropriately Route 20). We’re bound to land a Boston gig to announce soon too, but for now you’ll have to make a bit of a trek to come and see us play, starting Sunday in Worcester…

Sunday, September 16, 2018   12:30pm
stART on the Street : World Music Stage
Park Ave & Elm St
Worcester, MA

Wednesday, October 10, 2018  7:00pm
“Our Triumphant Return”
Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation
154 Moody Street, Waltham, MA 02453

Sunday, November 4, 2018   2:00pm
Painting, Politics, and Performance: Thomas Hart Benton’s America
Modern & Contemporary Gallery of the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts
21 Edwards Street, Springfield, MA 01103

Saturday November 17, 2018   3:00pm
in the Rotunda
Wayland Free Public Library
5 Concord Road, Wayland, MA