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Breaking Laces is a three-piece acoustic rock band out of Brooklyn NY with a sound that has stylistic debts to such artists as Death Cab for Cutie, Snow Patrol, They Might Be Giants and the Lemonheads.
In a few short years, the Brooklyn trio known as Breaking Laces has quietly built a potent body of recorded work and carved out a formidable reputation as a powerful live act. In the process, they've amassed a large and fiercely devoted grass-roots fan base that's been solidified by the group's tireless roadwork. These achievements are all the more impressive in light of the fact that they've been accomplished on the band's own terms, with an absence of outside hype and an old-school emphasis on honest musicianship and irresistibly melodic, emotionally engaging songwriting.
"The idea was to take simple acoustic pop songs and make them bigger than life," says singer/guitarist/songwriter Willem Hartong, whose effortlessly indelible tunes combine widescreen songcraft with personally-charged lyrical intimacy. That's certainly the case with Breaking Laces' new album When You Find Out, which finds Hartong and bandmates Rob Chojnacki (bass) and Seth Masarsky (drums) achieving a forceful creative breakthrough.
The 12-song set consolidates and focuses the salient qualities of the band's prior work, while venturing into some exciting new musical territory. Such instantly memorable tunes as "What We Need," "Here to Stay," "Laser Beams" and "Carry On" match Hartong's heart-on-sleeve insights with exquisitely infectious melodies and confident, expressive performances that drive the songs' lyrical sentiments home with maximum impact.
The band recorded When You Find Out in New York and Nashville with producer Ed Tuton, whose resume includes work with artists as diverse as Carly Simon, T-Pain, Maxwell and Eagle Eye Cherry. "I think that this record shows a good range of what we do," Chojnacki asserts. "It's pretty focused, but it also covers a lot of musical ground. We dug pretty deep for this one."
"I think it's the best thing we've ever done," adds Hartong. "We definitely went in prepared this time, whereas before, we would go in and bang out a full album in four days. Having a legit producer and doing pre-production gave us more of an opportunity to hone in on the songs and get them to realize their potential, rather than just banging through it and hoping for the best."
When You Find Out's resonant songwriting demonstrates the remarkable rapport that the three band members have developed during their longstanding partnership. Breaking Laces originally began as a one-man project by Hartong, who recorded and released a pair of well-received D.I.Y. albums, 2003's Operation Income and its 2004 followup Sohcahtoa, on his own. Those early efforts won considerable critical acclaim and substantial airplay on satellite radio.
But the music really clicked when Hartong hooked up with kindred spirits Chojnacki and Masarsky. The three bandmates' organic connection had been sharpened through extensive touring by the time they recorded their first album together, 2005's Lemonade. It was followed by the six-song 2006 EP Astronomy Is My Life, But I Love You and 2009's Live at Seaside Studios.
Early on, Breaking Laces embraced the hard-touring work ethic that has helped to sustain them ever since. From the beginning, they played every gig they could, from biker bars to heavy metal nights to summer camps, winning new fans one at a time. They've toured extensively throughout North America, as well as visiting the United Kingdom twice. Their discipline and hard work has allowed them to develop a live show whose upbeat intensity belies the musicians' seemingly mild-mannered exterior and their stripped-down lineup of acoustic guitar, bass and drums (which they augment on stage with samplers and other electronic devices).
"Being on the road is the thing that's shaped this band the most," states Hartong. "We've played in so many different places for so many different kinds of crowds, and all of that experience has made us stronger. We've found ourselves in situations where everything seems so wrong, and we'll think, 'How are we gonna do this?' But we just go up there, no matter what, and we find a way to make it work. It's a matter of confidence and practice, but it's also about the ability to go out there and stand together and let all the fears just fall away."
"I love that we can go to a small club with just the three of us, and blow the roof off the place," Masarsky adds. "We've played on bills with a lot of different kinds of bands, and we've followed bands that are loud and fast and furious, and then we get up there with just the three of us and it's just epic, and people say 'How did you do that?'"
The openhearted attitude that distinguishes Breaking Laces' recordings and live shows also manifests itself in the trio's close relationship with its fans. The band has long maintained an active web presence via its online tour diaries, as well as the humorous "BLTV" videos that are featured on its website (www.breakinglaces.com).
Their ability to inspire fierce devotion amongst its fans is just one reason for Breaking Laces' impressive longevity. "We've outlasted most of the bands that started when we did," Masarsky observes. "We've stuck together through some tough times, and I think the fact that we're still standing is a testament to the fact that we believe in the music, and that the music touches people. We're all really committed to this. Not for ego or money, but because we've invested a lot of time and passion into the band, and now we want to see how far we can take it."