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Breaking Laces work hard to define indie power pop

In an interview with singer/guitarist/songwriter Willem Hartong, he presents a band with a fun spirit and strong work ethic.

By Patrick Prince

Breaking Laces, an indie rock trio from Brooklyn, New York, returns with a new album, "When You Find Out," this year. The band (Willem Hartog on guitar/vocals, Rob Chojnacki on bass and Seth Masarsky on drums) have shown the knack for writing well-crafted power pop songs in their fairly short existence. That talent remains with "When You Find Out," where there is a certain maturity added to the mix. The new songs, recorded in Nashville, win the listener with a blending of a witty, acoustic pop-flavor with a driving rock 'n' roll force.

Breaking Laces lineup: (left to right) Seth Masarsky, Willem Hartong, Rob Chojnacki (Photo by Jen Maler).

Breaking Laces lineup: (left to right) Seth Masarsky, Willem Hartong, Rob Chojnacki (Photo by Jen Maler).

"The idea was to take simple acoustic pop songs and make them bigger than life," explains singer/guitarist/songwriter Willem Hartong.

Breaking Laces' homebase may be Brooklyn but the band has become a touring monster, with a reported five-hundred shows in five years. And the reviews are usually positive, whether it be a small gig in the middle-of-nowhere or an anticipated show at a large music festival/event like SXSW (South By Southwest, Music and Film Interactive).

The following is a short interview with vocalist and guitarist Hartong:

Do you consider yourself a "pop" band?
Willem Hartong:
I’ve always found the label “pop” to be a tricky one. It sort of reminds me of “emo,” which I learned comes from the word emotional. And I was kind of taken aback upon learning that thinking, 'What music isn’t emotional?' But emo has come to mean a certain thing to many people. And pop has as well. So no, we aren’t a pop band, but oddly enough we are very popular.

Do you like the term "indie rock" then?
Yeah, sure. But the term sprung up around a group of bands who either by choice or necessity practiced outside the major label system. And now that the major label system is somewhat gone, the term indie rock has sort of lost its relevance. I don’t bemoan that fact, it just means we all have to get a little more specific.

If so, how does Breaking Laces stand out from the rest?
We stand out by showing up. We stand out because we know how to work hard but also enjoy the moment. I am going to stop there lest I start sounding like a brochure.

How is the new album "When You Find Out" different than past releases?
WH: Instead of being air-dropped into the middle of the wilderness with only a swiss army knife and our wits, this time we also had some camping gear and a couple of guides.


The band is constantly playing shows. Does that take a lot out of the members both mentally and physically?
Sure. But we really love being on the road. It’s hard to explain in full, but either fate or luck brought three people together who are suited to how long and hard we go out there. It’s funny in that we meet many bands who really don’t care for the grind. And knowing what it can be sometimes, I can’t blame them. I suppose we’ve always looked at touring as an adventure and a daily challenge. So the mental and physical wear are simply things to be dealt with and/or conquered. In the process you learn a lot about yourself and your band mates especially when you show up and are met with a Spinal Tap surprise, which no matter who you are will happen at least once a week.

You get to vent a lot on your tour diary on your Web site though, right?
I suppose venting is a part of the tour diary process. But most of the time I find myself thanking people or explaining myself and why I pulled my pants down in the middle of the show.

You don't seem intimidated by sharing a bill with other bands, no matter how loud or fast.
Yeah, I guess that’s true. I suppose it just comes from having confidence in ourselves and what we can do. Plus we’ve also had the experience of trying to do too much on stage in a given situation. It usually resulted in a long night for everyone. So we stopped doing that.

Tell us about this year's SXSW experience — drummer, Seth Masarsky, breaking his wrist.
We will be releasing a self-made dateline special on the topic on our website’s TV channel. Suffice it to say, it was an accident. Maybe not the wisest of choices in how it happened, but hey, that’s rock and roll. Outside of the injury, we played some great shows and probably had our best SXSW to date.

Is SXSW worth it?
Depends on what you are looking to accomplish. As a fan of music, it is always worth it. As a band who last two times went down with specific purposes in mind (i.e., certain targeted music biz people to play in front of), yes it was worth it. Then again, I always look at a chance to play in front of new people as worth it. Maybe that’s why I’m in the band and not managing it.

Was the recording of "When You Find Out" in Nashville planned, for capturing a certain vibe?
No. It was an EP session that due to our ambitious producer turned into a crazy stacked recording session over five days. Good thing we are no stranger to that process, otherwise we might have gotten caught staring into the headlights.

Washington Times once compared you to Rivers Cuomo of Weezer ("a more down-to-earth version of Rivers Cuomo with his head screwed on straight”) … how did you feel about that comparison?
Who wouldn’t invite a comparison to Rivers? And I’m also glad to know that someone thinks my head is screwed on straight. Personally, I don’t see it.

BTW, is Brooklyn becoming "too hip for its own good" now, or is it still the place to be for a music scene?
Just like any place that garners attention, it depends on which circles you choose to run in and subscribe to. I’ve always thought it’s only too hip if you allow it to be. Besides that, I’ve always really enjoyed living here for the music scene and beyond.

GM: Where does Breaking Laces find itself in 10 years?
Hopefully still together, at least to some degree. In the meantime I’d like to be able to dictate our touring a bit more as far as when and where we go. We're getting close to that level and it would be helpful in many ways. Then again, if the heat comes 'round, I’ll always be ready to go out the door in less than thirty seconds.