It's no easy thing to carve a true niche in the current musical climate. With attention spans shorter than ever, the demand for a constant "something new" is a pressure that makes many acts crumble before they fulfill their potential. But for Breathe Carolina, setting the pace is something that comes second nature, and no more so than on new album Hell Is What You Make It, set for release on July 12. Forget thinking outside the box - in this band's world, there was no box to begin with. This is a new era, and for this genre-busting Denver, Colorado duo, it's time to play.
Starting out in a bedroom in the suburbs of the Mile High City, David Schmitt and Kyle Even started playing music as a means of escape. As one of the first bands to start making waves via social networks, they experienced first-hand what it felt like to seemingly gain an overnight following. What began as something they did for fun, quickly struck a resonance with people they had never met. And after they hit the road, to discover the thousands of "friends" they gained online were real fans, singing along to the tracks they wrote in the confines of their homes, was a humbling experience. “It was the best adventure I'd ever had!” notes singer/screamer Kyle Even. “To find people who knew who we were so far away from home was a crazy experience! We were so happy that people knew our songs and could relate to us. We still keep in touch with a lot of those people from our first shows out of state.”
Following a highly-anticipated SXSW showcase, labels clamored to sign this explosive young band that saw no limits on their musical possibilities. Their Rise Records debut album It's Classy, Not Classic set the tone for the next year of hard touring, before they truly came into their own on Fearless Records-released sophomore full-length Hello Fascination. A step to a brave next level, the album entered the Billboard Top 200 at #43, and went on to sell over 60,000 copies in the U.S. alone - no mean feat for a band in a scene offering only a chosen few a glimpse of mainstream success. Their juxtaposition of hardcore guts and pop glory found a happy niche between both rock and pop fans, the album's title track landing placements on the promos for NBC's Jay Leno Show, 30 Rock and Monday Night Football, MTV's The Hills and The City. The mainstream was starting to listen.
Superimposing gutteral screams against a backdrop of house-infused electronica and hip hop influences, it's true to say Breathe Carolina's Hell Is What You Make It is anything but typical. While the duo has toured relentlessly with some of the strongest acts and events in the rock scene - Mayday Parade, Chiodos, two full summers on Vans Warped Tour, appearances at SXSW, Soundwave (Australia), Slam Dunk (UK) and Bamboozle Festivals - it's their ever-growing curiosity to play with sounds outside of the usual genre limitations that makes the duo something truly special. “For the last two records we really didn't know what direction we were headed, we played with sounds and ideas - we just wrote songs we liked,” notes Even. “Hell had the same writing process, but we had more minds in the circle and we knew what we'd done before. We know ourselves more and knew what and how to write BC songs - they are our songs, and we just tried to do just that - create songs as Breathe Carolina”
Hell Is What You Make It's central theme is about making the best of any bad situation, and finding the fun in the bleak times. Euphoric, pulsating 80s electro-influenced summer anthem "Blackout" and it's bleary-eyed partner-in-party "Last Night (Vegas)", sees the band stay true to their roots of bringing the good times. Tracks like "Sweat It Out and "Waiting" ooze with delicious temptation and tales of hedonistic encounters in dark rooms. But while Hell Is What You Make It is most definitely a feel-good record, there is also an essence of heartfelt melancholy that connects the full-length from intro to closing track.
On November 9, 2010, the band's close friend and confidante Lauren Freeman was killed in a hit and run on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA while the band were touring the U.S. on the Fearless Friends Tour. As a supporter of the duo since their beginnings, Lauren had been a sounding board for their music, and at just 21, her untimely passing was the most sobering time of their career. “Lauren Freeman was more than a friend - she was a sister to us and gave us motivation to succeed,” reflects Even. “The intro and the last track, “Lauren’s Song”, join this album from start to finish, in tribute to her. With “Lauren’s Song”, it was important for us to write a track that she would be proud of, so we wrote a toast to her. This record wouldn't be what it is without Lauren.”
The duo credit the addition of their touring band mates into the writing and recording process, embracing the full family unit as a full band both on and off stage. “Having the full band in the studio meant there were constant ideas and conversation about the songs we were writing,” Even adds. “We didn't sit still really, or get writers block - it was nice having everyone together, everyone crafting the next phase of Breathe Carolina. It was a moment of peace between us all where we united our ideas in sound! We are closer because of it.”
With "Blackout" steadily invading the Top 40 airwaves, it’s taken Breathe Carolina to new heights, including a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and The NY Times naming Hell Is What You Make It “one of the best pure pop albums of the year”. As the band heads out on their biggest headline tour to date, they are ready for what the future brings. All of it. “We’re excited to take this album on the road, and see the tracks come to life in a live setting,” says Even. “Hopefully the album will inspire our fans and gain new audiences for us to party with. All of our personal Hells reside from what we've done - focus your energy on what you will do, rather than dwell on the past, and how you can change your hell from dark to light. That’s the whole meaning of this record. We can’t wait for what’s next!”
Breathe Carolina's Hell Is What You Make It is available now.