Oct 2012 15

From retro/electro to electro/rock, The Break Up’s founding members speak with ReGen about the band’s development into the sensually aggressive entity it has become.

An InterView with SeVerina X Sol and Shane Allen Hall

By: Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

Who would think that from the rain swept streets of Seattle would come one of the most colorful and exciting retro/electro groups in recent memory? The duo of Shane Allen Hall and SeVerina X Sol have with The Break Up crafted a finely tuned machine of pulsating melodies and synthesized erotica, culminating in the band’s Synthesis debut on Metropolis Records. With an image firmly rooted in the debauchery and decadence of the club kids era of New York City, and a sound like a gritty time machine into the pop-infused electro/rock of the ’80s, The Break Up recently hit the road with futurepop pioneers Covenant, bringing to the masses a blistering display of emotive melody and sensual attitude. With Sarah Ann Stewart joining the band on guitar and keyboards, along with live members Caroline Kurihara on bass and Galen Waling on drums, The Break Up live presents an amplified exhibition of electrified rock unlike any other. Prior to the tour, Shane Allen Hall and SeVerina X Sol spoke with ReGen about the band’s development since the Demolicious debut and their transition from romancing the electro-pop of the past to embracing the electro/rock that is sure to take them to the next level and beyond.

While The Break Up had a self-titled, self-released album preceding Synthesis, this album is your official major label debut. Besides the lineup, what sorts of changes has the band undergone between the two releases?

Hall: I wouldn’t say that we we’re changing; I would say that we’re evolving. If human beings evolve, why can’t music?

Sol: We did go through about every life change you can imagine though – moving, jobs, actual breakups, divorce. It’s been an intense year or so for both of us. These events have heavily influenced the music.

On the subject of the lineup, it was originally Shane and SeVerina, and now includes Sarah Stewart, Galen Waling.

Hall: As for production and composition, it’s just SeVerina and myself… and Wade Alin produced Synthesis, of course. I’ve never really met Wade in person. We sent him completed songs and he produced the album in 10 days, which was amazing. We especially love what he did on ‘Ninja.’ And apparently, I owe him a blowjob.

Sol: We are very happy to have our new drummer, Galen, who is also known to tear up stages with the likes of Left Spine Down and Stiff Valentine. And on bass is the super chill and sexy cool, Caroline Kurihara. We love this line up!

Were they involved at all in the production and performances on Synthesis at all?
In what ways do their contributions – either live or in the studio – add to the band’s sound and how has it evolved as a result?

Sol: We went from eletro-pop to electroROCK!

Hall: True. Well it started with adding Sarah Ann Stewart at first as a live dancer just to give movement and art to the stage. We fell in love with her enthusiasm and asked her if she wanted to trade in her stems and play keys live.

Sol: And then with the music being so drum and dance heavy, we wanted to have that live powerful element and so added live drums. Since then, Shane and I have realized that we could bring to life our love of full rock bands, and be one!

Hall: What started out as an avant-garde project, we realized the potential and are seeing how far we can take it!

In what ways do you feel this evolution has or will be carried into your future material?

Sol: Into manifesting the full creative expression – Light shows! Video! Guitars! Drums! Who knows what else?!

Four of the songs on Synthesis were culled directly from the self-titled release, while the rest seem to be new songs. What was the reason for including these four songs – these particular songs and why include them at all, as opposed to letting the album rest on the new material?

Hall: ‘Guillotine’ because we always sang that song as a duet and wanted an actual studio recording with both our voices.

Sol: Actually, we wanted to rerelease the entire album since most of the world hasn’t heard it and it’s full of great songs, and yet we just got signed with Metropolis and had a whole new album worth of material. So we pulled some of our and our fans’ favorites and added them to Synthesis.

For SeVerina, you’ve been the vocalist for several bands, most notably Cylab and The Myriad Form. As The Break Up has a distinctly retro/electro sound akin to ’80s synthpop and club music as opposed to the more industrial/ambient/modern sounds of Cylab, in what ways do you feel your voice is a complement to them?

Sol: Cylab has always been a wonderful playground or ‘lab’ if you will, for the very cerebral philosophical part of my head, an inner sci-fi-ish expression. It is a very distinct, deep and specific expression.

What do you find to be the greatest challenge when it comes to the lyrics? For SeV, this applies both to your work in The Break Up and Cylab; from what do you cull your lyrical themes, and in what ways do the bands differ in this regard?

Sol: Honestly, with The Break Up, for the past two albums, I pulled from what was happening around me. Breakups were happening. At first, it was watching close friends of mine divorce or breakup. I watched them fall apart, become empowered, grow, evolve. Then I experienced for myself the three year long process that would end in divorce, and a rebirthing of myself. From these places I drew the words, emotions, melodies.
Also, Shane writes some of the vocals too, like for ‘Dark Brown Eyes,’ ‘Guillotine,’ and ‘Who’s Crying Now?.’ His influence definitely inspires the way we write. We’re both two complementary cooks in the kitchen.
As for Cylab, that is a completely different animal and one based in philosophy and esoteric cerebral meditations.

For both Shane and SeV, is it ever a concern for you that you’re repeating yourself? How do you feel that the themes and subjects you explore lyrically evolve with the music?

Sol: We have a catchy contagious sound like Leo Geminis on acid. It is from here that we traverse and build our audio landscapes.

In what ways, if at all, do you find yourself adjusting your singing style to suit one or the other?

Sol: Shane and I always joke that we have multiple personalities and we joke but it’s also kind of true. We both have always shared an innate ability to blend all the various influences that we love so much and that we are ultimately made of, and transcribe them into the complex and yet solid sound that is The Break Up. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini with a Leo moon and he’s a Leo with a Gemini moon. (Laughs) So yeah, my vocals for The Break Up reflect all the influences that make up who I am today.

For Shane, according to the band’s bio, you were a Seattle digital hardcore DJ as well as being heavily immersed in the ‘Club Kid’ persona, which is evident especially in the cover art and band photography. Can you tell us more about your musical background, how you went from DJing to actually writing your own songs; and what brought you to the ‘Club Kid’ culture?

Hall: Just from being a DJ for so long, I wanted to create my own music and not play everyone else’s material. Also, with my love of the retro ’80s sound, I wanted to resurrect that sound yet with the software and sounds that are available today, also keeping that grit and hard sound of ‘digital hardcore,’ and I mean years ’92 to ’98. And I could think of no other than the singer SeVerina X Sol for the voice. Not very many people know this but we have been making music together off and on for 13 years now.
As for the ‘Club Kid’ thing, I have always been attracted to the extreme wild side of life and that’s what attracted me… that and the performer in me. I love that I could go out in glitter and blood and call it a ‘look’ and be amazing!”

The ’80s/retro sound has been a key part of much of synthpop and electro-pop (as well as indie rock) for several years now, and as you said you are using modern methods and sounds to recreate that. Certainly, many of the acts that have reached for that sound have grown up in the ’80s, but beyond that, what are your thoughts on why that particular era of music has become so popular again in recent years?

Hall: Because of the blow and it was GREAT! (Laughs)

As well, how do you feel The Break Up has evolved or will be evolving those motifs and standout among the others with similar influences?

Sol: I feel like we dream up little movies in our heads, and we just make them happen.

As stated, The Break Up has a very retro/electro sound – akin to what many call electroclash. What are your thoughts on these descriptions as it pertains to The Break Up’s music?
Can you give us some insight into your approach to making music, what the group dynamic is like when writing?

Hall: Well, there is definitely a difference between electroclash and electro-pop; although we were heavily influenced by electroclash, we’re more like electro-pop. Electroclash is rather a movement out of New York – we’re not a New York band – electroclash is a style and a culture and a way of life that came out of Brooklyn. We’re not a Brooklyn band.

Sol: So initially, Shane will present a song that’s pretty well composed and needs vocals and lyrics. Sometimes he has ideas for vocals and lyrics; sometimes he just gives me free reign to coauthor the song and its direction. We bounce the song back and forth until we’re happy with it, and then call it done.

4 Comments

  1. Brian Foster says:

    I love this band. Synthesis is such an awesome throwback to the new wave 80s, but modern and
    edgy at the same time. I expect many more awesome things to come from them.

  2. mykhe says:

    I think that the Break Up is the band that all of us who grew up in the 80’s (listening to new wave and industrial) wished existed then. But they’re well worth the wait.

  3. Dylan says:

    I like their live show. I saw them open for Covenant, after Ayria. I included a link to a photoset of that show in the “Website” field of this comment. They’re also a fun bunch to spend time with backstage–or in the case of that venue, upstairs.

  4. David Fullam says:

    This band has helped me regain my faith in music. Synthesis is worth it just for “The Sun” alone.

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