Interview: Breaking Laces’ lead singer Willem Hartong

Hi all!

Occasionally I have an opportunity to chat online or over the phone with an entertainer to get some insights into their motivations and processes. This past week I was given a chance to ask Breaking Laces’ lead singer Willem Hartong a few questions. He kindly responded with a few answers!

Q1: First, let me congratulate you and the band on a great album. I really enjoyed When You Find Out. It’s obvious that there are some stories behind the relationship-oriented tracks on the album. Any you’d like to share?

[WH] I tend to strive for plausible and/or entertaining versions of the truth. So some stories might sound odd in relation to the actual song. Suffice it to say, relationships are tricky. I’ve been on all sides of them including being in a lasting loving relationship at the moment which prompted the song “Here to Stay”. That’s a nice feeling. It’s a bit better than having shoes thrown at you, which oddly enough has happened to me twice. Maybe that’s why I wrote “What We Need,” because sometimes it’s “time to leave.”

Q2: Who are your influences? I heard bits that reminded me of Snow Patrol, Better Than Ezra, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and others…

[WH] The two on the edges are bands I enjoy. Dulcinea is a terribly good record, especially outside of the radio singles. “Windmills” absolutely slays me, what a beautiful song. I really liked Snow Patrol’s first album but haven’t gotten to the second. As a band we enjoy Radiohead and Built to Spill a lot. A few other formative albums for me are It’s a Shame About Ray, Exile in Guyville, Blue Screen Life and Ruby Vroom. Collectively I’ve probably listened to those about a thousand times.

Q3: What’s your personal songwriting process like? Do you get the idea for the lyrics and music at the same time? Separately?

[WH] No matter how often I do it, I always feel like I’m starting from scatch as to how to go about writing a song. So the methods to the madness are many. I do write in a big sketch pad and I always write by hand. That way I can draw little pictures when I get stuck.

Q4: It’s obvious you, Rob, and Seth have a great rapport going… How collaborative is the process of creating the songs and then tweaking them for audiences and recording?

[WH] It used to be me bringing in a song or idea and we’d go at it together to shape it. Lately Rob and Seth have been there at the beginning which has yielded some great results. It’s largely due to our “New Music Days” which are long rehearsals when we do nothing but work on new material.

Q5: Where did you learn to play guitar? What are some of your favorite covers to play solo or with the band?

[WH] I picked up the guitar at 16 when our rhythmn guitarist quit “In the Attic” my high school band. I was just singing and not really in love with just singing. So i busted apples to get up to speed so I could sing and play with the band. That’s how it happened for me. I love to play Cat Steven’s songs solo. I also think Nirvana, Radiohead and Lemonheads songs are fun to go at alone. With the band I particularly enjoy covering Radiohead and Built to Spill songs as they are challenging and fun to try and get right.

Q6: If there was one thing you wanted to tell your fans that you haven’t been asked yet, what would it be?

[WH] Boxer briefs.

I want to thank Willem for taking the time to answer my questions and wish him and the band the best of luck with their tour. If you haven’t listened to When You Find Out, I’d encourage you to give it a go. Breaking Laces has a great sound and I hope they continue to put out new music to enjoy!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Music Review: Vitamin String Quartet – Vitamin String Quartet Performs Radiohead’s In Rainbows

Hi all…

In the very early 1990s, I heard Radiohead‘s song “Creep” for the first time on an alternative radio station in Fort Collins, Colorado. From then on, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve heard from many of their CDs – including Pablo Honey and their most recent album, In Rainbows. When I heard that the Vitamin String Quartet (VSQ) did covers of the entire album of In Rainbows, I knew I had to take a listen.

As with Per_Versions, which is another recent album from VSQ, this group of classically-trained orchestral musicians manages to tease even more magic from the already magical Radiohead music. “Nude” and “House of Cards” had been played on local radio stations for a while now, but I wanted to see what they sounded like when performed by a string quartet. Once again, I was not disappointed.

With each song, VSQ manages to take Radiohead’s already deep compositions, take them apart, and put them back together again so that not only are the songs still recognizable, but made unique again. They manage to avoid sounding like a cover band, even though that’s ostensibly what they are.

The haunting strains of “House of Cards” are made that much more haunting through the use of violin where voices were originally. You can hear the emotion seeping through from beginning to end. The same held true for “Nude” and “All I Need”, which were among my favorites of the album. There’s just something about the translation from rock guitar, synth, and voices that stays magical during this transformation.

Violinist and arranger Tom Tally, who has performed on and produced over 35 VSQ albums says that VSQ “is about applying rock & roll attitude to classical technique” and bring chamber music into the 21st Century. They do this by transforming contemporary rock songs with their innovative spirit as well as their own original compositions in which you can hear some of their rock influences.

Vitamin String Quartet Performs Radiohead’s In Rainbows brings depth to an already deep album and is an amazing experience into the transformational power of music. Be sure to pick up a copy of the album from your favorite online or brick-and-mortar retailer to support this innovative group!

–Fitz

p.s. Click here to pick up some of VSQ’s albums at Amazon:

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