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 check in with Breaking Laces’ lead singer Willem Hartong.
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?
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.”
Who are your influences? I heard bits that reminded me of Snow Patrol, Better Than Ezra, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and others.
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.
What’s your personal songwriting process like? Do you get the idea for the lyrics and music at the same time? Separately?
No matter how often I do it, I always feel like I’m starting from scratch 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.
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?
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.
Where did you learn to play guitar? What are some of your favorite covers to play solo or with the band?
I picked up the guitar at 16 when our rhythm 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 Stevens’ 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.
If there was one thing you wanted to tell your fans that you haven’t been asked yet, what would it be?
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!