MEB staffer Rebecca Kravetz recently met up with Ivan Trevino, Meta Weis, Adrian Daurov, and Patrick Laird of the cellist rock group Break of Reality. They discussed their acceptance as a rock band after being classically trained at a NY conservatory, the future of streaming as young musicians (they support T-Swift!), and going on a world tour as musical ambassadors of the United States.
MEB: Can you state your names and what you do in the band?
IT: My name is Ivan Trevino and I play drums and I also write some music.
MW: My name is Meta Weis and I play cello.
AD: My name is Adrian Daurov, I’m from Russia, and I play the cello too.
PL: And my name is Patrick Laird and I write music and play the cello.
So Break of Reality was started while you were freshmen at a classical conservatory in New York. What brought you to create a cellist rock group?
PL: I think all of us were really into different kinds of music, so that was one thing. When I was in high school I didn’t have an orchestra in my school so a lot of my friends were metal-heads and played the guitar and drums instead of the cello and violin so from an early age I went to a lot of really heavy rock concerts and I really loved the energy that they had on stage without music stands and just kind of moving around and having a good time. I really wanted to capture that energy as a musician but I still wanted to become a classical musician as well. So when I got to Eastman, to the music school, I put together a bunch of people who were like-minded and liked different types of music and we just started jamming out, really with that goal to capture that energy as classical musicians.
What kind of metal music did you listen to?
AD: I remember seeing bands like Slayer and Metallica, In Flames, a lot of European metal. I kind of went the heavy side in high school but since then I’ve listened to a lot of different types of music.
IT: Adrian being from Russia, he would have these cassettes.
AD: Oh yeah, we didn’t have CDs or computers really. We probably still don’t have computers (laughs). But I had those tapes that were really bad quality recordings of Metallica and I listened to them. I listened to Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath stuff and I loved it. And playing something hard and heavy with the drums right now on an amplified show is really cool.
What are you guys listening to for fun right now?
IT: Well we’re all very different in terms of what we listen to which is kind of interesting and cool. I’m listening to the new St. Vincent record, which I really love a lot and I saw her just a couple weeks ago at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Patrick, on the other hand, is not as big of a St. Vincent fan.
MW: I listen to a lot of classical music actually, mostly classical like string quartets. I like hip hop and I really like Lorde a lot.
IT: Wow that’s cool, I saw her too. She was awesome. She put the best show on out of everybody there, except for maybe St. Vincent.
Do you find it helpful that you all have such different taste while writing music together?
IT: Yeah, Patrick and I dated–we date back to the origins of the band–we dated? (Laughs) no, we started the band. But having different likes in music was challenging because we were so young.
PL: But what’s interesting is that even though we all like different kinds of music, we’ve kind of embraced the “Break of Reality sound”. We’re all able to respect our sound.
MW: And we’re all classically trained.
Did you have support from your school? I read online that you received noise complaints at your first formal concert.
PL: Yeah I think it’s been kind of a process. Going to a classical music conservatory, there are always going to be people who are very traditional in their acceptance of music and a lot of people think that classical instruments should only play classical music. Luckily, more and more, as time goes on, people are accepting these instruments as being super versatile and being able to play in all these different genres. But when we started, it was a different scene and there were some issues where we did have to cancel a concert due to noise complaints. For instance, I didn’t even tell my teacher about this project for years until it was pretty much unavoidable. I didn’t want to disappoint him, I guess. He’s very much a traditionalist and I thought that he only wanted the cello to play classical music.
IT: But now it’s a lot different. Like we went to Eastman (School of Music), that’s where the band started and now they recently appointed a new dean of the whole music school and he gave this big address to all of the Eastman community—students, faculty, everybody—and he talks about our band and how we’re pushing the envelope a little bit and I thought that was really special of him to do.
PL: A lot of things are changing too, pretty drastically. I think that we’re of this age and we’re coming out and we’re kind of growing as a group, I think it marks a change in people’s view of this kind of music. So now I think it’s more than accepted.
IT: And there’s a lot of bands now with classical instruments playing non-classical music.
PL: Whereas when we were in school a bunch of my peers were like, “oh I don’t know if this is a cool project”. But now we go back and play, and those people who were the same age as we were are still studying classical music but they love it, they think it’s awesome.
Did you get in touch with that teacher that you were afraid to tell about your band?
PL: Yeah, he went to our big concert that we had back in Eastman. Recently we came back and did a 10 year anniversary concert, which was awesome. We played in the big hall and there were thousands of people there, it was really cool. My teacher came by and he stayed for half the concert—the first half, the quieter half. But he came up to me afterward and he said “I really enjoyed the music” and he thanked me for playing Bach, which is classical music. So he thanked me for playing the one classical piece, but I think he truly appreciates what we do and our success as a group. It may not be his favorite type of music but he’s definitely embraced it and he talks to his students about us.
So after graduating, you built a fan-base through street performance. Can you tell me what that experience was like?
IT: Yes, we would play in Central Park and we would play in the subways and we did it for about six months. We just built an audience that way here in New York City. I just talked to somebody who came to our show just a few minutes ago who said “I met you in Central Park like seven years ago and I still follow you guys”. So we got kicked out a couple of times. Cops would get mad at us for playing because sometimes the crowd would get kind of big. A cello exploded once.
IT: Yeah, in Central Park.
PL: Because the name of the game is, you want to play loudly so people can hear you. So you end up playing so loud and for such an extended period of time that you put a lot of strain on the instruments. So we were playing one tune and one of the guys with us at the time just went and did a down bow, with maybe a little too much force, and his tail piece snapped and the strings dangled everywhere, the bridge flew out into the audience.
IT: And people started clapping! They thought it was like a Hendrix [thing].
PL: We’re like “oh no, we just lost the cello!” (laughs)
That’s pretty hardcore.
PL: Yeah, it was pretty cool.
So you’ve also gained a huge following through Pandora. As young artists, what are your thoughts on music streaming?
IT: I think what’s interesting just like with our tastes in music, I think we also sometimes have different opinions about streaming, and that’s okay. Patrick and I have talked about it at length. I, for one, feel like an on-demand stream is just like owning the record because you can access it at any time you want and anywhere you want, but it doesn’t nearly compensate the artist like owing the record does. But at the same time, it’s nice to have the ability to access music when you want. Honestly, I wish the royalties were higher. And I know Spotify, if they did that, they might not be able to stay in business.
PL: The one thing to be super clear about is that Ivan is talking about on-demand streaming. I think we all are in total support of Internet radio with the emphasis on the word radio, meaning that you don’t get to choose exactly what you listen to, you can maybe choose a station. For instance on Pandora you can choose a Break of Reality station but and you may hear a couple of Break of Reality songs but you’re going to be introduced to new music as well.
IT: Pandora is a discovery tool, that’s why we love it. It’s awesome because we’re a cello band and no radio station is ever going to play us, but with Spotify, it’s an on-demand streaming so that’s different. That’s a thing that we don’t support as much, to be honest. But I just feel like they have to do something to fix the system because songwriters also don’t get compensated fairly with on-demand streaming, and even via Pandora, the songwriting thing is tricky. So they have a lot of work to do.
PL: But the one nice thing is that it keeps people from piracy and that’s always my argument. If people have a place to go where they can stream music and at least the artist gets a little something, and also have an organized way where they can find the artist and maybe learn more information about them, those are all good things.
IT: Patrick thinks that if they got rid of on-demand streaming, that piracy would just go up.
PL: I think it’s killed piracy quite a bit.
It’s a long debate but now that Taylor Swift pulled her music off of Spotify, people are paying attention to it.
PL: We all think that it’s a good thing that she did that.
PL: It brings light to the subject and gets people to talk about how much artists should get paid and I think there’s a threshold.
IT: Some people are like, “The world deserves free music.” “Music should be free.” For us as musicians, we’re like, really?
You’ve been frequently recognized for your cover songs, like your cover of the Game of Thrones theme song that appeared on the Huffington Post. Which cover songs are your favorite to play and why?
AD: “Lateralus” by Tool. I like heavy stuff.
MW: I like Tool also, but I like our Passenger cover.
IT: We play “Let Her Go”, the Passenger song.
PL: It’s a girly tune.
AD: I like that song too. (laughs)
IT: But it’s pretty! It’s a pretty song. That also goes to show you the range of music that we play. We play “Lateralus” by Tool, we play “Let Her Go”, we play Bach. So what’s nice about this band is that our spectrum of what were able to do is much broader than maybe some other bands that have a very specific sound, and if they abandon it too much they might get flack from their fans. But I feel like our fans are a little more accepting.
Do you have any cover songs that you will be working on anytime soon?
IT: We’re going to bring back an old one that we haven’t played in years. It’s “BYOB” by System of a Down. We’re making plans right now.
PL: That’s great, tell the world.
IT: Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. That’s okay.
You released an album of original work, TEN, last March. How do you think that has been received?
IT: It’s been received very well. It’s on Pandora now so it’s gaining a lot of traction and we’re planning to do a big music video for one of the songs on that album to really get it out there. We don’t have a huge marketing campaign so I think with our albums, they grow steadily over time, which is great, actually.
PL: I think the majority of our fans don’t even know we have a new album out even though it’s been out for a while. But I think in today’s digital world it’s like people see what’s readily available to them like our covers for instance are being shared heavily online so that’s what people see and then they go and they buy that music. But new releases in today’s world take time to grow.
IT: Yeah, and that’s okay.
Can you tell me about your music video that you are working on?
PL: We’re going to release a video for “Star”, which is our single off the album. And we think it’s a beautiful piece that we think is quite different than anything we’ve played before. So we thought it would be a cool idea to have an engaging video on it that would help the album and that track spread. A lot of our music is dark and a lot of our music is written in minor keys just because I think the nature of the cello and its sound and its tone lend well to that. But for this song, I wrote the tune and I was really looking to do something that was more uplifting and so it’s in a major key and it’s very pretty. I wrote it for my wife and it’s a very uplifting tune compared to the rest of the ones that we work on.
Can you tell me what your favorite songs to play live off the album are?
PL: For me, it’s “Uprising” and it’s my favorite tune to play. (Collective laughter)
Why is everyone laughing?
AD: He has a huge solo!
IT: Last concert we weren’t able to play it because we had technical difficulties. We had to cut that song.
PL: I was really upset.
PL: Why do I like it so much? Well I have a solo at the end which is really cool, but even before that, there’s this big boom that happens and we digitally sampled this boom. We get to this part and there’s all this tension built up and then it’s like silence but there’s this boom!
MW: It sounds like the Hunger Games cannon when someone dies.
PL: They think it’s just because I have a solo at the end, but that’s not the only reason.
IT: Dude, my favorite song was the song that I wrote. I wrote a song called “Six” and we asked some of my friends to play some additional parts that we had recorded on the album for marimba, glockenspiel, drum set, and piano. It’s really different from the whole album.
So is it the sixth track off the album?
IT: No it’s not, it’s the last track. Although I fought for that.
Because your album is TEN and has ten songs.
IT: Tell me about it.
So what’s next for Break of Reality? Is there any talk of a tour or future album?
MW: Yeah we’re touring with the American Music Abroad tour, which is run by the state department and we are going to Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
IT: And Brazil.
MW: And Brazil, as musical ambassadors of the United States.
PL: It’s going to be amazing and we just got word too that we’re going to be playing in Brazil with the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra so we’re playing with a legit orchestra and it should be fun.
Is there anything else you want to add or share with the readers of Mind Equals Blown?
IT: Cello is maybe not really an instrument that would be featured on your site. So maybe we would be a good introduction for readers to see what it can do outside of the classical world.
Check out Break of Reality’s cover of the Game of Thrones theme song below: