ASTANA – The spring has started with a fresh look at classical music and rock for many music lovers, as the American cello rock band Break of Reality gave concerts in four major cities of Kazakhstan as part of their Central Asian tour.
The band’s performances, organised by the U.S. Embassy and American Music Abroad, have created a real buzz, stirring interest among audiences of different ages with various musical tastes, ranging from younger rock listeners to older classical music fans. The exuberant sound of three cellos and drums has been equally well received in Almaty, Shymkent, Astana and Atyrau, with tickets sold out for all venues days before the shows.
The concerts featured a Bach cello arrangement, some of the original tracks from the band’s latest and most acclaimed album, “TEN,” and collaborations with local Kazakh musicians. One of the highlights of the shows was a rendition of the theme song to the HBO television series Game of Thrones, which appeared in Huffington Post and earned wider fame for the group with over six million views on Youtube. An electrifying cover of the Tool’s “Lateralus” was the dramatic climax of the concerts in Astana, which ended with standing ovations.
Break of Reality consists of a percussionist, Ivan Trevino, and three cellists: co-founder and permanent member Patrick Laird and guest artists Andrew Janss and Meta Weiss. The group is associated with such music genres as alt-classical, cello rock and indie-classical; however, the band members say that even they are not sure what genre they fall into. “We’re classically trained musicians, but also understand and love the raw qualities of rock; this dichotomy is very clear in our sound,” says the group founder, Ivan Trevino, in this regard.
Before the concert in Astana, Trevino was able to sit down with The Astana Times for a short interview.
Tell us the brief history of the band.
It was almost eleven years ago at a music conservatory at university [the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York]. We started the band: me and Patrick [Laird]. We loved rock music. At a conservatory nobody really studies rock music, so we started our band for fun, and it just started growing and growing and now it’s become our career.
How has your music evolved since you first started playing together?
Patrick and I are always playing with the band. Sometimes the musicians around us change, depending on what their schedule is. We play with really great cellists. This allows us to play more concerts. We always get to work with different people and it stays really fresh. So it has evolved in that way. And also, we’ve taken our classical roots and we’ve really morphed it with our rock sound. When we first started, it was super rock – really loud most of the time. Now we really value our classical training and we try to portray that just as much the rock stuff that we do.
Tell us about your latest album, “TEN.”
The album is really diverse, it’s definitely the album that we are most proud of. Patrick wrote a lot of the tracks and I helped with a few as well. Two of my favourite pieces from the album are “Helix” and “Star,” which we will play tonight. “Helix” is a loud rock song with a lot of mixed metres, heavy drums and cellos. Most of our songs are dark, but there is one that stands separately and that is “Star,” that Patrick wrote for his wife. This song is like a ray of sunshine. What’s nice about our band is that we self-release all of our music, so we don’t have a record label. That allows us to release, mix and record it the way we want. The album has done really great. We get millions of plays on internet radio, and Youtube helps us out.
What has been the band’s biggest challenge?
Playing classical instruments and having no singer can be a tricky thing to market. I’m not sure if our music is radio-friendly. Next to Taylor Swift’s music, it might not fit too well. At the same time, that’s the thing that helped us reach new people. It’s like a Catch-22. We’ve had member changes in the past that have also been difficult. But those kind of trials have inspired albums and songs. Now that we have played for 10 years, the trajectory is going up and there are a lot more good moments like being here and travelling. So we are very fortunate to be able to do what we do as musicians.
What are the highlights of this tour?
It’s been a great experience since it’s not only us teaching people about American music but also us learning about other kinds of music. For example, the dombra is an amazing instrument I had never heard before and I actually was able to collaborate with some dombra players in Shymkent. We want to further collaborate with a musician whom we met in Almaty named Galymzhan Moldanazar. He is an awesome musician. We would like to have him fly to the U.S. and do a record together, maybe cover one of his songs or arrange one of his songs and have him sing it with us. That would be the follow-through for this visit so that we can keep the momentum going.
I’m also really glad to be here, the native country of Gennady Golovkin, my favourite boxer. I’ve seen all of his recent fights ever since he started fighting on HBO.
What was the local audience’s reaction to your playing?
Response here has been great. The audiences have been even more excited than what we are used to. Since we don’t play much here, people are more appreciative. I feel like people here appreciate the arts a lot; that may be a part of culture and history.
What are your plans for the near future?
We toured Turkmenistan before this, and next is Azerbaijan. We also have shows scheduled for this spring in Chicago and New York City. We have a tour in Brazil this summer. We are collaborating with professional orchestras there. Patrick composed a concerto for Break of Reality in full orchestra. So we will be performing that, and it will be way different than what we are doing here. And we would like to come back here and maybe play an even bigger concert.