The Breaking Adam Sweeney & Tim Karplus share influential albums.
by Adam Sweeney & Tim Karplus
Adam Sweeney and Tim Karplus form the core of The Breaking, an alternative rock band from
Portland, Oregon that mines the rich soundscape of mid-90s guitar pop for inspiration. Adam
fronts the band, and Tim plays lead guitar. The two take a Lennon/McCartney approach, to
songwriting, co-writing the bulk of the band’s material.
Out of the five records listed here, they’ve chosen three that helped define the sound of their
forthcoming self-titled LP, The Breaking, while the final two hold a special significance to each
R.E.M. – Automatic for the People
Adam: R.E.M. may be the definition of where Tim and my musical tastes intersect, and
Automatic for the People was a record we kept coming back to when writing the LP, not as much in terms of sound, but in terms of songwriting approach. Automatic is a dark, artsy record that nonetheless holds a wealth of mass appeal, something The Breaking aspires to as well. It’s no secret that my vocal style borrows a page or two out of Michael Stipe’s book. My delivery on “Head in the Sand” and “Finish Line” was influenced by Stipe’s rhythmic urgency on tracks like “Ignoreland” and “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight”.
Tim: Adam and I played a piano and guitar arrangement of “Sweetness Follows” as part of a
duo set for an R.E.M. tribute show at Columbia City Theater in Seattle last year. That show
cemented R.E.M as one of our go-to reference groups. Automatic for the People is a
remarkable record in that each individual song has its own unique and fully realized
atmosphere. The meandering layers of guitar feedback on “Sweetness Follows”, the gorgeous
accordion melody on “Find the River”, and the orchestral climax of “Everybody Hurts” are just a
few of the many memorable moments that put this record in a class all its own.
Metric – Fantasies
Tim: When Adam and I first started writing together, finding common musical ground was a recurring necessity. Fantasies was the first record we came up with that we were both obsessed with. It’s still one of our go-to albums to listen to while on the road. James Shaw’s orchestral approach to guitar parts on songs like “Help I’m Alive” and “Gold Guns Girls” was an inspiration for the layered lines and unison rhythms on “Finish Line”, the third track from our LP.
Adam: When we started The Breaking, I was coming from a folk background and had some difficulty stripping my lyrics down into a form that was appropriate for rock music. Metric was one of the first bands that turned me onto the idea that a lyric could be simple, while still carrying a lot of meaning behind it. Emily Haines’ zen-like sense of phrasing on tracks like “Satellite Mind” and “Gold, Guns, Girls” has become a benchmark for me to shoot for when writing for the band.
Radiohead – The Bends
Adam: Radiohead’s The Bends is a huge influence on the sound of this band. We referenced that record over and over again when writing and arranging our LP. The intro to our song “Sandalwood” is a direct reference to the title track of The Bends. The guitar and bass tones on “Gone Electric” take more than a little influence from Jonny and Colin Greenwood’s work from that era. And Thom Yorke’s brooding sense of lyricism largely informs my writing approach on tracks like “Sweet With Bitter” and “Dark Circles.” If there was ever a record we hoped to evoke with our choice of sonic palette, this would be the one.
Tim: “Just” is the track that stands out to me from The Bends as most influencing the way I play
and write. It combines gut feel rock and roll with the intellectual note and arrangement choices in a
way that never caters to one at the expense of the other. The song’s signature climbing guitar
line is the gold standard of lead guitar hooks as far as I’m concerned, and you can hear traces
of its melodic shape in my lines for “Gone Electric” and “Head in the Sand”.
U2 – Achtung Baby
Adam: U2 has made some missteps in recent years, but that doesn’t change the fact that their early work still slays. Achtung Baby hit me at just the right time, as a small town Christian kid first discovering rock and roll. Its dark ambient soundscape felt slick, cool and dangerous to my sheltered 11-year-old mind. Listening to it now, the record isn’t nearly as edgy as it felt at the time (no pun intended), but there is still this devil-may-care attitude and a sense of wild abandon that comes through in the arrangements. Achtung Baby informed much of the underlying ambient textures of our LP, and if I’m being honest, our song “Sweet With Bitter” is an unabashed lift of U2’s “Acrobat” – listen to them side-by-side and you’ll see what I mean.
Soundgarden – Down on the Upside
Tim: Down on the Upside is the last album Soundgarden released before breaking up in
1997, and it’s also their best. Unlike previous records Badmotorfinger and
Superunknown, which were, by and large, a celebration of sludgy, down-tuned guitar rock, the guitar tones and riffs on Upside manage to feel heavy and light at the same time, especially on the nimble “Rhinosaur” and the achingly beautiful “Zero Chance”. Late album tracks like “Switch Opens” venture off into a more psychedelic territory, but the core sound of the band remains constant throughout the album. I take a lot from Kim Thayil’s playing, especially his extensive use of open strings as pedal tones, but even more than any member of the band’s playing it’s the structures of these songs that made an impact on me when I first listened to this record. Everything on this record just flows.
The Breaking’s new self-titled album out February 24, 2017
Press Release via Public Display PR
The Pacific Northwest has long been known as a stronghold of alternative rock, although Portland’s relatively recent rise to ‘cultural mecca’ has created something of a faddish scene that barely resembles its roots. Nonetheless, The Breaking – a band of 90’s-raised Northwesterners from the Rose City – still carry the torch that illuminated their upbringing. Their debut self-titled LP is a testament to the depth of that artistic heritage.
The Breaking challenges convention in a way that earns the group an edge and authenticity. The songs are deliberate and gripping, and the band uses their contradicting influences to great advantage. Front-man Adam Sweeney’s penchant for brooding minor-key introspection collides with lead guitarist Tim Karplus’ affinity for maiinstream pop hooks, crafting songs with mass appeal that remain firmly rooted in the alt-rock tradition of the Cascadian glory days.
German version also available!