It’s hard to start over but that’s exactly what Sydney’s alternative rockers Breakaway have done. With frontman Sam Biland going through challenges in his life, that certainly did not stop him from writing songs he was meant to share to the world. With the outfit’s energetic, arena-like performance, supporting the likes of Taking Back Sunday, Anberlin (RIP) and The Used, Breakaway have had a strong streak on touring with some of the biggest rock bands. Heading into a new electronic-pop direction with their latest single “Restart”, Biland shares with us the inspiration behind the song, the creative process on their upcoming debut record and how he feels about sharing his story to the band’s fanbase.
So you’ll be touring around Australia for the next few weeks. I know you guys haven’t toured in a while so how are you feeling being back on the road again?
Yeah, I think it’s almost been exactly a year since we were last on tour. The last tour we did was with As It Is and With Confidence. Since then we’ve been just doing the album.
A couple of weeks ago you released your single “Restart” and I really like how you guys have channeled a bit of electronic-pop into your music. How’s working on the debut record been for you guys?
We’ve finished it now. It was so different to what we expected. When we first took it on, we realised how big of a project it was. I ended up writing about a hundred songs, lyrically, which we only demoed probably forty of the best. We had to cut all the way down to ten, so it’s like a lot of work that never actually got to use but it was totally worth it to see the songs that did make it. Adding an electronic vibe, we’ve never done anything like that before but we’ve always wanted to and it was our first opportunity to really test stuff out. It worked really well in the studio and we’ve got it down pat live.
When we first got together as a band, it was all like, “Hey, go record some songs, get on the road, go play.” Everything happened so quickly. At the time, we all had a couple of bands that we liked. Even though we had all these other influences, we just didn’t have time to really work on the sound. We just wrote the songs, recorded it and away we went. This time, we kinda sat down and we had conversations abut what kind of influences everyone had now, three years later. Some of the boys like Kanye West and all the hip-hop stuff. Some of the guys are into all the Triple-J and more underground stuff. For me personally, I’m more into the arena rock stuff like Bring Me The Horizon and 30 Seconds To Mars. There was just so many influences and we decided not to restrict ourselves and just write the best songs that we could, and let whatever influences come in. As a whole, the album works really well together but it’s definitely a big variety of songs that are on the album.
“You’re actually connecting with people and I think it’s really important to talk about bipolar disorder and depression openly.”
I read the meaning behind the song and it’s obvious that the song is very deep and meaningful to you. Given the name “Restart” and all the challenges you’ve undergone, how have these experiences shaped you as a person?
It was either a time where I could let this get to me and lose myself, lose the band, lose my friends, lose everything or I can suck it up and move forward; let go of everything and be okay. I remember that day very specifically and obviously, I chose to let go and move forward. It’s changed because right now, I’ve been through so much but I feel like I’m close to invincible. Like, anything can happen and I reckon I can deal with it now.
It’s hard to make fresh starts especially if you’ve gotten used to the norm of daily life. Struggling with bipolar and also ending a relationship are two challenging things you’ve dealt with. In those moments when you were at your lowest, what helped you realise that you needed to move on and become resilient from all of those challenges?
I just handled it. I don’t really know how; I just kept going. I have a tattoo on my stomach that says, ‘Quitters never win’ and that’s gotten me through a lot of things. Just seeing it in the mirror and being like, “Okay. This is the person I want to be. This is what I stand for, I’m just going to keep going.”
I think it’s really important that musicians have that conversation of struggle to their fanbase because it really helps them realise that even their favourite bands have their tough ruts too. How do you feel knowing you’ve made a huge impact on sharing your story with your fanbase?
I’m stoked on it, really. I know that when we come to see everyone at the shows, a lot of people tend to come up and tell us their stories behind the songs and it’s like therapeutic for them. It’s also therapeutic for us, knowing that other people are going through stuff. We can all relate to each other and we’re all strong and can keep going. I’m stoked, it’s been a more emotional experience than the EP was, for sure.
When we first started it was like, “Hey, here are some songs! We wrote them.” And then people started connecting with them and you realise what you’re doing is something meaningful than just writing a couple of songs and playing them live. You’re actually connecting with people and I think it’s really important to talk about bipolar disorder and depression openly. I think it’s often looked at in a negative light. It’s important for people to talk about it in a positive way as well; that they can overcome things and maybe be inspired to do something they never thought they would.
I think with music it requires you to be vulnerable if you want to stand out from the rest. With your upcoming debut record, do you feel like it’s a lot more introspective than your previous material?
I was an absolute mess [laughs]. I was struggling to get four hours of sleep a night. Like, I was in a good place because I was letting it out but I was also confronting everything at the same time. It was pretty overwhelming and I was lucky to have four guys in this album experience this with me. When I felt like I couldn’t stand anymore, they were there to pick me up.
Obviously, having that sort of support network was really important to you, especially considering how those challenges really did overwhelm you in that state and then having to look back on them again and having to write those songs from those experiences. That must’ve been really hard. Was that a learning curve for the debut record?
Yeah, for sure. I write the lyrics and all the vocals and a lot of the main parts. Richie [Mammoliti, guitar/synth] writes all of the music and stuff. I think with Richie and I, our personal relationship grew a lot during the making of the record because we spent a lot of late nights writing together, and he’s kind of the first person I confide in everything I’m feeling. It’s definitely a learning experience because I’ve never really been open with friends before because I was always scared about what was going to happen. I’ve learnt that I can talk to my friends; it sounds so silly when I say it out loud but friends are there to lean on. Communication is the key to life!
Catch Breakaway on their ‘Restart’ Australian Tour on the dates below!
SATURDAY 24 SEPTEMBER – THE LAIR, SYDNEY (Lic/AA)
SATURDAY 8 OCTOBER – MILK BAR, BRISBANE (18+)
SUNDAY 9 OCTOBER – FOUNDRY RECORDS, BRISBANE (AA)
FRIDAY 14 OCTOBER – WRANGLER STUDIOS, MELBOURNE (AA)
SATURDAY 15 OCTOBER – WORKERS CLUB, MELBOURNE (18+)
SUNDAY 16 OCTOBER – ENIGMA BAR, ADELAIDE (Lic/AA)
Tickets available now from wearebreakaway.com