It was a triumphant near-homecoming for the Brooklyn-based band,Breaking Laces, as they took the stage at Manhattan’s Rockwood Music Hall on September 17.
For lead singer, guitarist and Park Slope resident, Willem Hartong, being back in New York was a highlight of the tour.
“What they say about this city is true…it’s electric,” Hartong said, looking out into the Lower East Side street from a coffee shop by the venue. The neighborhood’s late-night Saturday energy was bouncing off the café window. “It’s electric, it’s fun and you get a sense of possibility.”
Along with drummer Seth Masarsky and bassist Rob Chojnacki, Hartong was in the midst of the trio’s countrywide tour for their most successful album to date, “When You Find Out.”
By default Hartong is the oldest member of the band, for he began it as a solo project releasing the first two albums, “Operation Income” (2003) and “Sohcahtoa” (2004) before linking up with the other two members.
The next three albums “Lemonade” (2005), “Astronomy Is My life, But I Love You” (2006), and “Live at Seaside” (2009) show their sound revolution and growth from a one-man band to a trio. Their latest album, which was released last spring, is a result of that growth.
“This time around, we got a chance to take a step back and take a look around and do a real preproduction,” Hartong explained while his band mates set up for the show. “[Preproduction] is something that we always did on some levels but not to the point that we did this time and the record benefitted. It became big.”
Breaking Laces have played more than 500 shows, a fact that makes them more of a touring band than a studio band. Their music has created a large fan base, but a big reason for their popularity is because they are out on the stage, picking up fans with each show.
For their album “When You Find Out,” they wanted to capture the sound on stage and bring it to the LP.
“We knew we wanted to get bigger on record because we get big on stage and people told us that the production should meet what we are able to do on stage,” Hartong said.
Although the latest record definitely captured their big stage presence, at the end of the day, they are essentially a band made for the stage. But being home in New York, even if it was just for the weekend, made them feel, well, at home.
“When you are out as much as we are and you play the similar routes, it can feel a little stagnant even though you meet new people,” said Hartong. “New York is familiar and fun in the sense that you know once you are done you don’t have far to go to get home.”
Hartong has lived in Brooklyn for ten years and he has written every Breaking Laces song from his Park Slope apartment.
“I’m the guy who just hacks it away on a small part of the couch with a recorder,” he explained with a laugh. “I have lit candles before, but it didn’t make much difference.”
It is also at home in Brooklyn where he has found his new interest in children’s music, and he has his two-year-old and two-month children to thank. He sings tunes to his oldest daughter, which sometimes leads to a new song.
“It is a really great audience to have,” he said. “A two-year-old kid doesn’t pull very many punches, they’ll let you know right away.”
Although he may not know where his interest in children’s music will lead, the new work already has called him down to Nashville, Tennessee. But most importantly, he has been having fun with the genre.
“It really happened organically,” he said. “I started singing songs to my kids just for fun and every now and then I’d stop and go: ‘That’s neat.’”
The crowd in Rockwood Music Hall was dotted with many of the band’s friends, families (including Hartong’s parents) and locals rocking to a selection of songs from all their albums.
You could hear it in Hartong’s voice, as he crooned out to the audience, that it was definitely great to be back in New York.
But, the real homecoming will be when the trio returns to Brooklyn with a late October performance at The Way Station, on Washington Avenue between Prospect Place and St Marks Avenue, with a crowd more closer to home.
“You see a lot of interesting things in Brooklyn,” Hartong said. “Maybe not as much as you might see in Manhattan, but enough to keep it spicy and different.”