Around 2009, I first began to hear about a band from Denver, Colorado that were taking the Warped Tour scene by storm. They were called Breathe Carolina. Everything about what they were doing stood out to me: the way they performed, their sound, everything down to the vibrant color of the artwork on Hello Fascination. Every time an album cycle came around, there was always an element of their music that would change. They were ( and still are) constantly updating their sound.
After a lineup change, the band came back in full force with Savages, their fourth studio album, showcasing a highly reinvigorated sound laced with EDM bangers that belonged more on the dance floors of Vegas biggest clubs than at festivals like Warped Tour. This was only a sign of things to come, as the group have recently made a full-on jump into the EDM world, inking deals with Spinnin’ Records and Armada Music.
Thus far in this new chapter, Breathe Carolina have released several tracks: “Anywhere But Home”, “Platinum Hearts”, and “Hero (Satellites)”, and have been taking festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival, Ultra Miami and (this weekend) Escape Psycho Circus by storm.
I had a moment to catch up with David Schmitt, the founding member and vocalist of Breathe Carolina to talk about what the group will be bringing to the stage at Escape Psycho Circus this weekend, making the jump from the rock world to the EDM community, and bringing their music to life with Ableton and Studio One.
To say that you guys have changed up your sound and progressed over time is a severe understatement. You guys have grown so much, from “The Birds And The Bees” days (from the It’s Classy Not Classic album). Around what point in time did you guys decide to fully throw yourselves into the EDM world?
I think I had always wanted to do it because, during the era of “The Birds And The Bees”, [the music] was still very electronic, and I was just doing it on GarageBand. We always had that idea, but we just got thrown into a rock world. We just went with it for a little bit. We all came from rock backgrounds, so it was just natural for us that we were playing rock shows. After a couple of years, we had done so much in that world. We had done Main Stage of Warped Tour a couple of times, all that stuff. It just kind of got to a point where we said, ‘yo, we want to do something different.’
I remember that we were in Australia. We were playing a rock festival called Soundwave. We were just like, ‘man, we don’t feel right [being] here’. We decided after that to really take our electronic side and just go for it. At first, we were dabbling here and there. Our stuff on the Savages album was pretty “EDM”. But we just realized that if we were gonna go for it, we needed to go all in. I think about a solid year ago was when we said “okay, we’re gonna go straight into this world, and try to see what we can do here.”
It was cool, man, because it put a new flair back into what we are. It made us more passionate; it was all new again. It’s still all new to us. We’re so hungry and passionate about it, so it’s super fun again.
I think the moment when I noticed the biggest jump was when I went online to read something about you guys, and I noticed that you weren’t on Fearless Records anymore, but had signed to Armada. I was like, ‘oh shit! They’re really all in!’ (laughs)
Yeah! When we were on Fearless, they were going through a couple different things, like owner changes and stuff. We were like, ‘yo, honestly, the music we want to make just doesn’t work here.’ We were still in our contract. I have actually become really, really good friends with the owner of Fearless. I hit him up and said, ‘yo, this is gonna be better for you, and it’s gonna be better for us. Is there any way that we can just snip our contract right now?’ We still had about two more albums or something like that. They were very cool. They said, ‘we love you guys, and we believe in you guys. If this is something that you want to do, then we’re not going to hold you here. We don’t want to hold you back.’
That was the first step. After we were off of Fearless, we said, ‘okay, now we can go and do whatever we want.’ We were hitting up so many different labels with songs, and they just wouldn’t write us back for a long time. Finally, we sent [Armada] “Anywhere But Home”, and they kind of freaked out. They said, ‘oh my god! This is crazy! We want to sign this!’ We were like, ‘oh shit! This is our first step in the door!’ Now we’re talking to all these dance labels and getting more and more accepted. It’s pretty cool, man.
Would you say that the transition was more difficult at first, or was it more of a natural jump?
It was natural in our hearts and in our heads, but it was an uphill battle. Some of our fans aren’t there because we’re doing something new and different. Every promoter, every dance agent, every dance manager considers us a band. That’s what we’ve been known for. So it’s hard in that aspect. We’re winning over people a lot, though. Every day, I feel like there’s someone new that comes around, which is awesome.
It’s a struggle, though, man. We have to really be like, ‘hey, we can’t play any more rock shows or festivals.’ It didn’t put us out of work, but everything kind of stalled on that front for a little awhile. It was good because it gave us time to get into the studio and really make the songs we wanted to make, and do what we wanted to do. Now we’re coming back to doing just straight EDM shows.
But it’s still an uphill battle because people don’t know it yet. We’re DJing, but I’m still singing some of the songs, and I’m a frontman the whole time. It’s still like a live rock show, but in a club environment.
Do you think that’s going to help enhance the show that you guys bring to Escape [Psycho Circus] this weekend? Essentially, do you think that’s what sets you guys apart from the other acts out there?
We’re rockers at heart. (laughs) As stupid as that is to say. We make EDM music, but everything is still very ‘rock and roll’ to us. We portray that when we play live. This is not something that people going to these festivals are seeing. You could compare it to (maybe) something like Krewella, but it’s still different. It’s kind of shocking, because people don’t know what to expect, and then they show up and are like ‘holy shit! That was sick!’ It’s exciting for us to win people and get not necessarily the respect, but the acknowledgement that we need to succeed in that world.
I think what you said was interesting because when you guys played Main Stage Warped Tour during the Savages era, I saw all of the artists that day and your show, to me, was the most ‘rock’ or ‘punk’ thing I saw at the ‘punk rock’ festival all day, because it was so different from everything else out there.
Yeah! We were playing a DJ-type set at Warped Tour. Everyone on Warped Tour was like, ‘dude, you guys are the most punk rock metal band here.’ (laughs) We were going against everything that Warped Tour is. We were changing up everything. We won like the “Best Performance of Warped Tour” that year from Alternative Press magazine. I think that was just based on how we did [the show] and how different it was from the rest of the festival. Fans would come and have a half hour dance party, but it was also heavy and crazy.
It’s really cool. We want to bring that element to EDM festivals, because it’s going to be a different thing. We’re not going to do any live drums for a little bit, but we want to incorporate that after awhile into our set, just to make it that much more crazy.
I think that’ll kick it up even more, if that’s even possible. Now I’ve got to ask, when you started moving into the dance world, what kind of software did you start using to write? There’s so many different DAWs out there, so I’m curious to know which one you guys gravitated towards.
It’s actually kind of funny how we do it. I started on GarageBand a long time ago. When we started doing this music, Tommy (Coops) and I both had Studio One on our computer. We started doing everything in Studio One for a long time. When we started working with other artists, we noticed that they were all on Ableton or FL (Fruity Loops). We realized that we needed to switch over to Ableton because it’s really hard to send projects back and forth with different recording software. It was kind of weird, but we threw ourselves into it and learned the basics of it really fast. We watched tutorial after tutorial.
I’ll still write a bunch of MIDI in Studio One, just because I know [the software] like the back of my hand. I’ll do a lot of the intense writing in Studio One, and then I’ll go over to Ableton to produce how it sounds.
When did “Platinum Hearts” come into play? What was the writing process like in order for you to bring that track to life?
“Platinum Hearts” was kind of the first thing we did, besides “Anywhere But Home”. We found this girl named Karra online. She had such an incredible voice, and she loved EDM. We had a few acapellas, and she sent us “Platinum Hearts”. We thought it sounded really cool, but we wanted to change some things. We went into the studio with her and rewrote the vocal. Once we had the vocals good [sic], we wrote the music underneath it. We wanted it to be euphoric in a way. It’s a very chill progressive house song, I would say. I think we captured the right moments that the song needed. It was one of the first songs we had ever done.
It’s funny because when you release a new song, it’s kind of like old news to you. (laughs) I’ve heard it so many times, so it’s hard to really get stoked and for it to feel special when you have ten other songs that you love ten times more, and you’re ready for those to come out. We’ve been writing so much, and we have so much music now. It’s hard to keep track of it. I forget and I have to go to our private playlist. I’m like ‘oh shit, I forgot about that song!’ It’s crazy.
That song came to life pretty naturally. Actually, on the next single that we have coming out, her and I are singing together. We’re in contact with her a lot, and she’s just awesome.
Closing questions: What kind of message, if any, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
I think that we want everyone to know that, as musicians and writers, we stay very true to ourselves, with what we want to do and what we’re going to do. The song that you’re listening to is the song that we wanted to make. I think that really resonates with listeners. People are like, ‘yo, you guys were really successful in that rock world. Why didn’t you stick with that?” And we’re like, ‘because we didn’t want to.’ We didn’t feel that any more. With our new music, we’re like ‘this is what we want to do.’ I think that’s the main thing for me. I want people to be noticing and understanding that [the music] is real, and that’s who we are right now.
What does music mean to you?
Oh man. Music has meant everything to me since I was twelve, pretty much! It’s my whole world. It’s all that I think about. It’s what I eat, drink, and sleep. Honestly, it just means life to me. I don’t know a world without making music.
Make sure to catch Breathe Carolina THIS WEEKEND at Escape Psycho Circus when they play the GHOUL'S GRAVEYARD stage on Friday, October 30 from 4:45 PM to 6 PM.
Tickets for the event can be purchased here at http://bit.ly/1ScuqsJ
For more information on Breathe Carolina, visit www.breathecarolina.net
This has been another Shameless Promotion.