On a warm Monday evening, the four members of Breakers sit comfortably on wicker couches under a covered porch in Belmont. In the glow of multicolored Christmas lights, they share beers and take turns snuggling Batman, drummer Vicente Arroyo’s dog, clad in a red, yellow and green collar, in their post-practice ritual. It’s where they make recordings of ideas on their phones and reflect on what they accomplished that evening—“Was that what we were going for with the chorus there? It’s not quite right; let’s do it again next week.”
It’s also where they often lament the decline of longform listening and, as they did on this particular Monday evening, question whether they’re putting enough effort into promoting their music on social media. (They decide they’d rather put the time into the music.)
Each member has a different musical background, and Breakers’ rock sound, somewhat unusual on the Charlottesville music scene, reflects that.
Arroyo grew up listening almost exclusively to Mexican music. When he was a kid, he longed to be in his dad’s Mexican band; he’d hang out when they practiced and hop on the drum kit once they were done. When he was 12, the band’s drummer left and Arroyo took his spot. It wasn’t until he was in high school and hanging out at the Music Resource Center that Arroyo started listening to American rock bands.
Guitarist Vince Tarrance is into metal. “The heavier I can find, the better,” he says. When he was 13, his dad played him some Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and Tarrance was determined to learn the guitar parts. He remembers playing obsessively, “a good five to eight hours a day” at first, really drilling into what Randy Rhoads was playing on guitar for Ozzy Osbourne.
Bassist Matt Sorrentino started playing in middle school, mostly because a friend told him, “Dude, you have big hands; you should play bass.” Initially, he loved the weird technicality of bands like Dream Theater and Primus, but once he started playing upright bass and seriously studying music at James Madison University, his taste expanded to include orchestral and jazz.
Lucas Brown has played music since he was in elementary school; he remembers playing Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” and the Indiana Jones theme song on his mom’s piano at home. He got really into Green Day in middle school and took up the guitar. After playing in bands in high school, he studied music at New York University, where he discovered Bach and The Strokes at the same time.
“Once I started learning how music is put together and started listening to music [with that in mind],” everything changed, says Brown.
It’s a concept album, but Breakers doesn’t want to fall into the trope of “we’re a multi-genre band with a concept album.”
Brown wrote “about 99 percent” of the songs on the band’s new record, In Search of An Exit, “which is cool, because it’s a lot of different feels and genres coming out of one person’s head,” says Tarrance. They recorded the album with Mike Moxham at the Music Resource Center (where Brown also works), and friend Phil Joly mastered the tracks at a well-known New York City recording studio (they can’t say which one).
In Search of An Exit is loosely inspired by “Five Characters in Search of An Exit,” the 14th episode of season three of “The Twilight Zone.” “Clown, hobo, ballet dancer, bagpiper and an Army major—a collection of question marks,” The Narrator, voiced by Rod Serling, explains at the episode’s start. “Five improbable entities stuck together into a pit of darkness. No logic, no reason, no explanation; just a prolonged nightmare in which fear, loneliness and the unexplainable walk hand-in-hand through the shadows.”
Spoiler alert: By the end of the episode, it’s revealed that the metal cylinder is a barrel to collect Christmas toys for orphaned children, and the five characters are dolls.
But Brown understood the characters as representing more than just figures in an alternate universe. He saw them as “ink and a pen—ideas not realized,” moving around inside the brain, trying to meet their potential. Brown started writing character-based songs inspired by the episode, and because each character is its own stereotype, he reduced those characterizations to feelings and emotions.
Each song on In Search of An Exit expands upon one of those emotions—“Morning Tries” is about depression; “Wild Violet” is at least partly about love. Other tracks explore temptation, addiction, apathy, empathy and acceptance, among others, says Brown. It’s a concept album, but Breakers doesn’t want to fall into the trope of “we’re a multi-genre band with a concept album,” Brown says to a round of chuckling from his bandmates.
The album tells the story of any given day and is meant to be listened to in full, though the band knows that’s not how most people engage with music nowadays. “The visual aspect has become the far greater sense that we [as a society] adhere to,” says Brown. “Really great music takes you away from all the other senses. I feel a little bit combative on this record towards that.”
For now, Breakers hope that listeners will hop on its wavelength for the record’s 40-minute duration. Sorrentino says that some of the best moments of his life have been on stage, when the entire band “is synced up, moving totally and completely in the moment” together. “It’s a feeling that, once you feel it once, you chase it for the rest of your life.”
Brown, Arroyo and Tarrance relax deeper into their spots and nod their heads in enthusiastic agreement. And if the audience is there with them, says Brown, removing his sunglasses as the sun disappears over the horizon, that’s even better.