To me BREAK AWAY exemplifies how a hardcore band is supposed to operate in the year 2017. While many bands are on their couches hoping for that phone call or email to let them know that they are on the next big bill these guys are out there busy with self-promotion, DIY touring, and booking shows in their home-base of Richmond, VA. Since this website started in 2012 I cannot think of many other bands that have promoted their shows and releases like Break Away has. Their latest album “Cross My Heart” on React! Records also shows that they can drop some amazing hardcore as well. In Effect catches up with Break Away frontman (and author) Ace Stallings in this August interview. Graphics by: Bas Spierings.
IE: What's up Ace? Where are you at this very moment and what do you think you would be doing if we weren't bothering you with these questions?
Ace: Hey what's up! I'm currently in Columbus Ohio about to play a show here. If I wasn't answering these questions I would be working on some booking stuff for some shows I'm going to promote in Richmond. I'm actually gonna do that right after this!
IE: The new Break Away full length is called “Cross My Heart” and seems to be getting great reviews from all corners of the hardcore scene. I will be up front here and say before this record came out I thought Break Away was a good band but this one really converted me into a fan. Do you and the rest of the members of the band look at this new piece of work as something that is say leaps and bounds better than your previous stuff? If so what has changed or is this a result of the members having more familiarity with one another as your time together grows?
Ace: The difference between this record and the last record was for “Face Aggression” it was like "Hey let's get 10 songs together that we like and put out an LP." For this record it was like "Let's craft a sound we are going for in 11 songs and put our message and vibe more under the microscope." This one was definitely more fine tuned. We believe it is better than “Face Aggression”, but more so in just the next evolution of that record.
IE: I recently asked this to All Out War and am going to ask you as well since you both have recently released new full lengths. What is the feeling amongst the band members as the days and weeks lead up to a new release like this? Is there a lot of anticipation as to what the reaction of fans may have or is it more of a thing where you know you did everything you could in the writing process and in the studio and whatever happens happens?
Ace: I personally was worried. I was worried we would miss the mark or that our current fans weren't going to like what we were going for. I was worried we weren't going to make any new fans, but I was still proud of what we had made and knew that it was the most natural thing we could have created. Luckily people seem to be into it!
IE: You guys put out a music video a few weeks ago for the title track which mixes footage of someone riding a motorcycle at night and footage of the band performing the song. What's the story behind the motorcycle footage? Who was riding and whereI exactly was it filmed?
Ace: The director of the video is a big David Lynch fan (as am I), he wanted to try and reflect some of his filming techniques in this video. We recorded in the country outside of Richmond and at the Warehouse which is a DIY spot that has great shows at home. The motorcycle was just something for visual effect, nothing specific, the video was all about vibe. Our friend Pierce who has roadied for us a couple times was the one riding it.
Click HERE to watch the music video for the track "Cross My Heart".
IE: Is “Cross My Heart” your favorite song off the new album? If not, which one is and why?
Ace: My favorite song is “The Sun Also Sets”. It's named after the inverse of “The Sun Also Rises” which is my favorite novel. Every line in that song is from Hemingway's suicide note. I used it as an analogy for looking back at what one has done with their lives and themselves. "Was it consumption?" "Was it for nothing?" It's my favorite because of the emotion put into it and the references to literary things.
IE: Can you get a little into the new song “Cold Wave Snow Beach”? Musically it is a great song and probably the easiest new track to decipher lyrically. You apparently have a strong message in this one.
Ace: “Cold Wave, Snow Beach” is about how growing up ones merit in hardcore (at least in my experience) was determined by how tough or "crazy" one was. In turn I grew up and still struggle with resorting to violence or being a violent person. As time has gone on though I've realized merit can't fully be determined by something so rudimentary. I went to college, I've written a book, I've "flexed my head" just as much as I've clenched my fists. The thing is, I think in this world, you have to be both to be the best. One extreme or the other will leave you lacking.
IE: From following the Break Away Facebook page it is obvious that you guys are immensely proud of being from Richmond, VA and for also being an all straight edge band. Outside of hardcore related topics give us 3 things that make Richmond so great.
Ace: Ok number 1: The restaurant culture in Richmond is insane, so many good places to eat. I literally have a list of all the good places on my phone organized by category of cost just to help me decide where to eat all the time. Number 2: Travel aspects. It's 2 hours from the mountains, 2 hours from the beach, 2 hours from the nation’s capital, and traffic is non-existent in the city. You can do one activity and drive 5 miles and be doing something completely different in Richmond. 3. Cost of living is extremely low. I pay under $300 for rent in a great neighborhood that is beautiful in any season and close to anything I would want to do. I'll give you a 4th, the art culture is outstanding.
PHOTO BY: KEN PENN
IE: Now if you had to flip the coin and give 3 not so great things about your city what would they be?
Ace: The number 1 not great thing about the city is that it's like never-never land. You don't have to grow up. Things are so cheap and "success" is defined very loosely there. So you have people that are still acting like teenagers in a bad way, well into their 30's. Number 2, no national sports team. Number 3 not close enough to Atlanta or Boston (2 other cities I really like).
IE: Are you still booking shows in the Richmond area and what are some of the more weird or out there experiences you’ve had with putting them on?
Ace: I once did a show at an Indian restaurant in like 2009 where the owner was trying to shut the show down because of moshing and no one buying drinks (no one drinks at shows in Richmond really because of the high straight edge population). So I just stole all the money and gave it to the bands and ran away. I've never really had bands have an issue with me money wise. An unnamed bigger band wanted $500 more than what was agreed upon once, but the co-promoter and myself got it for them because the show did so well. I still book a lot of shows in Richmond all the time. I have like way too many coming up.
IE: I personally don't feel that Break Away crams a straight edge agenda down anyone’s throat but I have also seen you get some flack in the past for making basic comments about it on the bands Facebook page. Do interactions like this cause you to tone down your approach to speaking about it in more public settings like Facebook?
Ace: Hell no. If anyone has a problem with straight edge they have a problem with me and can fuck off.
IE: Not too long ago In Effect had you involved with one of our work articles where we found out that for a living you do sales for UPS. Break Away to me seems like a band that could be touring way more than what you do now and I am guessing the other members and their professions are a big reason behind it. What do the other members of the band do for work and how difficult is it to actually put together a short run of shows like you just did considering everyone's schedules?
Ace: It's hard but we make it work. Eric is involved in engineering of some sort. Legan paints and wall papers homes. Dewey deals with samples for a wood company and Sam is the floor man for a tattoo shop. We also get a lot of fill-ins for every position depending on whoever can't do a tour. We have like a full B team... Haha!
IE: Many may not know that you are also an author. Give us a brief breakdown as to what you have done and is this something you plan on continuing? Writing a book seems like something that could take up a lot of your free time, something it sounds like you probably wish you had more of!
Ace: Writing my first collection of short stories took about 8 months, the process afterwards took about another 4 months to put it out myself. I am going to continue for sure and just see where it takes me. Who knows maybe I'll get someone big to pick up my first novel. I'm going to start writing that soon.
Click HERE for more info on Ace's "Mourning Songs" which is described as "A short story collection detailing the exciting and bleak tales of a particular universe of characters."
IE: Now that the new album is out and available for everyone to get what's next for Break Away? Will there be more videos? What about upcoming tour plans or significant shows to announce?
Ace: I don't think anymore videos as they are time consuming and can be expensive, but we have some plans around a Boston Edge Day that has yet to be announced in October. We will be playing this year’s Back To School Jam in New Jersey. No plans for November yet, but a couple shows down South in December in Atlanta and North Carolina. I'm going to start working on another Europe tour for next year when I come home from this tour, hopefully with Broken Teeth.
IE: That's all I got Ace. Any final words or shout outs before we wrap this up? Thanks for your time!
Ace: Shout out to Next Gen 147, Richmond Straight Edge. Stay Strong. Stay Smart.
PHOTO BY: SPENCER CHAMERLAIN