One of Chicago’s finest instrumental rock bands, The Breakers are back on the scene with a new for 2022 CD called Strange Shores; subtitled Old Singles & New Hits.
There’s no shortage of fun times on Strange Shores. Following the success of Torch Light, The Breakers set their sights on setting the record straight regarding tracks that have slipped under radar. Strange Shores is a Breakers compilation of sorts that collects various orphan cuts that mixes several new songs with remixes, previously released singles and tracks the band bequeathed to various compilations.
The core lineup of The Breakers features lead guitarist Jim Abrahams, Marc Lockett (drums, percussion) and Jayson Slater (bass). Torch Light was a masterful album of new music The Breakers recorded last year and likewise, Strange Shores rounds out the group’s recorded repertoire and, in its own way is equally entertaining.
Some writers have noted that The Breakers don’t necessarily follow the tried and true sonic blueprint followed by many of today’s surf-rock bands and, that is simply because The Breakers take the best elements of instrumental surf-rock and blend it all together with hard hitting rock, psychedelic, garage-punk and a wealth of assorted instrumental styles. Case in point is a Breakers cover of Mike Oldfield’s main theme for “Tubular Bells” and reworks it as a surf-friendly, guitar-soaked dance track that blows the cobwebs off a track Oldfield wrote in 1973 – 50 years ago!
Same could be said about the CD closing title track “Strange Shores”. An almost eerie pall is cast in this case and the intro lead guitar sounds over-tremolo-ized before it collapses into a neo classical melody line that in turn reverts back to the spooky intro theme. So much for traditional surf indeed!
Music fans that have followed the band over the course of their albums, including Transmissions From A Hornet - Free Environment, Torch Light, A Date With Destiny and 2020’s Voodoo Treatment would not expect Strange Shores to follow the tried and true surf-rock four-to-the-bar treatment.
Strange Shores take instrumental rock into some wild and strange directions. Case in point is the CD-opening “Crystal Pistol” with its hit and run melody. Clocking in at a pulsating 2:46, the short and sweet melody will bowl you over with power and precision.
For surf-purists, track 2 “Rotation”, sounds very inspired by The Pyramids or The Astronauts with Dan Klapman’s sax, Gary Kretchmer’s trumpet and Jim Abrahams nimble pizzicato electric guitar setting the scene for what some might call a most illuminating day at the beach.
What would a cool guitar instro album be without a quick look back to the 1960s? For sure, but that’s what you’ll hear on track 3 “Steppin’ Porpoise” which harks back to The Raiders and The Monkees’ versions of the '60s classic “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone”, retooled on Strange Shores as a solid instro, driven in style thanks to Jayson Slater’s mercurial bass, Marc Lockett’s pounding drums and Dan and Gary’s burning horn work. There’s even a new imperial sounding bridge added here based on the Monkees' “Porpoise Song”, that breathes new life into this venerable classic that lives up to the 4:08 worth of time devoted to it.
Track 4, “Escalation” backs off the energy of “Steppin’ Porpoise” somewhat yet it still churns and sparkles before moving into a high action groove with Jim’s electric guitar driving the Breakers to an indescribable electrifying intensity complete with hair-raising feedback.
Things really take a turn for the “strange” with a Breakers cover of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”. It was a simple tune to begin with yet the Breakers take into a very unexpected direction before returning it to the prog-friendly sound Oldfield originally envisioned. One of my progressive rock friends hated it, yet maybe that’s why I like it so much! Clocking in at 2:37, and no offense to the legacy of the original, it’s my favorite Oldfield cover so far. The Breakers brought in the band’s good friend and local guitarist Jeff Bond, and he shares guitar parts with Jim on this one.
“Point Conception” returns things to a more normal surf-rock sound ala The Challengers, The Ventures, Dick Dale, et al, but at just 2:18, “Point Conception” is a keeper that blasts out of your speakers with in-demand ferocity. It’s a cover of the Surf Raiders original tune, which The Breakers contributed to the Wave Walk-in Surf Raiders tribute CD.
At 6:30, “Vodka Sonic” (Techno Tonic), the Dr. CAW remix, is the longest song on Strange Shores and it's maybe the longest Breakers track ever. Guitarist Jim Abrahams has been known to enjoy a drink every now and then and under the influence or not, here Jim unveils a tsunami of sound complete with a range of synths with Marc Lockett’s drums pushing the band to untold heights. Inserted at mid-point is a PSA that will run shivers up your spine. (Lol)
“The Moldau” (reprise), written in 1866 by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana, echoes the version that first appeared on early 2021 Breakers CD, A Date With Destiny. The 'Reprise version' is over a minute longer than the initial version. It’s also heavier sounding with more overdubs including some great sax and trumpet playing.
A stately Breakers cover of “O’ Holy Night”, written in 1843, brings the energy level down a bit, but it’s quickly revived on “Icicle Park”. With its sonic transcendence, “Icicle Park” is one of the best Breakers tracks so far and more importantly it kind of encapsulates the band’s wall of sound bordering on psychedelic surf of the new ‘20s.
Interestingly, the final two tracks on Strange Shores are good examples of the Breakers' approach to what might be construed as “Sci-Fi - Surf Rock” complete with mellotron backdrops, heavy guitar and spoken words warning of “Don’t Go Into The Woods” (Twilight Version).
Even better is the bizarre CD-closing title track that smacks of minimalist surf and experimental guitar noir. Short but sweet, the track is a stunning example of Jim Abrahams’ guitar-B-Q meets an Ed Wood soundtrack of surf-rock psychedelia instrumental sounds that goes unabated on Strange Shores.
Even listeners that never heard the group’s studio album classics like Torch Light and Voodoo Treatment will be blown away by the odds & sods variety on Strange Shores. Like all the Breakers classics from recent years, Strange Shores features eye-popping CD cover art that adds further luster to a most impressive album release. With its assortment set of something old, something new, something bold and something bizarre, Strange Shores is essential listening for Breakers fans and instro surf-rock fans of all ages.
mwe3.com presents a new interview with
mwe3: Why do you call the new Breakers album Strange Shores? Did you feel the time was right to assemble an Odds & Sods kind of collection?
THE BREAKERS: Marc had the idea to put our singles and compilation stuff out on one album. And the band was discussing adding some new tunes we had been thinking of, so we did. Hence the “old singles and new hits”. We had discussed some new album art with Mark “Topes” Thompson, who had worked up the album art for “Torch Light” and the early art concept led Jim’s daughter to suggest the name. It really resonates with the cover art, and the overall album composition.
mwe3: What’s your impressions of the vibes on Strange Shores, say compared to Torch Light and A Date With Destiny?
THE BREAKERS: Well, Torch Light and Voodoo Treatment were more “complete” albums that had a curve to them, sonically and compositionally. Our first one, which came out of us playing locally, here, Transmissions From A Hornet Free Environment has some great songs, some of our favorites - but has less of a cohesive feel, in my opinion.
A Date With Destiny was an ep, so a sort of mini - version of the same - but we included a couple of back burner tunes.
The current release is maybe a little more like the EP, kind of like an “extended EP”.
We already have a pretty good next - album, full record concept going. We are going start recording again in December / January. We practice in the studio, so it’s not like it will be unfamiliar surroundings for us!
mwe3: Who else plays on Strange Shores with the core Breakers lineup of Jim, Marc and Jayson? Tell us about the guest musicians and also about the album artwork that follows the cool album artwork on the earlier Breakers albums.
THE BREAKERS: Our buddy Chris Stavrou played cello on the original version of “The Moldau” on A Date With Destiny; we had to cut the song down a bit on that release, but we brought the whole recorded piece back, and added horns from our buddies & brothers in arms Gary Kretchmer (trumpet) and Dan Klapman (saxophone), who have become our horn section when we have horns in play. The guys are fantastic, and are the guys whenever you hear horns on our tunes.
Our buddy Jeff Bond added some guitar to our cover of Tubular Bells, our producer Craig Williams added the tremolo guitar on “Don’t Go Into The Woods”, and I worked with my son Jack and Craig on the samples, keyboards and mixing, on Vodka Sonic (Techno Tonic) to do a kind of techno remix of one of our tune Vodka Sonic during the Covid lockdown.
It was a weird time where everybody was segregated, my kids had come back home from college, And my son and I stayed up overnight a couple of nights to work on this. A memoriam of a very unique time. And it wouldn’t have been possible without the band knocking the original Vodka Sonic out of the park.
mwe3: Do you feel The Breakers are taking the entire Surf-Rock sound into “strange new directions” and that maybe some of the old surf traditionalists feel you might be a bit irreverent when it comes to improving on the “tried and true” surf-rock sound? Of course, some of the prog-rock traditionalists might not “get” The Breakers covering Mike Oldfield’s theme from “Tubular Bells” also!
THE BREAKERS: The original, traditional canon is always the foundation of what we do. We started out with covers of Dick Dale, The Trashmen, The Astronauts, The Pyramids, The Chantays, The Ventures, The Atlantics and more recent bands like The Surf Raiders, The Penetrators, The Space Cossacks and others. Add to that a bit of Pink Floyd, Joy Division, and even Cocteau Twins type stuff.
There are a bunch of bands who expand on the basics; I suppose we are one, but there are definitely others, as well. Basically, we have an “emotional concept” that we want to convey with each song - sometimes it works better than others, but it’s always what we’re always aiming for.
mwe3: The title track, the song “Strange Shores” is a good example of the different approach the Breakers take compared with other bands that seem to revel in the old school sounds of surf. My only complaint with the title track is that it’s too short!
THE BREAKERS: Yeah, we recorded that as a kind of a “tag” to the end of the album. As that, it probably works, but it could have been longer. It’s a cool base for live stuff.
mwe3: Tell us about “Crystal Pistol”. It has a bit of a Spaghetti Western sound to it but when I listen, I hear a great surf-rock soundtrack. I can see the big “breakers” crashing down as surfers ride the wild surf trying to stay on their boards. I remember when we called huge waves as “breakers”, although some may get the wrong idea from the name “Crystal Pistol”! lol
THE BREAKERS: Straight ahead, high energy rocker with a ton of reverb & some modulated echo. It is maybe The only song we have recorded without a live spring reverb; I’m playing through Rick Wilkinson‘s Austin Ribbon Microphones’ Summer Reverb pedal on this one. It sounded great as we were practicing, so we kept it. A couple of folks have noted in reviews that it sounds a little like a more rocking track from Chameleons UK, or some of the other early post punk bands. That is right on; the concept was to merge that kind of thing to a more surfy kind of tune. Pretty much a one - take deal, after a couple quick false starts. And yes, it does sound like crashing waves!
mwe3: Is “Rotation” a Dick Dale inspired song. The sax and trumpet add a lot to the sound. It has a kind of soundtrack sound to it too. The word “rotation” has multiple meanings. Do you like song titles with multiple meanings?
THE BREAKERS: We do - the feeling we wanted on that song was kind of, the world keeps going around, you have keep marching, with some tension and forward motion through the song, and some ascendant horn parts and octave changes. We also wanted it to be a spooky, tension-filled kind of song, with some ascendant horn parts, if that makes sense - we think it worked pretty well.
mwe3: When I was a kid Paul Revere & The Raiders cut their classic “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone”. What made you change the name to “Steppin’ Porpoise”? lol Also, you added a kind of stately middle section that is very cool. Are there porpoise sounds added to the new middle section or it that Jim’s glissando guitar sounds? The horns add a lot too. It was always a great song, even with vocals, but the instrumental sound really ignites the melody!
THE BREAKERS: It was pretty much a combination / interpolation of The Monkees version, actually although Paul Revere and the Raiders recorded it first, and “The Porpoise Song”, also by The Monkees, a psychedelic classic. Worth a swing!
mwe3: What about “Point Conception”? Is that an original? I know it’s a famous surf spot in California? Tell us about the Breakers version of “Point Conception”.
THE BREAKERS: It is not an original - but it is one of the first tunes we played live! It is a song by The Surf Raiders. Bob Dalley, who ran the Surf Raiders, wrote Surfin’ Guitars, a massive archive of the surf guitar canon, and who has been a big supporter of our band.
Bob asked us if we would do this for the Surf Raiders tribute album, Wave Walkin’ , which we were more than happy to do. Messur Chups contributed an excellent, and more “traditional” recording of the song to the same album, which is fantastic.
mwe3: “Escalation” is another Dick Dale-inspired song. It starts off slowly and even apprehensive yet it really kicks ass as it picks up steam. Is that why you called it “Escalation? That’s another cinemagraphic track as you can see the surfers riding the breakers in the gleaming sunlight.
THE BREAKERS: That’s a great take, Robert. The song started with us watching the escalation of the Russia / Ukraine situation, over several days, before it really lit off. Marc hit me in the arm and said, “Hey, I have a great idea for a song called ‘Escalation’ - give me a little bit to work out the drum part. I went home and started thinking of a guitar part that might work for what Marc was suggesting. A day or so later, we got back together, he pounded out the drum part and tempo. I had the basic guitar part down, and the three of us finished it up the studio. The song certainly “Escalates”, with the meaning open to the listener.
mwe3: Tell us about why you chose to pick “Tubular Bells” as a cover. Very little of that Oldfield track is surf inspired, yet The Breakers rearrange it in a very unique and even humorous way! Did you choose to cover it because it was theme from The Exorcist? It was originally a horror movie soundtrack, but your cover breathes new life into it. The only down side is that no one will be scared by the Breakers version! Lol Although Jim does some fancy picking when the main theme is further exposed near the end. Oldfield must have made millions from the Exorcist connection! Tell us about the keyboards the come in near the end.
THE BREAKERS: Yeah, we picked that to do as a Halloween single a couple of years ago, on a whim. The keyboards at the end were actually a guitar through an Electro Harmonix Mel 9 pedal, if I remember correctly. Our buddy Jeff Bond and Jim traded licks on that one.
mwe3: The version of “Vodka Sonic” on Strange Shores nearly doubles the version on 2020’s Voodoo Treatment. Why did you choose to remake / remodel “Vodka Sonic” on Strange Shores and how are they different? I like the PSA in the middle of the track. L.A. under Marshall law sounds like fun!
THE BREAKERS: Yeah, we worked on that song over the Covid lockdown. We figured we would try kind of like a techno remix at something completely different! We did a little rhythm breakdown, and my son and I added some keyboards during an all-nighter in that early Covid lockdown period. Most of the clips came from the old science-fiction movie, “Them” - they were pretty applicable during that time!
mwe3: Same goes for “The Moldau (Reprise”) which the Breakers did on 2021’s A Date With Destiny but the reprise version adds over a minute more to the Breakers original. I forgot how you came by that song in the first place. Smetana might not be a household word yet the melody has a “Deja-vu” feel to it. Did you know anything about Smetana the composer? What surf-rock band can cover an obscure classical piece from 1866? Answer: The Breakers! Tell us about reworking “The Moldau” with this Strange Shores reprise version.
THE BREAKERS: We thought it was a pretty cool idea to cover it in the first place, but it came out a little long, so the original version was actually edited down from the live performance. We decided to add that back in, to showcase all of our friend Chris’s cello playing, some of which had been cut out with the edit, and also figured it would be a good platform for Dan and Gary to add some cool horn parts to, as well.
mwe3: “O’ Holy Night” is another revered track. Is this the first time you recorded it? It does have a kind of Christmas flavor to it. It’s been done many times but mostly sung with lyrics. Another song that dates back to the mid 1800’s. Tell us about the history of the Breakers version of “O’ Holy Night”.
THE BREAKERS: We originally did that to contribute to Mark “Malibu” Sanders’ first Surfin’ Kitty Christmas compilation album, which was a charity effort to help the Pinetree Stables Cat Sanctuary in The Grand Bahamas. It’s a great melody; we wanted to do a proper take on it, for that effort.
mwe3: “Icicle Park” is one of my favorite Breakers tracks. It really has it all. Is it a new tune or was it recorded earlier? Tell us about the name of the song title?
THE BREAKERS: “Icicle Park” was actually recorded for the second Surfin Kitty Christmas charity compilation album. I believe there’s going to be one more, great cause, and the first 2 are great holiday themed listens. We wanted this one to feel like an epic sleigh voyage through a stormy Arctic tundra, kind of. The “icy” reverb, with Marc’s pounding drums and Jayson holding down the low end really brings the feeling of that composition across.
mwe3: The version of “Don’t Go Into The Woods” is a remix. The original was from 2019’s Transmissions From A Hornet -Free Environment. Tell us about the “Twilight Remix” of the track. There’s actually 3 different versions of “Don’t Go Into The Woods” right?
THE BREAKERS: There are. The original has a voiceover that comments on the current state of politics, which can be found on the YouTube video for the original, which also included a tremolo guitar part that was pitched in by our producer, Craig Williams. We felt like adding an instrumental version, without the voice over at the end of the first album. For this one, we thought we would keep just a couple areas of the vocals, disembodied, to keep it spooky. It’s a cool remix to lead up to the end of the album.
mwe3: For guitar noir fans it doesn’t get a lot better than the title track “Strange Shores”. Is that track about as strange as The Breakers get? Just over 2:07 it’s totally amazing and a fun way to close the album of the same name? Tell us about the song “Strange Shores”.
THE BREAKERS: Yep. For that one, we had a pretty simple, and short, piece in mind, as a kind of spare, ghostly melody, like being lost on an island, that picks up a little in the middle section, before returning to the eerie melody in a higher register. Marc had a great idea of running to go get a rain stick to add to the ambience of the piece.
mwe3: Tell us about Surf 100 festival and future plans for 2022 and beyond.
THE BREAKERS: The Surf Guitar 101 convention was fantastic. I was lucky to be able to go, as I already had a trip out to California planned to visit my dad and my brother. We would’ve loved to go together, but with the timing, not all three of us could make it. Jeff Hansen really put on quite a coordinated day, and it was great to see and hang out with so many cool people, some of whom I knew already, some who knew digitally, and some new friends as well.
There were some great performances by all the bands and I mean great! They were all notable, with bands like The Volcanics, The Nebulas and The Surfer Joe trio sharing the stage. It was fun in particular to see The Scimitars, who focus on instrumentals with a heavy Middle Eastern influence, and they are working on their first recordings. I’m sure those will be fantastic when they are finished.
The best thing about that day was one thing we all know about this genre of music - it draws some of the absolutely nicest, most creative, supportive and fun people on the planet! That trip resulted in the addition of many new T-shirts, one new pedal and one new guitar to the collection, to the dismay of my wallet!
In terms of the rest of the year and beyond, we were set to play in the first 'Third Coast Surf Fest' In the suburbs of Chicago earlier this summer, but some issues between the city and the venue ended up in that event being canceled and postponed till next year. We are looking forward to that one. We have a few shows coming up to close the year out, with some others likely to be added, and we have committed to contributing a song to the third Surfing Kitty Christmas, if that happens. And, we are starting to roughly sketch out the concept, song titles, and some of the song ideas for the next album, so that will probably be coming down the Pipeline before you know it!