Today’s Feature – February 7-8: Broken Trophy

February 7, 2008 at 10:27 pm (Today's Feature)

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“An American Musician in Italy.” While this movie title sounded better in my head, it isn’t your eyes that should be taking notice of Philadelphia-born Lewin Barringer and his matchless band of Euro-based rock stars called Broken Trophy. Taking one of the rare U.S. exports that isn’t loathed by the rest of the world, American music, Broken Trophy has throttled Italy, the UK, Germany and Switzerland with music that has a multiple-personality disorder – a sound that properly and cunningly mixes the influences of Europe over an apparent American rock base.

As I mentioned before, the rest of Broken Trophy hails from across the Atlantic; lead guitarist Gabriele Ulivi is from Forte Dei Marmi Italy, bassist Francesco Pratessi from Carrara Italy and drummer Giuseppe Rotondi is from Sicily. But these guys are no strangers to American music – they’ve played with artists such as Barry White and even worked with the likes of one Paul McCartney. The variety of environments that the band has lived, worked and played in gives way to an acoustic based pop that “moves to the very Beatlesque, then to Beck influenced grooves, then to somewhere between the Foo fighters and Cream, then to folk ballads then to… well you get the idea.”

The upcoming untitled release will NOT be available as a collection on a CD. Sorry. But… don’t worry. Broken Trophy is taking progressive footsteps behind artists such as Radiohead, selling 1GB USB flash drives with not only new music, but with videos, pictures, lyrics and all the band information you could want on it. Hell, after you download every little tidbit, you still have a flash drive to use as you please – talk about forward thinking. Jump into the XXQ’s to find out more.

XXQs: Broken Trophy – Lewin Barringer

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did the band first form?

Lewin Baringer (LB): Well originally the band started in Santa Fe New Mexico with Randy Moya (bass) & Bjorn Hamre (drums). The three of us in were in a band called Standing Wave for eight years and when SW broke up we formed Broken Trophy, I think that was back in 2003.

PEV: Growing up, what kind of music were you listening to?

LB: My father is a huge Beatles fan, he still always tells me how he insisted we were all raised on “The Classics”. So the Beatles were a HUGE influence on my life early on. Simon & Garfunkel & Arlo Guthrie were also big in my early years. When I went away to college I found bands like Blues Traveler (who ironically I ended up playing with couple of times) Dave Mathews Band, Soul Hat, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock etc…

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

LB: That’s a funny story actually. For one year I had been in a candidacy program to be a film major at my college. At the end of the year of taking their classes and nothing else, I was NOT accepted into the program. While I was complaining about it the Director of the Music Department at the time, was passing by. He heard what I was saying and stopped and said that I could be a music major if I wanted. He had already heard me perform and said I didn’t need to go through an audition process and in fact I was “pre-approved” to be a music major. So, in about 30 seconds I went from trying to be a filmmaker to being a musician.

PEV: What were the earlier days like for Broken Trophy? When you were just starting out and getting into the music business.

LB: Well Broken Trophy was formed by a group of seasoned and well known musicians in the Southwest. So we had no problem getting gigs. We didn’t like, but lived with the shadow from our other band Standing Wave that had indeed reached a certain level of success. We were represented by the illustrious William Morris Agency and were managed by Philadelphonic who also works with G. Love & Special Sauce. The hardest part for me was to come up with an entire nights worth of original music. It took me a few months to write the material than about a month to get the band ready for live shows. All things considered it was pretty easy for us.

PEV: Currently living in Italy but from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, what is the music scene like in Italy? How is it different from that in the US?

LB: The music scene here is actually very similar to the scene in the states. There are a lot of great musicians struggling to find enough gigs to keep the bills paid. However I would say that the biggest difference is the audiences. The crowds here really pay attention and really appreciate good musicians. The fact that I am an American musician in Europe doesn’t hurt either.

It seems that American music is the only US export that the rest of the world isn’t revolted by! The general European attitude about Americans isn’t great. They think that we all cook our dinners in microwaves and watch Fox News non-stop. Of course I try to tell them that that is reality for only a small percentage of US citizens!

PEV: Tell us about your first live performance on stage with Broken Trophy. What was going through your heads?

LB: Our first gig was at a place where Standing Wave had spent years playing. So part of me was happy to be playing my own songs live, but another part of me felt like crap because my career was going backwards and that was rough.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Broken Trophy performance?

LB: Seasoned musicians doing what they do best… Playing high energy and fun music. People can also expect to hear a lot of different genres of music. We try very hard to mix the styles up. There seems to be a lot of industry people who keep telling us ‘it’s hard to market a multi genre group’, but I went to see Interpol play in Florence and it sounded like they played the same song for 2 hours. I think it is totally boring to hear one style of music all night. Of course I do have A.D.D so that might have something to do with it!

PEV: What do you want fans to take away from your self titled release?

LB: As improbable as it may sound, I want them to think they are hearing something new and fresh. It is so hard to make something new in music these days. Unless you’re in RadioHead or Wilco chances are you’re doing something has been done. So I guess to answer your question, I want people to love the variety of styles and to love our music!

PEV: An interesting thing is that the band decided against making CD’s. Instead you are making 1GB USB flash drives with the music, a video, pictures, all lyrics and band info on it. How did this come about?

LB: We had finished the production of the album. All the Artwork decisions were being made and as we got looking into mass CD production I just had this horrible feeling about it. We have thousands of old BT CD’s sitting in storage. The first album sold about 2,000 copies, we ordered more and then CD sales started to slide off. That was also around the time that the album became available on iTunes, which is where all the money was coming from. With this in mind I thought long and hard about how to release the new album.

RadioHead did their big famous thing, of selling their new album only on their site for whatever price you wanted to pay. That inspired me.

So we decided to not make CD’s either, but being that we’re not a huge and famous band we needed something to sell at the gigs. We settled on USB drives and 1GB drives at that. So you can buy the album with pictures, a video, and all lyrics and band bios. Then transfer it to your computer and then have a 1GB pen drive to use. It still has the Broken Trophy Logo on it, so you’ll never even forget about us! CD’s become garbage really fast. At least with the 1GB drives, they won’t be garbage for a few years.

PEV: How does the music on this album, differ from that of your earlier works?

LB: It’s a lot more Euro sounding. I don’t want to make people think that it’s full of techno beats or anything, it’s just more European rock style. One of the things for me as the songwriter that is interesting to play with the Italian musicians, is this. When I bring new material to the guys, their take on it is completely different than what any American musicians would be. Almost 90% of the time it’s like that. I love it! It means that our music as a band is completely different than anything a “single nationality” group could create. The mix of influences between them and me is astounding

PEV: Can you tell us about the meaning behind the name, Broken Trophy?

LB: It’s something that was said in reference to America during a conversation between Bjorn and myself. I liked it, Googled it and no real results came back. That was one of the reasons I liked it so much. No body had thought of it before!

PEV: Is there an artist/band on the scene right now that you think is “on the rise” and we should all be looking out for?

LB: Hundred Year Flood! They’re one of my favorite bands in the world right now and have been for a long time. They’re based out of the Southwest, sometimes living in Santa Fe New Mexico and sometimes in Austin Texas. I love them!

PEV: How has life on the road been for you? Best and worst parts?

LB: “Life” on the road is friggin’ rough. Typically we sleep in hostels on the European tours, which can be a lot of fun, but the beds are not great. But to sum it all up quickly.

The Best Part: Playing all around the world, meeting new people never gets old.

The Worst Part: The travel kills me, and the hurry up and wait game is enough to make you go mad.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Broken Trophy?

LB: I used to play mandolin for Randy Travis, Giuseppe, our drummer, used to be the percussionist for Barry White, Francesco our bass player is friends with Paul McCartney, and Gabriele our guitar player toured all of Europe for a year living only on the money he got from playing on the streets.

PEV: When the band gets to relax or have some down time, what can we find you doing?

LB: We all hang out a lot off the road. Typically we’re cooking dinner, drinking really good Italian wine and playing music.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to all your success? Are you surprised at where you are now, from where you started?

LB: My friends are always great and supportive. My family has always been behind me and my dream 100% and I know that they are all very proud of me. Am I surprised at my own success? No. I always knew that it was a matter of “when” it was going to happen not a matter of “if” it was going to.

PEV: In all your travels (US or International), which city has been your favorite to play? Why?

LB: Berlin, Germany. We just thought that they would hate our music and they turned out to be the biggest fan base we have outside of Italy! Germany is a great place.

PEV: When you write music, what kind of environment do you surround yourselves in?

LB: I typically write songs in the middle of the day. So it’s usually pretty quite and I just sit down with my guitar and my Mac and that usually does it.

PEV: What’s one word best describes Broken Trophy?

LB: Hungry

PEV: So, what is next for Broken Trophy?

LB: Getting the new album out there, touring behind it and getting really rich.

For more information on Broken Trophy, check out www.BrokenTrophy.com

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