Interview: Breton // Live at Leeds // April 2011

 TYPE ‘Breton’ into Google and you’ll be hard pushed to find much more than a reference to 60s surrealist poet, Andre.

And believe it or not, that’s about as close as you’ll get to pinning down the South East London musicians of the same name.

Search engine elusiveness aside, Breton is less pretentious than the sum of its parts, and given they hail from rough and ready New Cross, it’s safe to say the genre-bending four piece are at least aware of the connotations.

Like all good surrealists, they work against the popular grain and run in the opposite direction of “generic”.

In cherry-picking their hip-hop influences and weaving them into their own curious style of dub-step laced beats, the band have earned themselves a recent signing to Fat Cat Records and an upcoming stint in Sigur Ros’ Icelandic studios to record their long-awaited album.

Lead singer, Roman Rappak, tries to explain the very complicated process of how Breton came to be.

“Our music is a combination of all these disparate elements that when they’re put  together, your brain will pick up on it,” he says. “Like when you get a bass line and put it into a new context… it’s like the basis of all art.

“It really excites me when you take something and jumble it all up until it looks like something else.”

He pauses for a second.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I promise not to get any more pretentious than that. These are the ramblings of someone who’s been in a van for six hours drinking Lucozade.”

That, and a self-confessed childhood case of attention deficit disorder, seem to be at the root of Breton’s eclectic musical background. 

Roman – a former film and sound design student – insists they’re not your run of the mill indie kids toting a Casio under each arm – this is brooding electronica borne of misspent youth at New Cross’ finest illegal raves.

 “When I was 14, 15, it was really difficult to go see bands,” says Roman, 27. “We couldn’t get in anywhere, so there were a lot of raves and parties around South London that were illegal, where no one gave a shit how old you were, and that’s where the hip hop influence came from.

“When Breton got together, Adam [Ainger, 26] and I had been playing for a couple of years together in New Cross. We were coming from a very poor part of London where we didn’t have that opportunity to be the indie kids.

“It’s a luxury to say “I’m in this scene or that scene”, but in South London it’s really scrambled. There’s awful punk and dub-step bands and always someone else verging on the same level of shitness, so you can get away with murder there.

“That’s the wonder of New Cross, there’s no structure.”

The band formed a couple of years ago, recruiting Ian Patterson, 26, who according to Roman, bought in a much-needed ‘boot camp’ work ethic, and Daniel Mcilvenny, 21, who Roman describes as both a “ray of sunshine” and a “genius”.

They found themselves providing music to a well known, but unmentionable, sports brand, putting out some remixes and recording costly EP, Counter Balance, in the most obtuse way a band could ever find to put their name on plastic.

“We put that out as a joke,” reflects Roman. “It was like, how do you put a record out? I was a complete novice at it. I only started really getting into the music when I could download everything – you can download someone’s whole back catalogue, 25 years of someone’s history, in a second.

“But there’s a massive romance to vinyl so Ian found this guy in a shack in New Zealand who makes vinyl by hand – you have to send him a CD, and this guy will listen to it and he etches it into the vinyl.

“It was a really swift turn around…of four months. Just as we were giving up, 20 limited run copies of this vinyl turned up. We put them in Rough Trade and it sold out thankfully… it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Breton seem to like making things exquisitely difficult for themselves so it feels like a good moment to bring up their astonishing lack of online presence –  a strange marketing strategy for any fledgling band.

“There’s two schools of thought on that,” says Roman. “It’s the end of the MySpace generation, now it’s about Tweeting which sandwiches you like and what you’re doing in the studio.

“I find it really dull, it suggests that people can’t Google that shit themselves.  If people are into what we’re doing, they’ll find out.

“But on the other hand, our record label is like, “where the fuck is your Facebook page”, so there are arguments about it. What you find out on the internet, some of it’s true and some of it’s just made up. People should just work it out.”

In retrospect, turning into social media whores would be a strange move for the DIY band, whose raison d’être is to be as different to their contemporaries as possible.

Their schedule is hectic, with their diary filling up with yet more obscure antics such as going to the Czech Republic for the sole purpose of recording some violins.

“I’m going to do the strings for the album, then I’m going to beat box the orchestra so I’ve got loads of samples that never sound good when I try to play them,” Roman tells me on the sly.

“Then we’re going to play a massive set to launch the album which will probably bankrupt us because we going to get this production company to do projection mapping and get a live orchestra.”

Big plans for Breton – that’s if you can keep tabs on their whereabouts – but after seeing them live, it’s worth tracking them down.

Onstage, they resemble hooligans about to rob the nearest Maccie D’s –  a hoods-up affair compounded by playing in complete darkness.

But they’re far more accessible than one imagines, bringing together visuals and vibrant sounds in an innovatively kinaesthetic manner.

Unexpectedly, the guitar licks bear more than a passing resemblance to the staccato work of The Foals, but it’s a passing flirtation with a popular sound as their material descends into a dark fusion of ambient noise.

Stand out tracks come in the form of Governing Correctly and December, though those with more appreciation for 90s hip-hop production will probably prefer the edgier sounds of The Well.

Catch them live while you can.

Insider tip: Googling BretonLABS will get you further than any other search term.