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Post Rock/Math rock • United States

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Breadwinner biography
Upon the demise of Richmond,Virginia hardcore favorites HONOR ROLE in 1989, guitarist Pen ROLLINGS [pictured left] helped form the even heavier BUTTERGLOVE and subsequently BREADWINNER (not to be confused with pop group of the same name) in 1990 with bassist Bobby DONNE and noted drummer Chris FARMER. The band lasted from '90 to '92 and BREADWINNER's early singles & compilation EP 'Burner' [1994,Merge] are cited among the premier influences - if not the first true releases - in the Mathrock movement. As Jordan Mamone notes: "At once economical and bombastic, they redefine the power trio concept. Rollings sculpts a perfect guitar tone out of tweezy treble and fat low frequencies. The rhythm section is almost too good, but throws enough trip-fills and grunts into the dense compositions to transcend anal retention".

After drummer FARMER left for Germany, ROLLINGS and DONNE made a go of it with another skinsman but didn't find the same chemistry and BREADWINNER split-up. DONNE joined LABRADFORD and guitarist ROLLINGS tried his hand at drumming for Richmond-based LADYFINGER, eventually joining progmetal band LOINCLOTH around 2000.

Residing in multiple realms including metal, post-hardcore and math, BREADWINNER's music was abrasive, complex and buzzsaw-heavy early American Mathrock at its very best, and the trio ended up having huge impact on many of the important bands of the scene.

- Atavachron (David) -

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Merge Records 1994
$12.50 (used)
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BREADWINNER discography

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3.91 | 5 ratings

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 Burner by BREADWINNER album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1994
3.91 | 5 ratings

Breadwinner Post Rock/Math rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Progressive sludge grunge in full nerdy regalia. BREADWINNER were a short-lived math rock meets alternative metal ( = math metal ) band that formed in Richmond, VA in 1990 and lasted a mere two years leaving very few historical artifacts in their wake. However, despite the scarcity of product, the trio of Pen Rollings on guitar, Robert Donne on bass and Chris Farmer on drums have been cited as one of the very first early bands to fall under the genre category of math rock that took the sounds of noise rock and post-hardcore and married them with complex time signature deviations usually reserved for jazz and progressive rock and taking it even further into more abrasive and alienating arenas.

The compilation BURNER is a mere EP in length release that only hits the 20 minute and 23 second mark but nevertheless compiles the complete catalogue of the band's output including their one EP "Supplementary Cig" as well as the two singles "Tourette's" and the untitled track that usually is simply written as " ". Each single acts effectively as three track EPs with some tracks appearing twice. This compilation BURNER also includes three unreleased tracks which constitutes the band's entire musical output which appeared on Merge Records which would go on to become more famous for breaking more known indie rock artists such as Squirrel Nut Zippers, Lambchop, Neutral Milk Hotel and Arcade Fire.

Despite the misleading album cover that brings collages of indie pop electronica albums to mind such as Stereolab, the music is characterized by heavily distorted guitars and bass with fairly robotic and precision timed drumming that follows the same style as heard in sludge metal bands. Labeled as math rock but BREADWINNER existed before the term did, the jittery time signature attacks are wrapped up in thrashy metal riffs, doom laden grooves with post-punk artistic guitar counterpoints while the tracks exist somewhere between the monotonous stream of post-rock, the technical time signature frenzies of math rock and the extreme caustic bombast of extreme metal with heavy crushing distorted guitars turned up to maximum decibelage.

The music is entirely instrumental and the band has been cited as an influence for Battles and Lamb Of God but this sort of post-hardcore / metal fusion seemed to be quite popular with bands in the 90s and i can hear aspects of BREADWINNER that also could have possibly influenced many bands ranging from Thought Industry to even Tool. While the metal scene of the day was dominated by glam metal as well as the nascent extreme metal of thrash, death and doom, BREADWINNER was in a world of their own that offered glimpses into the mainstream culture without adhering to the paradigms that had been codified into orthodoxy. Highly precise without existing in the world of guitar shredders, BREADWINNER somehow drifted into a new technical realm of the extreme noise rock meets metal universe and in the process laid down the grounds for other bands to build upon.

 Burner by BREADWINNER album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1994
3.91 | 5 ratings

Breadwinner Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Seminal math trio from the fertile hardcore & experimental rock scenes of the northeastern U.S., Breadwinner resulted after Virginia bands Honor Role and Butterglove split up, spearheaded by madman guitarist Pen Rollings with Bobby Donne on bass and the bare-knuckle drumming of Chris Farmer. Burner is a screeching crunch fest of players eager to show how you can do hardcore sh*t with precision and taste, and is one of the crucial early releases in what became known as Mathrock. 'Tourettes' is loud and has some unnerving vocalizations. The madness of 'Ditch', relentless thrash in 'Kisses Men on the Mouth on the Mountain', mathcore of 'Prescott', and twisted, chugging metal for 'Macs Oranges', 'Knighton' and 'Turtlehead' just leaves the listener wanting more.

Cited as "the consummate math band", Breadwinner's singles from 1991 & '92 and this compilation from '94 were key in the direction taken by like-minded groups in the Mathrock movement and their uncompromising blend of ratty metal, post-punk energy and rhythmic obsessiveness paved the way for a new voice in instrumental insanity. A must for serious mathies.

Thanks to atavachron for the artist addition.

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