Reality breaks barrier between classical and rock

Break of Reality is difficult to give justice to. Simply put, it is a musical group consisting of four musicians: three cellists and a percussionist. More complexly, they are a classically trained, cello rock composing, group of guys who think outside the box and do two seemingly different activities at once.

“Our big selling point is the fact that we’re playing rock tunes, we’re a rock band, but we don’t play traditional rock instruments. There are three cellists, who are all classically trained. I’m a classical percussionist myself,” said Ivan Trevino, the lone percussionist of the group.

Break of Reality was actually formed at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. in 2003.

The music students came together to unleash upon the world their brand of wholly original music.

“We decided when we were in college to just do something else, something low stress that didn’t involve a ‘classical’ situation. So we just started playing music by bands we liked…. We cover tunes by System of a Down, Metallica, we even do a Slayer cover, which is, you know, eighties metal, but it sounds good on cello,” Trevino said.

The band also composes music.

“A lot of the tunes we play are original pieces kind of inspired by Radiohead meets Yo-Yo Ma meets Metallica or something. It’s kind of a weird blend of sounds,” Trevino said.

While they play a lot of music that audiences may recognize easily, only the band really knows what they can do with their specific sound, deemed “cello rock.”

Covers can only take them so far until they need to exploit their medium to the fullest, which is where the original music shines through.

“I group the band in a post-rock/post-classical kind of genre. It definitely could fit into a set list with a band like Explosions in the Sky…but also at the same time it also has some Kronos Quartet influences. It’s a weird middle ground between rock and classical influences. A lot of time we say that it is a bridge between the two. At our shows, a lot of times there’s an old married couple, a typical classical audience member next to a young college kid. And that’s what we try to do: bridge the two together,” Trevino said.

Like their name, their music is very dramatic but somehow still very simple and easy to understand. It is cinematic and moving, effective in its purity, which is derived from the audience itself because there is no guide to dictate how the listener should feel or understand the music. With just instruments, there is no singer to constrain imaginations, allowing the audience to listen freely.

“A big thing for us is allowing people to take from the music what they want…kind of create their own story or idea about the music. It’s not as simple as ‘Oh, this is a love song.’ I think it’s a little more complicated, but I think that’s a good thing. It kind of pushes our listeners to think just a little bit more about what’s going on and maybe actually paying attention to the different musical lines that are happening or maybe the different parts that are going on. It kind of creates a very engaging kind of performance atmosphere as opposed to something that’s just ‘here it is, I hope you like it’,” Trevino said.

Break of Reality is not just a band. As music students, they are always eager to get budding musicians thinking out of the box like they do and experiment musically. They do this by doing educational outreach performances at various public schools.

In doing so, they want to inspire music students to think about their instruments in different ways. They have been known to jam out and play with the music students, offering a fun and unique experience.

But these aren’t just dry musicians with their heads in the sheet music.

“Our live shows can get pretty crazy sometimes. Our cellists aren’t afraid to stand up and headbang or sometimes we do this over-the-head cello thing. Sometimes it gets crazy and fun, and I think that’s the whole point; we don’t want people to view these instruments as boring, or reserved for the classical concert hall, although there’s nothing wrong with that. We always try to push the limit,” Trevino said.

Many times, listeners are surprised to hear that a classical song they are performing is in fact a rock song reworked.

“We’ll play the Slayer tune and the old, classical fan is like, ‘oh, that was beautiful. What song was that?’ And we’re like, ‘Oh, that was Mandatory Suicide by Slayer.” And it just works that way,” Trevino said.

Break of Reality plays music that catches the ear of both classically trained musicians and audiences who do not have training.

A classical musician might praise their technique or tone, while an untrained listener would praise them for rocking out.

“We create a musical experience that isn’t going on a whole lot right now. There’s some classical crossover groups or whatever, but the unusual thing about us is and the thing that’s really cool, man, is that we’re not just classical musicians who are playing rock to play rock. We are really into the genre. We’ve probably studied it more than classical music itself. We’re closet rockers who just happen to be stuck with playing cello or percussion, but I don’t think that stops us,” Trevino said.

Break of Reality will perform Friday, Sept. 17 in the outdoor amphitheater near DramaTech on the side of the Ferst Center for the Arts. There will be two shows, one at noon and the other at 5 p.m. Tickets are free.