Picture Me Broken – Brooklyn Allman Screams Out

Their names are Brooklyn, Nick, Austin, Connor and Will. Collectively they are known as Picture Me Broken. Hailing from the bay area, and with one hot EP already under their belts and a following other young bands could only wish for, they are about to be known as the next big thing in "hardpopternative-core.". With a new record deal with Megaforce Records, a new album called Wide Awake coming out in July, and some of the best sounding vocals you’ve heard in a very long time, PMB are ready for the big time.

Formed in 2005, when they were all of 12 years old, PMB started out as Lane Four, performing mostly hard rock covers at events such as church festivals. After getting some good buzz and winning a few local contests, they began writing original material and changed their name to Picture Me Broken to coincide with the new band format. But why that name? “It came from a shampoo bottle,” explains vocalist Brooklyn Allman. “I saw a shampoo bottle that said “color me happy” on it. And then I was like, well, what if we said “color me broken”. Then we eventually changed the word color to picture … it just sort of stuck.”

Their 2009 EP, Dearest I’m So Sorry, caught fire and earned them the MTV VMA for Best Bay Area Breakout Artist. How are they handling all the accolades? According to bassist Austin Dunn, “things just keep moving along at a lightning pace. As soon as we get excited about one accomplishment, another challenge or another opportunity approaches. It seems like so long ago that we won the Breakout Artist award and yet it has not even been a year.”

Describing themselves as, in guitarist Nick Loiacono’s words, “hardpopternative-core”, their new album should definitely gain them even more fans. “The main difference between the Dearest EP and Wide Awake”, explains Austin, “is that we were able to spend a lot more time on the songs, both in pre-production and during recording. Instead of traveling down to LA to record, we stayed relatively close to home and worked out the album on our own time, making sure the parts were right and nothing got left out or rushed”.

Recently, they added rhythm guitar player Will Escher. “I came to be in the band by being a part of the local music scene with a solo acoustic project,” explains Will. “[Brooklyn] invited me over to one of the band’s practices and I haven’t missed one since. Everything became more official every day and now I’m completely on board.”

Along with energetic drummer Connor Lung, Nick, Austin, Will and Brooklyn have a band that is ready and willing to rock your socks off.

Speaking with Brooklyn recently (whose father happens to be a well known Mr. Gregg Allman), she was excited about the new album and getting the word out about her band.

You just signed with Megaforce Records. How did that come about?

You know we’d already been recording a new album and then we were approached by, well, we actually were talking about having a label. Then we approached Megaforce through our lawyers and stuff and they actually offered us a distrib deal. So basically our album is going to be in stores on a release date of July 06 and we’re really excited about it cause its really great to work with them. They’ve been really supportive of us and we really feel like the new album is something we’re proud of and we’re glad that we could release it officially.

Who produced it?

There’s actually three different producers on the album. It’s primarily produced by Scott Llamas and he is a Bay Area producer who’d worked with a lot of local bands and we heard a lot of good feedback. So we did about 6 songs with him that we originally intended were going to be an EP and then we got approached by Megaforce. So we decided to make a full length.  So then we decided to take some songs off our old EP, which was produced by Andrew Murdock, aka Mudrock, who’s worked with the bands Avenged Sevenfold and Godsmack. So there’s two tracks; one track of his is on there and then we have the guy who did “Dearest” and we also recorded “Echoes Of An Empire” with him. We actually redid did that and that’s Aaron Hellman and he’s really a great guy.

Was it different recording Wide Awake?

Oh yea most definitely. I mean like the first EP we did in one week straight. It was all intended to be an EP. We knew exactly what we were doing but this one we just kind of started recording indefinitely cause we needed some new songs and then we just pieced it together over like six or seven months and then it became a full length album. We’re really proud of it.

Austin said one of his favorite new tracks was “Skin & Bones”. Do you have a favorite?

Yea, I think as a band we all feel that “Skin & Bones” is a really good representation of us and our style. So I definitely say that “Skin & Bones” is up there for me. And I’m also a big fan of a song we have called “Nerds & Cigarettes” because we did some really trippy stuff with the music. It combines a lot of genres, like there’s even some hip hop influence in there. It’s crazy. We really went crazy with the beat and the strings and stuff and like it’s an incredible representation of the post hardcore style. But I think we really pushed the standards with it.

Who writes the lyrics and brings in the melodies?

I write all of the lyrics. I write the melody and we write the music collectively. Nick and I are usually the catalyst of the songwriting process. We’ll begin writing, we’ll bring the riff. We generally start the song out with the riff one of us wrote or like a short context and then the band as a whole will build around a chord progression. Then we’ll start formulating a full song and adding in the finishing touches.

One of my favorite songs off of Dearest is “If I Never Wake Again”. It starts off so sad with the piano intro and just builds the emotion.

That’s actually going to be on the new album … I’m a classically trained piano player and that song was originally intended to be a full band song. But then we were working with our producer Mudrock and he said play that on the piano; and I was playing and he liked it just totally stripped down. But I decided I wanted to make it just something really melodic and dark and dramatic and that’s where all the intro sounds came from and all the dark effects. I just felt like it built a really nice ambience. The whole song highlights a really dramatic effect … It was actually one of the most easiest set of lyrics I’ve ever written. Came to me so fast. I was trying to write something really like emotional and the song tries to express how you want to be remembered despite any mistakes or mistakes you made despite any flaws that you may have. It’s kind of a depressing song.

Have you always known you wanted to be a singer?

I wanted to be an Olympic swimmer when I was a little kid. And I was training for that and I was just a really serious swimmer and athlete. And then I remember in 7th grade I heard about Austin, Nick and our former drummer Eric were jamming together. I had also been in choir and musicals. So I decided that maybe I’d ask them if I could jam with them sometime and we started playing Green Day covers and classic rock covers and then ever since the band started practicing regularly I decided I wanted to do it.

What did your Mom think when you went from being this great swimmer to screaming and singing?

The swimming faded out gradually. I mean this is the first season I wasn’t able to swim at all. She’s been very supportive of it. She manages us pretty much. I mean she’s one of our managers and she supports the band a lot … She was sad about the swimming but she was ok with it.

How would you describe your music to someone just discovering PMB?

We like to use the term melodic hard rock. We could also put in a little post hardcore screamo influence but we’re definitely more melodic and we try to write really epic sounding music and it’s definitely in the hard rock category. But it’s a little more; we try to add our own little touches to it. It’s really a combination of a lot of different genres but I’d say the root of it all is just plain old hard rock music.

You must get so tired of being constantly compared to those other bands who I will not name.

I get so tired of it because just because I’m a female singer they immediately compare us to THAT band [Paramour] and they’re a completely different genre. It’s literally like comparing Fall Out Boy and Avenged Sevenfold just because they have a male lead singer. It’s completely absurd.

Things seem to be happening so fast for you guys. You’ve won competitions, been named an MTV VMA Breakout Artist, the gigs, the publicity. Is your head spinning yet?

The amount of change that has happened in the last year has been completely overwhelming. Like if I looked at where we were a year ago at this time compared to now it’s absolutely mind blowing to me. So it’s been really exciting to watch us grow and watch everything we’ve worked for you know actually result in something to be a career for us … It’s been amazing. But there’s so much more that we want to do that we’re still working. We work really hard. We practice four days a week or more for like two to three hours. It takes a lot of dedication. I don’t think there’s anything else that takes more dedication than this.

You went to SXSW this year. How exciting was that?

That was incredible. It was so busy. We got a little taste of what its like to you know have this as a full time job. We had interview after interview, like five shows in four days and it was absolutely crazy. Then we were interviewed by MTV and VH1. I was doing blogs for MTV Newsroom about our experience. Had so much to talk about, so much happened at SXSW. One of the best memories I have.

All the band members are still in high school. How do you manage band practice and gigs and homework and still keep your grades up?

My grades are not good. Neither are Connor’s. Nick, Austin and Will manage to keep theirs ok. Like I go to a really rigorous academic school and it’s like one of the toughest schools like in the country. I got into that school before I was really serious about the band, back when I was a really good student. Then it went a little downhill. (laughs) My focus is definitely primarily on music. I always manage to get my priorities you know the way that I want them and that way I get everything that’s important to me done … I’m not going back next year. I’m doing online school so that’ll alleviate a lot of pressure.

What do you do when you don’t have things to do with the band? Are you a normal teen?

A normal day I have like three or four hours of school each day and then I’ll go to that and then when I come home I’ll try to work out. I try to work out every single day. I just notice that I don’t sing as well when I don’t work out. We’re so energetic onstage it’s really important for me to have to maintain physical fitness. So that’s a huge priority for me. And then I’ll hang out with my boyfriend – he’s really nice. He’s great. I will brag. (laughs) He’s very cute. I’m not really the type to go out or party or anything. I don’t really go out. I get a night off, I’d rather just relax and watch movies or something like that.

You have such a wonderful voice. It’s so melodic and then all of a sudden you just let loose with this gut wrenching scream. How do keep from destroying your voice?

Thank you. It’s really the type of vocal chords you have. Who knows what damage its doing in the long run but it comes pretty natural to me. I mean if you’re singing from the right place. I have a lot of power in my voice and I learned how to do the scream and it’s basically just sending air in the right places. It’s pretty easy to transition once you really learn to have total control over your vocal chords. I had my learning curve with the screaming; it was very bad for awhile. I was playing shows for awhile and it was very embarrassing but once you get the hang of it its just a sense of having total control over your vocal chords; to be able to transition to be able to make the sound.

What is the scene like in your area? Are there a lot of bands out there competing for the same gigs?

You know getting shows has never been really hard for us. We always make good relationships on the scene and it’s actually a pretty great scene. There’s always shows and tons of local bands and we all support each other and it’s actually been really great for us. I mean we’ve been able to get out there and play shows consistently since we were 12 years old because the scene allows for that. And there’s so many opportunities to play shows if you’re a band. We’ve always had great relationships and gotten the bookings that we’ve needed. So it’s been great, really supportive … I’m really digging this band called A Night In Hollywood. They’re one of the stronger local bands out here. There’s some really good groups out here on the scene. There’s one called Raelin; we’ve been playing with them for a really long time and they’re really great.

Do you remember the first song that really hit you?

That would definitely be “Silver & Cold” by AFI. AFI was a huge catalyst in sparking my interest in rock music and they were my first favorite band and the first band that I legitimately got in to; the first album I bought on my own. And to this day they are a huge inspiration to me.

You said not long ago that “fame is nothing; it’s an illusion”. Do you still believe that?

Yea I believe its all about music. I don’t think true musicians do it in order to get famous or anything. I believe it’s just a passion; it’s the ability to play music and have that be your career. I mean it’s like it’s not about the admiration it’s about the passion honestly. All I want to be able to do is to be able to play music and do nothing else. I want to reach a point where I can do that. That’s the ultimate goal rather than fame.

Last Question: Do you have a favorite charity?

I’m a huge animal lover and anything to do with animals. We’re also supporters of To Write Love On Her Arms [www.twloha.com]. That’s a really good foundation and we’re actually on one of their compilation CDs.

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