New Jersey’s Wave Break has been spearheaded by Kelly Barber from the start – and she remains the core. The multi-dimensional rock project continues to break barriers in their approach, most recently releasing their sophomore EP “Puzzle Pieces,” which contains a handful of songs that discuss the darkness of their evolution. But at the forefront, Barber stands tall, ready to approach any discrepancy that heads her way. Wave Break’s overall energy is a testament to Barber’s tenacity, and the band is only going to continue to make waves because of it.
Wave Break has undergone a few transformations. Is this something you’ve embraced?
Absolutely. At first I was kind of embarrassed about the fact that Wave Break has had so many different iterations already, but the fact of the matter is that so many other bands have as well. It’s very common these days to see bands that are only one or two members or have had several different lineups, and the fact that I’ve had so much trouble finding permanent bandmates doesn’t mean I’ve done anything wrong. It just means that I hadn’t found the right fit yet.
The root of the band has always been you. Recently, you’ve kept Wave Break a solo project, bringing live musicians into the mix for shows. How has it felt to be a solo operation this last year?
It’s been a bit of déjà vu because I used to do solo material before Wave Break as well. So being solo again has definitely been weird because in a way I’ve done this before, but also haven’t because back then I was just playing acoustic and didn’t have a band. But playing with live members also feels more natural and fun because I’ve been playing with other musicians since the start of Wave Break whether they were full members at the time or not. It’s been great to still be able to keep the energy of the songs at live shows in a way that I wasn’t able to the last time I was solo. I definitely still think that being in a band environment is more fun though because you get to share in everything you’re doing with other people.
What would you say is Wave Break’s core?
Our core is definitely rawness and honesty, with a dash of sassy attitude. It sounds cliché to say because in reality you should always be honest when writing music. But I have always been about writing about anything and everything that happens in my life, and not about things that don’t pertain to me. I’m not trying to seek approval from anyone, just trying to use my music to talk about things that are important to me in the most artistic way I can. It’s not as apparent on the newer EP since that one was more serious as a whole, but I also add a bit of sassiness to our lyrics here and there. All in all, with Wave Break I’m just trying to say “here’s me in my truest form” and hope other people like it.
I want to delve into your debut EP for a second – “Armory”. Do you still feel a connection to that body of work?
I do. The EP as a whole was a very natural transition from my initial solo material into Wave Break, basically having a somewhat similar sound but more upbeat thanks to the introduction of the band, as well as more polished and experienced. And the topics that I wrote about on that one are all still pretty personal to me because I’ve always taken inspiration from my life. The only difference being maybe most of the things I wrote about didn’t have as much of a long-term impact on my life. The line “all I need is time” in Circles actually still means a lot to me and helps me get through tough situations in my life. It’s a reminder to just keep going and that with time things will get better.
Would you change anything during the creative process of writing and recording “Armory”?
I would probably change the recording process, because we recorded it more piecemeal than we did with “Puzzle Pieces,” going song by song instead of instrument by instrument; so because of that the mixes don’t feel as consistent across the record. We also didn’t demo the songs before recording, we kind of just came up with the ideas at practice and then when a song was ready we’d immediately take it into the studio. So maybe there was an opportunity we missed to develop some of the ideas a bit more. But those are things we fixed on “Puzzle Pieces.”
I’m curious to know if the recording process for “Armory” felt different than the recording process of your most recent EP, “Puzzle Pieces”.
It definitely did. Like I mentioned, I had more of an opportunity to develop the ideas before going into the studio since I demoed everything out beforehand, so the songwriting on “Puzzle Pieces” feels stronger to me because of that. The process of demoing everything out was also different because instead of working with 3 other people on the songs plus the producer, I was just working with my producer to develop everything. So from start to finish, all of the songwriting was just two people. Then the fact that we recorded everything instrument by instrument instead of song by song really helped it sound like an actual cohesive record instead of just a record of songs that don’t really sound like they go together. I was also able to go into the studio with more confidence this way because we already knew exactly what we were recording.
“Puzzle Pieces” really delves into some gritty topics; I’d say it’s the most vulnerable body of work yet for Wave Break. Was this intentional?
It was. I went through a lot of tough stuff over the few years between starting Wave Break and the release of this record and it only felt natural to write about it and put out a record talking about it. I had been through relationship/mental health troubles (Hypocrite) and a breakup (Chemical Burn), lost a couple of my best friends (Unanchored), dealt with a stalker/harasser (Manic Dreams), felt overwhelmed with life from everyone needing something from me and needed time to myself (Tug of War), been severely burnt out due to a toxic job (Melatonin), all of that putting me in a pretty dark spot mentally (Stop the Car). Our 2020 single Out of Breath actually came from the same batch of songs and talked about Wave Break’s struggle with keeping afloat due to losing band members, so if the song was more stylistically similar it could have also been a part of the record. But I still added it as a bonus track to the physical version of the EP.
You’ve always embraced organic production, but “Puzzle Pieces” feels more experimental. What new production elements did you toy with during that process?
The main thing we added was dueling lead guitar parts to all of the tracks. “Armory” did not have more than one lead guitar part playing at any point, but there are parts in “Puzzle Pieces” where we might have added 2-3 different lead guitar layers to the track. We also added a short synth part in the second verse of “Chemical Burn” and some faint ambient effects to fill the space a bit in “Manic Dreams.” We also gave the record heavier production with louder and dirtier guitars and a bit more reverb on the vocals.
Wave Break recently completed an EP release tour. How would you characterize the live energy of Wave Break vs a recording? Is the energy amplified?
Our live show definitely brings the energy of the recordings to life. I’d say right now it’s right on par with the level you’d expect. The lead guitar parts and extra production elements are currently on backing tracks so they’re all still there, and I move around about as much as I can while being chained to the mic stand while playing guitar! But I’m hoping that at some point when we have a lead guitarist (right now we’re playing as a three piece with a drummer, bassist, and me on vocals and guitar) that I will get to start putting the guitar down more often and can move around more to take the energy up another notch.
Would you describe Wave Break as a means of metamorphosis?
Wave Break definitely changes as it needs to, so in a way I’d say yes. I’ve had to adapt to the lack of a stable lineup and push forward anyway, so I think recently that has been the biggest factor in our metamorphosis. Our sound is also continuously changing as well. Over time it feels like it’s getting heavier. I’m not entirely sure I’d fully categorize us as a pop punk band anymore. We’re part of the pop punk scene so we’re definitely at least pop punk adjacent, but I’d categorize us more as a post/alt rock band now.
Now that “Puzzle Pieces” is out in the world, what do you want to be your next steps?
Wave Break’s next steps mainly are just to keep writing, planning more shows and short tours, and getting back into the studio sometime soon! That’s what we’re focusing on at the moment, so stay tuned! There might be some surprises coming along the way too.
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