Toronto singer and guitarist/BRKN Love founder Justin Benlolo dropped out of school at 16 with one goal in mind…
“All I could ever focus on was being on stage, screaming into a microphone, and playing my guitar in a rock and roll band for the world to hear,” he exclaims.
Encouraged by friends and family to pursue that classic dream, Benlolo landed in New York City in 2014. However, things got off to a rough start as young Justin didn’t gel with The Big Apple . Instead, he found the “gloom” of the city isolating. He retreated into himself and devoted the requisite “10,000 hours” to his craft, spending all of his time woodshedding and perfecting his voice. A change of scenery helped as the budding talent traded the East Coast for the West Coast and settled in Los Angeles. He gradually progressed by performing incessantly throughout the city’s rock scene, drawing on many inspirations.
In the midst of it all, he experienced a crucial revelation.
“The turn of everything hit when I was 18,” he recalls. “By then, I had been living on my own for a few years, and I had experienced enough of the world to cultivate what I saw myself as all along. I was too pissed off and angry at the time to not make music that was visceral and filled with attitude. It finally all made sense.”
With the advent of bands such as Royal Blood and Highly Suspect, he was inspired, and recognized the potential for a “different kind of band—that’s not too macho and slick, but edgy enough for the punks.” Justin started tracking demos for BRKN LOVE and shortly after determined that Joel Hamilton (Highly Suspect, Pretty Lights) was the perfect producer. Joel responded to the tracks by inviting him to Brooklyn to record at his Studio G. Together, they cut the 11 tracks that would comprise the album as the band landed a deal with Spinefarm Records after a New York showcase.
Recorded live to tape in the studio, the sound preserves “a raw, real, and alive” feeling in the riffing tempered by “relatable and emotional lyrics.”
Now, the first single “Shot Down” hinges on thick guitars before Justin’s howling takes hold. It seesaws between dirty blues verses and a skyscraping refrain as he chants, “Landslide, shaking the crowd…Shot down in the bottom of a valley!”
Written at the infamous Mate’s Studio in North Hollywood, CA, it captures all of the seedy, glorious grit of the San Fernando Valley.
“It’s got a lot of sexual innuendos,” Benlolo comments. “On the contrary, it can be interpreted as a massive disaster song. There’s a landslide shaking the ground, and we’re in the middle of the valley. The world’s ending as we’re playing away.”
The airy harmonies and syncopated riffs of “I Can’t Lie” take dead aim at West Coast fakery and “friends who stabbed me in the back for no reason” with a hypnotic and heartfelt chorus. Everything culminates on “In Your Hands,” which slides from a clean intro towards a wall of fuzz and a most impressive vocal performance – which is very present throughout the recording and very noteworthy in early live shows. “ ..Hands” serves as “an ode to life that we’re going to ride the universe’s wave without worrying.”
In the end, BRKN LOVE represent a new era for rock music that’s as powerful as it is emotional.
“The name represents who I am,” Justin leaves off. “You can honestly be a hopeless romantic and play tough music. Most of the lyrics deal with love and loss. That’s the vibe. You can share your feelings and still rock your face off at the end of the day. It’s what I’m going to do.”