I had enough trouble deciding on a dress to wear to my 10th grade homecoming dance. I can’t imagine if at 16 I had to pick out an outfit to wear to the MTV Video Music Awards. Ah, but such is the life of Layla Allman, frontwoman for San Francisco-based band Picture Me Broken.
She and her trio of bandmates started out as four 12-year-olds playing cover songs, and 4 years later, they’re not only attending the VMAs but winning for “Best Breakout Bay Area Artist.” After opening for Linkin Park and playing the San Francisco Warped Tour, the group has released their debut EP, “Dearest, I’m So Sorry,” and is busy building the foundation for what is sure to be a long career in music. The group took some time out from being the coolest teenagers on the block to talk to LA Music Blog about their music, their influences, and how they celebrated the VMA win.
Tell us a little about how the band got its start.
LAYLA: We met at North Star Academy, our elementary and middle school, as 8 year olds. The idea of the band arose in 7th grade when Austin, Nick, and our former drummer Eric had started jamming to Green Day covers. I was an avid choir and musical theater geek with less-than-mediocre vocal chords at the time, but that coupled with my AFI and Green Day obsession was enough to spark my interest in singing in a rock band. I remember playing every song off of American Idiot, the most inspirational album of the last decade, for the beginning months. Those sloppy cover band days seem like a lifetime ago and remind me of how far we’ve come.
NICK: Well, we met in third grade and at the time we never ever had any intentions of forming a band. We actually didn’t know each other too well at that point, but I was best friends with Austin. He went a separate way, come 5th or 6th grade, but when I picked up guitar he and Eric approached me and asked to jam, so we did. We needed a singer and Layla asked if she could do it, so that was our original lineup. After Eric left this summer, we looked for another drummer. Connor is someone I’ve known since preschool, but I had no contact with him again until high school when I played in a second band with him for about a year. I knew he was a great drummer but wasn’t sure if he would blend with us. So I asked him to learn “Dearest” and we jammed to it, and it was perfect. I encouraged the rest of the band to consider him, and when we all jammed with him, our decision was made almost instantly.
Where would you say the band draws the majority of its influences?
LAYLA: Started out with AFI and Green Day…loved early Paramore but now blessthefall rules.
CONNOR: Mostly bands that mix pop and screamo, like A Day to Remember and Flyleaf and stuff like that.
NICK: A wide variety of genres such as metal, pop, reggae, hardcore, jazz, classic rock, death core, blues, techno…the list goes on!
You call your music “melodic hardcore.” Can you expand on that a little?
AUSTIN: Well, we’re not screamo, metal, indie, alternative, pop-rock, or anything specifically. We’re influenced by many kinds of music and our songs reflect that. We try to keep it real and not write cute, packaged songs, but we make sure not to get too deep into the screamo or metal genres either.
You recently won the MTV VMA for Best Bay Area Breakout Artist. What were your first thoughts after finding out that you won?
LAYLA: I usually have a very strong instinct indicating a win or loss with this type of thing, but this time I honestly thought it could go either way. My reaction was explosive when we popped up on the screen as the winners!
NICK: The first thing that went through my head: “Taco Bell victory celebration!”
You have also recently hit #1 on the Pure Volume charts and stayed there for nine days, which means you are right up there with very established acts like Owl City, Evergreen Terrace, and LoveHateHero. How does it feel to be recognized on par with other bands in the same genre?
LAYLA: Feels kind of funny, like we’re not really worthy of that yet…
CONNOR: Some of the bands just listed are huge influences on me, and I still can’t believe we’re up right next to them!
NICK: Super-duper awesome, especially since some of those bands are big influences on us.
Where do you draw your influences from when writing a new song?
NICK: For me, I write when I’m either really pissed or really sad or really excited. Whenever I get my feelings out with a guitar, a new song just happens. As far as musical influences, I write hard rock songs but integrate various aspects from jazz, technical metal, techno, or pop. Jazz is definitely a big one; I use a lot of jazz chords.
CONNOR: High school problems help a lot!
What is the songwriting process like for the band?
NICK: Usually I write the song on guitar to start and then the rest of the band forms parts around it, and then Layla writes lyrics after the song is instrumentally complete. Even after that, the songs go through a lot of changes, depending on how we’re feeling it.
Layla, could you tell us a little about the lyrics? Are they metaphors for things happening to you or are they not really focused on anyone in specific?
LAYLA: My lyrics are a manifestation of the chaos that takes place in my life. It’s all applicable to my personal experiences. The EP [“Dearest (I’m So Sorry)”] is a story of a year-long struggle I’ve been going through with a character whom I named Dearest; he was actually two different people who had a very similar effect on my life so both could be applied to the story that the EP tells.
What are some other highlights from this past year?
LAYLA: The overwhelming fan response from the MTV thing did it for me. Oh, and being #1 on Pure Volume.
NICK: Playing on the Warped Tour was amazing and recording with Mudrock.
AUSTIN: Having a great EP to offer to our fans and seeing it up on iTunes.
What are your current favorite albums?
LAYLA: “Witness” by blessthefall, best heavy rock album I’ve ever heard of all time.
NICK: Devil Wears Prada and Zeppelin!
When can we see you live in LA next?
AUSTIN: We’re doing two showcases October 15 & 16 at Swing House Studios someplace in Hollywood. There’s supposed to be lots of cool people from the record business there on the 15th and hopefully a lot of fans on the 16th. You’re coming to that, right?
Anything else you want to say to your fans?
NICK: Tell your friends about us…
If you want to check out PMB live they are playing this week. Click HERE to find out more.
For more info on Picture Me Broken check out: