BRKN Love: "We strayed away from big 100-watt stacks for this album. I like the character of a blown-up amp"

Justin Benlolo of BRKN Love
(Image credit: Miikka Skaffari/FilmMagic)

Rock biopic fans should salivate at the seemingly inevitable biopic about BRKN Love. Sure, the band has only one album under their belts, but singer/ guitarist Justin Benlolo has a backstory custom-made for the silver screen (or at least Netflix). 

At just 16 he dropped out of school and left Toronto for New York City with dreams of stardom. It took a few years of woodshedding and getting the right crew, but his lofty ambition has paid off. Their self-titled debut is full of grimy riffs and anthemic choruses, the perfect soundtrack for a “life on the road” flick.

Of course, going from high school dropout to a mature songwriter takes longer than a five-minute montage. “I started writing when I was, like, 17 and didn’t finish until I was 19. The growing experience and maturing through those years helped me understand what I had to say,” Benlolo says.

BRKN Love is Benlolo’s vision. While he’s now surrounded by capable hired guns, they didn’t come around until after the album was done. Every harmony, chord and solo is him.

“I tracked all the guitars and vocals,” he says. “I had two of my buddies play bass and drums. I can play bass and drums, but I don’t play them like a bass player or drummer would play it.”

Those guitars are crunchy in a way that’s rarely heard on mainstream releases in 2020. Now in his early 20s, Benlolo is a bit young to remember when alternative rock actually rocked, but the influence of bands like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden are all over BRKN Love. 

I love grunge. It has the aggression I love and the heaviness of Black Sabbath but also that emotional edge

“I love that stuff. It has the aggression I love and the heaviness of Black Sabbath but also that emotional edge and that punk thing you couldn’t really get in the '70s and '80s,” he says.

To get that sound Benlolo turned to a variety of 10-watt (or smaller) amps and, in his words, “cranking the shit out of” them. “It’s like the best overdrive you ever heard in your life, and then we’d just throw a fuzz pedal in front of it,” he enthuses. “That’s real distortion, in my mind. We sort of strayed away from the big Marshall or Orange 100-watt stacks. I really like the character of a blown-up amp.”

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Adam Kovac

Adam is a freelance writer whose work has appeared, aside from Guitar World, in Rolling Stone, Playboy, Esquire and VICE. He spent many years in bands you've never heard of before deciding to leave behind the financial uncertainty of rock'n roll for the lucrative life of journalism. He still finds time to recreate his dreams of stardom in his pop-punk tribute band, Finding Emo.