The scene definitely experienced a heavy loss when alternative punk band Daytrader disbanded after just one incredible EP and full-length. Fortunately, most of the band’s members didn’t fade away but immediately contributed their talent elsewhere. For his part, guitarist Matt Mascarenas teamed up with Bryan Lee and Chase Griffis to form Heartless Breakers, channeling the same catchy punk dynamic as bands like Bayside and Balance & Composure. After releasing their debut EP Prescriptions last summer, the band decided to record an acoustic re-imagining aptly titled Lighter Doses. The EP replaces driving electric guitar riffs with organic strumming and the sustained bowing of a cello, while still maintaining the same gritty, emotional intensity as the original songs.
To avoid just releasing an unplugged carbon copy of Prescriptions, the band shuffles the tracklisting around while also throwing in some new material in the form of shorter musical interludes. The first one, “Distractions,” is only thirty seconds long, consisting of an incredibly raw mix of a single acoustic guitar and Griffis’ steady croon. On “Morals and Motive,” the band replaces the bombastic drums of the original track with thumping palm mutes bolstered by the cello underneath. The soaring chorus of the electric version is scaled down to sound softer and vulnerable but still feel just as cathartic. Like any good acoustic EP, the re-imagined tracks allow the vocals to shine, and the second verse of this track provides an impressive display of Griffis’ versatility.
The rest of the songs follow a similar arrangement, substituting aggression and fervency with more mellow interpretations. “Daily Restraint” also relies on the cello to help draw out the song, counterbalancing it with heavy guitar strums underneath Griffis’ voice, which begins to take on a storytelling quality similar to artists like Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It. “Burn and Bury” carries the EP into its second half with a noodly guitar riff that quickly intensifies into dramatic drumming and strings. “Monologue,” originally a heavy-hitting punk song, is stripped down to allow the song’s lyrics to truly sink in as Griffis proclaims, “We are all heartless breakers / Searching for the next best thing.”
“Bitter Melodies” is effectively turned into an uplifting lullaby, where the line “We’ll be alright” is just as powerful when gently delivered. The album concludes with “CTTD,” an acronym for “Cheers to the day” – a line borrowed from “Morals and Motive.” Despite being incredibly simple, it’s one of the best songs on the entire EP with a single lyric prime for singalongs, which the band makes obvious with group vocals and handclaps at the end. The phrase ends the album on a wholly positive note and is sure to serve as a rallying cry for all Heartless Breakers fans.
With Lighter Doses, Heartless Breakers attempt to go beyond the regular acoustic EP, tying their songs together into a new cohesive whole, thereby reinforcing the messages of struggle and acceptance already introduced in Prescriptions. This EP highlights the immense amount of thought and precision that the band is already putting into their music. Whether you prefer the acoustic versions or the electric versions, there’s no denying Heartless Breakers’ enormous potential.