How about this for a first time festival gig: landing on the same bill as Foo Fighters, Outkast and Jack Johnson. If that sounds ridiculous, imagine how Irvine indie popsters Breach the Summit felt when it actually happened to them. Considering that their guitarist is still in high school and only one member is of drinking age makes nabbing a slot on the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware, all the more impressive. Before hitting the road for their inaugural festival appearance–in a fixed-up 1995 Ford Champion mini-bus–the band has a warm-up hometown show at the Slidebar Rock-N-Roll Kitchen in Fullerton.
Last October keyboardist Sam Beresford was cruising through a flurry of Internet music contests when he came across The Big Break for Firefly. At the time he wasn't familiar with the competition or the fest, and after entering, he didn't give much thought to the outcome. After being notified that BTS made it into the top 15 out of 2,500 entries, he had a moment of disbelief.
"I don't know how they narrowed it down," he says. "We somehow made the top 15 and from there it was just fan voting. We kept surviving every single day and eventually rose to the top three winners. It's one of the most unbelievable things that's happened to us as a band, and we're just so thankful for it."
Breach the Summit heads out for the festival in early June, stopping in Texas for two shows along the way. While the Firefly opportunity was a huge win for the band, there were other signs leading up to the contest that encouraged them. They picked up OC Music Award nominations for Best New Artist in 2013 and a subsequent nod for Best Pop in 2014. In between the noms, they were pleasantly surprised to be approached by Avenged Sevenfold's management for representation. Taking into account their catchy hooks and the multi-tasking talents of front man/drummer/overall charmer Olen Kittelsen, their string of success isn't too surprising.
The young band's musical chops largely stem from early childhood experience. Beresford, who began playing keys at age 6, met guitarist Jacob Berger in a high school music group. The after-school group was led by their late, beloved Irvine music instructor Todd Larsen, who both Berger and Beresford credit with inspiring them to pursue their dreams. Kittelsen was already a seasoned performer when he picked up drumsticks at age 5. He would tag along with his father, a music therapist, to sing for elderly and Alzheimer's patients, which sparked his early adoration for sound.
"I really started to realize the power that music had, and that it was so universal. People would be kind of out of it, and then hear a song and light up and start singing along," Kittelsen says. "Music transcends all emotional, physical and mental ailments. Those experiences stuck with me."
Breach the Summit's indie vibe and pop savvy combine to create a sound that's youthful enough to snag the attention of Millennials and substantial enough to perk up the ears of Gen-Xers. The group, rounded out by bassist Kody Buxton, feels that while their latest EP, The City, is something to be proud of, they're still striving to reach their full potential. Winning a slot on a lineup that includes some of the biggest names in the music industry might be just the push they need.
"I think that every band goes through a period where they're not taken completely seriously, where it's just friends and family coming to shows," Beresford says. "Ever since the lineup came out for Firefly and everyone saw our name at the bottom of it, it changed how people look at us."
Breach the Summit perform at the Slidebar Rock-n-Roll Kitchen, 122 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-2233; www.slidebarfullerton.com. Thurs., May 22, 8 p.m. Free. 21+; also at UCI's Summerlands Music Festival; www.asuci.uci.edu/summerlands. Fri., 4 p.m.