One of the oddest groups ever signed to Merge records in the early 90s, Breadwinner still left an undeniable mark on the world of both indie rock and metal. Surprising, considering the band only existed for a brief two years and their recorded output (compiled almost completely on The Burner) totals under 25 minutes. For fans of what is or what was instrumental math rock, this group may very well be the true genesis of the form.
While their origins seem more mysterious than they actually are (mostly due to the lack of press Breadwinner received), it is known that the group was formed out of Virginia punk mainstays Honor Roll, while the trio of Pen Rollings, Robert Donne, and Chris Farmer had been playing together for a number of years before getting together as Breadwinner. Merge records signed the group and put out a couple of 7” singles before they parted ways in 1992. While the members later moved on to other projects (bassist Donne joined post rock pioneers Labradford) none of them recorded anything that would come close to the energetic jolt of Breadwinner.
Retaining the speed and ferocity (as well as the short song lengths) of their punk roots but throwing in the technical rhythmic complexity of prog rock and precision of speed metal, the band was likely more confounding to crowds than well loved during their brief career. Nevertheless, they forged a musical identity that would be extrapolated on in a hundred different ways in the years to come. Notably touring the surrounding states, it could be inferred that the group was a catalyst for the formation of like minded (but remarkably different) acts such as Don Cabellero and Polvo. The Burner is certainly a memorable blast of schizophrenic prog metal, even if it is over before you know it.