Germantown band clinches win at battle of the bands

July 28, 2014

Germantown — One day they aspire to be an athletic trainer, biomedical engineer, mechanical engineer and international marketing professional. Until then, the members of North Breese have their music.

All four members of the band are currently in college, but that didn't prevent them from earning a first place win in the 14th annual Battle of the Bands competition at the Washington County Fair on July 22.

Guitarist and vocalist Matt Schabel and drummer Sean Crain have been friends since they walked the halls of St. Boniface in Germantown. Now they have joined forces with Ryan Lane and his longtime friend Craig Smith to put together the sound that is North Breese.

"Matt and I have been around music our whole lives," said Crain, adding that he and Schabel taught themselves how to play guitar. "It really is a lifelong passion of ours."

Named for the street where Schabel, Crain and Lane share a University of Wisconsin-Madison apartment, the band plays a combination of original and cover songs. Schabel and Lane do the majority of the songwriting of their original work, including "Pole Position" and "I Stopped By," which they played at the competition.

"We put a lot of thought into what we wanted to play at the Battle of the Bands," Schabel said. "We wanted to sample our original stuff and engage the audience with a few more familiar tunes as well."

To Schabel, that meant making sure they made the cover songs like Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" their own.

"It all comes down to loving what you're doing on stage and relating to people," said Schabel, who said he draws songwriting inspiration from things that happen to him and those around him. "We keep our lyrics pretty simple on purpose, so anyone listening to us cannot only understand but they can relate."

Their first album is available online for $5 at

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