Pillbox

Students create music magazine

Sophomores Sandra Chen (left, computer science major) and Natalie Campbell (right, design major) published their first issue in September. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor) Sophomores Sandra Chen (left, computer science major) and Natalie Campbell (right, design major) published their first issue in September. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor)

Pittsburgh’s newest music magazine, Breakdown Music Press, released its first issue last month. Its co-founders — Sandra Chen and Natalie Campbell, sophomore computer science and design majors, respectively — have high hopes about the future of Breakdown and believe that their unique approach will separate it from the sea of blogs, websites, and other magazines that cover music.

The magazine doesn’t cover a specific genre of music, although Chen noted that they want to feature local music and focus on the “modest side of the music industry.” But Breakdown does more than just review local music. It contains a multitude of interviews with upcoming artists, accompanied by vivid photos. Elaborate album reviews and photographs from different music festivals include more popular, mainstream music.

Chen first approached Campbell with the hope of making something out of the numerous concert photographs she had been taking since she was a first-year. “I started taking photos for myself and didn’t really know what to do with them,” Chen said. “I really enjoyed going to concerts and was fascinated by the artists’ energy. I wanted to share that with people.”

Chen and Campbell have been working with other students from Carnegie Mellon as well as friends from around the country: Their current staff consists of eight people. Although working independently from Carnegie Mellon has made their job harder, Chen and Campbell enjoy that they can “do more of the work and be more in control.”

Looking at the first cover of Breakdown, you can tell that this magazine is out to accomplish more than good music reviews. Chen, who is also head of photography for the magazine, catches a piercing look in Tyler Joseph’s eye, lead singer of Twenty One Pilots, while bandmate Josh Dun thoughtfully stares toward a distant point. The photo captures the kind of connection that Breakdown is out to create between its artists and readers. The two students “want to focus on a more human aspect of artists, not just commercial,” as Chen said. “We want the magazine to be intimate.”

The magazine is both accessible and intimate as readers flip through its pages. One can feel Chen and Campbell’s passion and energy in their heartfelt letters to the readers — which describe the guys of Twenty One Pilots as “the most talented, hardworking and genuine boys I know” — and in the sharp, sweaty, and very real photos of artists like Of Mice and Men and Blood on the Dance Floor, taken at last summer’s Vans Warped Tour.

One of the most distinguishing aspects of Breakdown lies not in what it can give its readers, but rather in what it lets its readers give in return. Chen’s Warped Tour photos are sprinkled with words not from artists, but from the audience. Written across one photo of rock band The Used, “Amber from Pittsburgh” says, “Watching my friend Tonya almost have a heart attack when we were up front for The Used.” While the audience’s words might not be relevant to the booming music industry of the 21st century, they touch the reader and provide a different perspective than other magazines offer.

“Dreams — if you work enough you can reach them,” Chen said. “This is something I want our readers to know.”

Maybe dreams are what will make Breakdown stand out from other music magazines, acting as a medium for readers to access dreams of their own and letting the music industry seem closer than before.