Shellac Brick Layer Cake Flour Rifle Sport Big Trouble House Man Sized Action
Steve Björklund Peter Conway Todd Trainer Phil Harder Tony Pucci
Chicago, Illinois, United States (1984)
Todd Trainer, Steve Bjorklund, Flour, Phil Harder, Tony Pucci
Alternative rock, Post-punk
The Ice Machine, The Very Long Fuse, Smokers' Paradise
Rifle Sport, Strike Under, Man Sized Action, Volcano Suns, The Effigies
Breaking Circus was a post-punk band from the 1980s, based in Chicago and later Minneapolis, founded by guitarist and vocalist Steve Björklund.
Björklund had played guitar and sang for Chicago punk band Strike Under after a short stint in the group Terminal Beach, Breaking Circus was his next project, originally with bassist Bruce Lange and a Roland TR-606 drum machine. Breaking Circus signed to Homestead Records for their first release, The Very Long Fuse EP (1985), featuring the song "Marathon", which has been cited as "stuck in several thousand heads" and a "college-radio favorite"
In 1986, Björklund moved to Minneapolis and began working with Rifle Sport bassist Pete "Flour" Conway and drummer/guitarist Todd Trainer. In 1986 the band released a song, Driving the Dynamite Truck on the Twin/Tone compilation Big Hits of Mid-America Volume Four, with a slightly different lineup having Tony Pucci of Man Sized Action in the drummer's chair. Homestead Records released the band's The Ice Machine LP with the album's credits appearing as a Monopoly-style drinking game insert.
Guitarist Phil Harder filled out the band for a national tour before Breaking Circus returned home to record another LP that was to feature four songs by Björklund, four by Conway, and four by Trainer. When the band arrived in the studio, they received word from Homestead that the label would only pay for six of the twelve songs that they had originally planned to record. All four of Björklund's songs and one by each of the other members were recorded and released as the EP Smokers' Paradise in 1987. The band broke up in 1988.
Phil Harder became a music video director and went on to form the trio Big Trouble House. Pete Conway recorded four full-length solo albums as Flour for Touch and Go Records. Todd Trainer released two EPs under the name Brick Layer Cake before founding Shellac with Steve Albini and Bob Weston. Björklund released a final 7" single of solo electropop versions of songs by Naked Raygun and the UK Subs under the name Breaking Circus. He was briefly in the band Balloon Guy before moving on to work as a producer.
Driving the Dynamite Truck was later covered by the band Seam on the Kernel EP.
In other media
Poet Stephen Burt paid homage to the group in his 2013 collection, Belmont. Burt's poem cites the band's college radio hit, "(Knife in the) Marathom", lists the group's entire catalog, namechecks bassist Pete Conway's pseudonym, and refers to the band's slip into obscurity by stating, "I write about you now since nobody else is likely to."