INTERVIEW – The Balconies
I’m really excited to bring a proper feature on one of my favourite bands, The Balconies! I first discovered the band (from Ottawa, now based in Toronto) when they performed at Hamilton’s annual Spring Music Festival back in May 2010. One listen to “Serious Bedtime,” and I was hooked.
Since then, I’ve tried to catch them every time they play here, including shows at Casbah and Absinthe. The band are always on the road and have shared the stage with big names like Wide Mouth Mason, Big Sugar, Sloan, and more. This most recent tour brought them to town with Rival Sons, from California. I had no idea what a huge following this band has – it was a sold-out show at Stonewalls and the crowd was ready to rock.
The Balconies are absolutely stellar live. They are one of my favourite shows to see. Jacquie is one of the most energetic and animated performers I’ve seen, with her disco lunges, hair whips and dance moves, and she shreds that guitar like nobody’s business! Steve and Liam hold it down with a sold rhythm section, and together, they produce a heavy, danceable, rock’n’roll, three-part harmony sound that is just irresistible. Check out my footage of the show.
I had the chance to chat with the band before the show and ask about touring, their recent trip to the UK, the recording of their new album, and the evolution of their music. The new album, due out this year, is one of my most anticipated for 2013. I’ve loved watching how the band has progressed and come into their own, and I can’t wait for what’s next.
After reading the interview, be sure to watch the video of the Rendezvous Rapid Fire!
Since my blog works with the concept of “being a tourist in your own city,” I like to ask bands about touring. You’ve been touring steadily for a few years now. It must be a lifestyle you’re really accustomed to at this point.
Jacquie: Yeah, touring’s been really awesome. Especially touring with these guys [Rival Sons] because the fit is just perfect. They’re a total rock’n’roll band and they’ve kind of taken us under their wing. It’s been fun. [Check out the video for brief cameo by Scott Holiday of Rival Sons!]
You guys just toured in the UK for the first time. What was that experience like?
J: It was amazing. We were playing in London and a festival in Cannes, France, called Midem, and that was our first time ever in France. It’s been a blast.
Steve: It was especially fun because the hostel we were staying at was in central London so we managed to do some tourist attractions on foot. We saw Big Ben, Westminster Abbey…
J: And the London Eye. Just some touristy things that we did.
I was going to ask how much time you have when you’re in these different places to really get to explore.
S: We had like half a day off.
J: Yeah, we try to make some time just to see some necessary sights.
Did you have a favourite spot in the UK?
J: We went to this really awesome restaurant. It was called The Wapping Project. It’s an art gallery and a restaurant. It was amazing; it’s a converted warehouse, and so the ceilings are crazy high and you have this old machinery surrounding the tables. Yeah, it’s pretty cool.
Is there any place you haven’t toured yet that you would still really like to go?
S: Many places.
J: We have plans to go to China in the spring, so I’m really looking forward to be going to China, and hopefully maybe Japan one day. And we still haven’t even toured most of the States yet, so that’s still on our bucket list.
S: Lots more to do.
Yeah! And do you find with the audience, you get different responses wherever you go? Or people have been pretty receptive to your music?
J: People enjoy dancing. [laughs]
The universal language, I guess!
J: Yeah, exactly.
S: It carries, no matter what, I think.
You guys have a new album coming out this year. How is that going?
J: We’re halfway done. We’re aiming for the summer. So we’re really excited about that. We’ve been working with a producer named Arnold Lanni. He’s worked with Our Lady Peace and Finger Eleven, so we’re really excited about this new one and the dynamic. I feel like he brings a lot to the table and helps oversee a lot of details that we didn’t really pick up on and we didn’t know how to quite execute in the beginning. It’s really nice to have a fourth ear, so we’re very happy.
Do you do any writing on the road because you’re touring so much, or in between tours?
J: I tend to write lyrics here and there. I’m not sure about you guys.
S: Yeah, for me, it takes some proper time off to get some writing done. It’s “go, go, go” each day on the road.
J: It’s fun, though, because I find I dream a lot more when we’re on the road and I always write my dreams down. And I find that helps the thought process and just channel through some interesting ideas that I might want to use as lyrics.
And you would get inspiration from different locations.
J: Exactly. So we do kind of write, but not actually songwriting together. We do some independent work.
What can we expect with the new album in comparison to your first? How do you feel your music has evolved?
J: Oh, wow. It’s definitely heavier compared to our previous stuff, but it still has that pop sensibility that we’re really excited about. It still has the three-party harmonies and…
S: Dance grooves…
J: Dance grooves [laughs]
S: I think the main thing is, working with Arnold, it’s been an experience for us just honing our sound a little more. We’ve kind of been more all over the place in the past, but we’re still learning what we want to be doing and how do we execute that.
J: But I feel like we’re really starting to evolve into the band that we always envisioned ourselves becoming. We really feel like Arnold’s helped us kind of focus a little better. And I know for me personally, he’s really helped me get out of my shell as far as singing goes on record, and he’s really helped me animate myself a little more for recording. Because it’s so different, performing and recording, it’s hard to get the same kind of live excitement, so I feel like he’s really forced me to break out of that little box that I used to get in. It’s terrifying being in the studio, you can hear yourself so well, and it’s not chaotic like onstage, so, yeah, we’re very happy with it.
That’s what I was going to ask – how the recording compares to live performances. When I think of you guys, I automatically think of the live show. I love your recordings too, but the live show is what I think of. Do you try to capture that kind of energy on recording, or is it a different approach?
J: It’s definitely been a struggle in the past, just because we love performing and we like high intensity shows and we want to engage people as much as possible. We like interactive experiences. I feel like working with Arnold, again, has really helped us to hone in on that. I think people will be able to hear similarities and be able to appreciate the live show just as much as the recordings.
From there we moved on to my classic set of questions, the Rendezvous Rapid Fire! Watch the video to find out Jacquie, Steve, and Liam’s answers.