Q&A with The Balconies

ottawa, indie, balconies, toronto, kill count
Photo: Courtney Lee

The Balconies have kicked things into full gear as of late – touring, writing new material, traveling internationally, involving themselves in festivals all over… You know, all those things that hard-working bands do. The band, which began in 2007 here in the nation’s capital, is one of those ongoing success stories that I love to keep tabs on. From their humble beginnings here in Ottawa, their journey through school at Ottawa U, and then their breakout being the runner up in Live 88.5’s Big Money Shot in 2010, it’s a story that anyone would find titillating.

But when I say ongoing, I mean that the journey is never done with this group. They are constantly positioning themselves to move forward, higher, and not look back. The three of them, Jacquie Neville, brother Stephen Neville, and Liam Jaeger, recently made the big move to Toronto to immerse themselves in the music culture there. It’s also given them the chance to take their game to the next level with respect to industry, festivals and exposure to bigger markets. Their loyal fanbase only seems to be getting bigger, with Jacque and Co. letting it all out on stage every time they play. It’s a story that will surely have an exciting 2013 chapter, with big plans to release a full-length album and do a whole lot more touring – inside and outside Canada. Having worked with producers Jon Drew (Tokyo Police Club, Fucked Up) and Arnold Lanni (Our Lady Peace, Finger Eleven) on their first release Kill Count EP, they’ve achieved their own sound and created a lot of hype for a full-length release in the near future.

Also an important note: The Balconies are offering up some exclusives for some fan support with the recording process. They’ve already reached about half the funds needed to back the release of the full-length, so instead of buying lunch today you should go and pledge some money in support of super awesome music! They will love you for it, and their new album surely won’t disappoint.

I sat down with Stephen, Liam, and Jacquie in February to discuss their life as a band, touring, and what 2013 might have in store.


Interview with the Balconies (Feb. 2013)

By Matias Muñoz

Kill Count opened you guys up to a lot of new audiences. What is success to you as a band, and how do you hold on to that mentality as your audience grows?

Stephen: For us right now I think it is headlining some more shows and attracting a modest crowd. But we kind of view success as opening for bands that we idolize, too. There’s always a lot of room for growth.

Jacquie: I also think it’s like a staircase, you set one goal for yourself like “let’s get a record out first”. When you reach that step, then you move to the next one which might be like “let’s start touring the US and Europe.” Every time you reach that next step, your dreams and goals keep getting higher and higher. So, for me, success is never being satisfied with where you are and always trying to improve and evolving.

Being from Ottawa, what’s one of your favourite memories of the city?

Jacquie: One of my favourite musical memories was at Club SAW, Shawn Scallen was doing the sound at these all ages shows I played at with my first band back then. He started something and I always wanted to be part of that, this community of musicians and fans. That’s what I really strive for – for me, music is about the community of artists that grow together. It’s not about competition or who’s better than whom. It’s about progressing the Canadian music scene and the Ottawa music scene. In Ottawa with such a small community, we’ve always felt very supported and we’re proud to have our roots from here. People here are music lovers, people are all paying attention to others because there is so much to learn.

You made the big move to Toronto, what’s the adjustment been like? Homesick yet?

J: I know for me, my roots will always be here in Ottawa, it will always be home. Moving to Toronto was a career move, I didn’t leave Ottawa because I hated it or anything. That’s why we moved, bigger city and market, it’s kind of the centre of the Canadian music universe with so much going on.

S: And to be honest, we haven’t really been home in Toronto much either. It almost seems like we’ve been in Ottawa almost as much as Toronto these days.

J: Yeah, we’ve been so busy especially recording the record and stuff, that it hasn’t quite felt like we’ve been home in Toronto anymore. The van is home. I guess home is where all my friends are, whether that is Toronto or Ottawa or wherever. Canada is home.

You guys have toured outside Canada and played festivals such as Canadian Music Week, NXNE, POP Montreal, and SXSW. What has the reception been like going to these different markets and playing to crowds who might not be as familiar with your music?

S: It’s been amazing, it’s such a good avenue for bands to start with the festival setting. You build a following, and people are all amped up because it’s a music festival.

J: They go there ready to hear new music, they’ve bought the wristband and they are ready to see your show. With touring a new country and new cities, it’s hard to break in new markets when no one knows who you are. We’ve been really lucky playing festivals and being a part of that. We recently went to LA in the fall to play a really awesome festival called Culture Collide, and there was a sold out show right in front of us and we’d never played there before. So you really feel stoked to be part of festivals like that. You also get to meet bands from that city or elsewhere in the world. People have been pretty receptive.

S: The most recent festival we played was in Cannes, France, called Midem. That was just like two weeks ago and it was amazing. You meet people form all over the world, huge crowds, it’s always fun.

Was that a little bit scary at first?

S: Oh, yeah totally.

J: But then you realize you are in this different country that speaks French, which is awesome.

A lot of people are looking forward to a full-length release from The Balconies. How has the writing for that been going?

J: The writing is done, however we’ve been working with a great producer Arnold Lanni (who worked with us on the single “Do it in the Dark”), and he’s also acting as the co-songwriter, producer, and arranger on the album. So, it’s all done and we have about twenty songs to choose from, which is kind of overwhelming because we can’t put them all on the album. But I think that’s a good problem to have, having too many. Now we’re just picking the strongest ones that will be easier to present in a package, because we obviously want to appeal to an international market.

Are you exciting to start playing the new songs?

S: For sure. There are a few that we’ve incorporated into our set but we want to make sure we play the proper version of them. When we unleash the songs, it will be after we finish recording on March 13th. Then we’ll know what the final product is and we can start phasing in the “new Balconies”.

J: We’re really hoping to have it out by summer of this year. So yeah, summer 2013 is our goal!

Any big plans for 2013, personally or musically? It looks like it will be a good year.

S: It does look like it will be a big year, heading to SXSW is always a lot of fun.

J: We’re also heading to China to play a big festival there, which we’re all really excited about. Once the record is out we’ll just be living in our van again. We really want to get down to the states a lot more this year too, we haven’t hit all the places we want to yet. We’ve done a lot with Canada, and we’ll probably do one more cross-Canada tour to promote the new record and then head down to the states and tell them what’s what. We’re really looking forward to this year, it’s going to be a good one.