The Balconies draw audiences in like a magnet. Jacquie Neville, with her wild charisma, turns the stage into her own little cocoon – a place of transformation from artist to rock star. And oh, it’s wildly entertaining to watch. Her movements side to side along the stage draws eyes in like a pendulum. She’s hypnotic and you can’t take your eyes off of her. Add band mates Stephen Neville (bass) and Liam Jaeger (guitar) to the mix and you’ve got a hell of a rock show.
Huddled together on a couch backstage above Vancouver’s VENUE, Jacquie, Stephen and Liam are stoked. They’re pumped for the show, they’re excited to kick off more touring, and yes, they even appear eager to answer questions for the press. As such a down-to-earth rock group that also prides themselves on killer hooks, danceable tracks, and expressive lyrics, nobody can deny that The Balconies have earned their place in the spotlight.
Now that the band has been together for a longer period and you’ve started to hone your sound a bit more, did you feel that there was a lot more decision-making when it came to this new record, Fast Motions compared to the making of the previous EP?
Liam: Yeah and I think it’s mainly because we worked with Arnold Lanni. It’s a really fast paced environment [with him], like constant woodshedding of every little musical idea. It was really a new environment for us making a record. We were really challenged and forced to make decisions just to make it through each recording day.
Jacquie: We were planning to release the record in October and then we realized we wanted to sit on it for a bit longer to get more international support for it. We don’t just want to be an indie band anymore. We want to reach an international scale and reach out to as many audiences as possible. Being still an independent band, it can be hard sometimes when you don’t have the proper funding. We were lucky enough to take part in the PledgeMusic campaign. We had so much great support from all our fans and it was such a great way to engage with them and special bonuses…Now we’re doing a digital release for Fast Motions in October. Then there will be the hard copy in January. Being the artist, you want to be like, “let’s just release it. I want the whole world to hear it,” but I’m really glad we are taking the time to do it properly.
You just mentioned, “being an independent band” and in this day and age, so many bands use that indie status. What do you think defines being an independent or “indie” band?
Jacquie: I definitely think that we used to fit that kind of genre where we were more stripped down and it’s very do-it-yourself where we just record out of a friend’s studio and mix it ourselves. We weren’t as meticulous with how editing would go or tracking or even the song writing – just spur of the moment, “that sounds great,” sort of thing.
I remember when we did “Do It In The Dark” with Arnold [Lanni]. That was the first song we did with him. Someone approached us and said, “You guys really sold out for that song.” And I remember at the time thinking, “What? But we’re still poor. How did we sell out?” [Laughs]. People conceptualize it and perceive indie and rock, and it’s such a fine line. People’s perspective of “selling out” is maybe sound polished and produced. We’re still struggling musicians. We’re still writing music that we love and that we’re really proud of. There’s just more thought put into it.
Liam: I think the biggest difference is between keeping your integrity and selling out is once you let someone else tell you that you should change and just doing it because other people will like you more, that’s the only way you could really sell out. Whereas with this new record, we really saw an opportunity to work with a really great songwriter and producer, and it was really just about the timing of everything. We have always been a really stubborn band, doing everything the way we want to do it and after five years of doing everything our way, we realized that we’re reaching a plateau where we can’t figure out how to reach the next level. Things can together really naturally upon meeting Arnold. Arnold took us under his wing and really dug our ideas and really wanted to get involved with our project. With him, we could really reach for the next bar.
Since you mentioned ‘Do It In The Dark’, the music video has this whole horror, zombie motif. Were there any specific films and TV shows that directly inspired it?
Jacquie: We really love The Walking Dead and growing up I really loved zombie movies. I’m now reading World War Z. We love zombie and horror movies, and thought it’d be a fun homage to “Thriller” because I love Michael Jackson. He was a cool guy. It’s such an iconic video. Everyone knows that video and no one really does Halloween videos anymore, so why not.
Liam: The new video for “The Slo” also plays with morbid, spooky themes, which is a coincidence. We’re really inspired by darker bands, like when you listen to interviews of Black Sabbath when they were starting out, they were just inspired by scary movies and they wanted to make music with some darker tones because there was so much happy, poppy music at the time. We are definitely not a heavy metal band, but we strive on writing songs that are darker toned and it’s all about struggles and challenges and coping with difficult things and being scared. It’s not always literally about ghost and zombies, but you can take them as metaphors – as things haunting us. I’m so deep [laughs].
“Kill Count” has such a great hook to it. How important is it to have a song with a great hook, that’s memorable and catchy?
Jacquie: A song with a hook can last a lifetime. Even if you’re not a Beatles fan per se, you know a Beatles song because the hooks are incredible and timeless. Or you think of Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The song is ever evolving and there’s not a typical song structure, but you know that song as soon as you hear because every moment is a hook. It’s a timeless piece of work. I’m not saying we’re at the same level as The Beatles or Freddie Mercury/Queen, but we are inspired by icons like that, that create music true to good melodies.
You guys hit the festival circuit this summer. What in your opinion makes a really great festival, one worth going to?
Jacquie: This year we played Le Festival d’été de Quebec and I didn’t realize how big of a festival it was. They had Black Keys, Wu Tang Clan. We got to open for Bad Religion. It was almost ten years ago when I was sixteen and I went to Warped Tour in Montreal and saw Bad Religion for the first time. It was mind-blowing. Growing up in Ottawa, not many punk bands went through there because there wasn’t a big market for it and so going to Montreal was this big adult thing I got to do and I finally felt like I was a part of something being at this festival. To me, I’ll always think back to that and Bad Religion is such a nostalgic band for me. I remember when I was watching, I still knew all the words. When there is a really amazing line up that definitely stands out.
What’s more challenging for you, going out and playing a show for a crowd who knows your reputation for putting on high energy rock shows, or playing to a group of unsuspecting listeners who have no idea who you are?
Jacquie and Steve: Unsuspecting.
Liam: I disagree. Depending on the show because we’ve done a lot of support gigs where we play for full rooms of people who’ve never heard us. I always feel so good about those shows because Jacquie gets such good audiences response because she’s such a star and we come out and play and people who don’t know us, I have so much faith that Jacquie will in over everybody. People have seen us before I feel more nervous because they’re going to be judging us next to our last show and I hope we don’t disappoint anybody. Anytime I feel the expectation is higher, I feel nervous. Anytime it’s a fresh crowd, we could do whatever we want, and they are going to like it.
Jacquie: I agree with you now that you put it that way. I think we were in Red Deer and we were the opening band. It was filled with men and one of them goes, “Oh there’s pussy in this band. They’re going to suck.” And I remember all I could think was, “fuck you, man. Just you wait.” For the first two songs he was really skeptical, but by the end he was clapping along. It sounds cocky of me, but it’s really satisfying winning someone over like that. You just kind of grab them by the balls and it’s like I own you for the next thirty minutes. You’re going to listen and you’re going to love it.
Taking a moment to reflect on your time in the band, what song would best soundtrack the past year of your life?
Jacquie: I’m going to pick the song “Cover of the Rolling Stone” by Dr. Hook because that was one of the first rock and roll songs I ever heard. I was probably like three-years-old. It’s all about having a dream and visualizing that and saying, “I want that.” Then they wrote a song about it, which is even cooler. They wanted to be on the cover of the Rolling Stone and as soon as that song came to radio, they were on the cover of Rolling Stone. I’m going to pick that song because it’s about having a dream and going for it.
Steve: When we were little, that was so cool because it was like cause and effect. Song and cover. Genius.
You’re going out to see one of your favourite bands. Are you more likely to be found chilling out on the balcony, taking it all in or front and centre, moshing and head banging?
Jacquie: For me I like to be front and centre. I like to be taken on a journey with whoever’s performing because that’s what I try to do when I’m performing. I try to get everyone dancing and engaged so when I’m at a concert, I’m like, “okay, what do you have? Give it to me!” I want to be just an entertained.
Liam: I went to see Refused last year with Steve and I haven’t moshed since I was sixteen and I moshed at Refused. Most of the time, I really just like to watch bands because I’m interested in seeing how they do their thing and I understand that a lot of people who don’t care how the guitar player or the drummer does things, they just want to dance. But I’ve always been interested in seeing how they get that sound. I’m too analytical.
Steve: I’m like Liam. I’m the boring, shy guy. I like to dance a little bit, but it’s just the two-step. When I was younger I liked to get right up to the front just to see what pedals they were using. It depends on the venue. We saw Fleet Foxes in Montreal at the Métopolis and a band like that with such a big open sound, we were out in the balcony and it was so gorgeous sounding. Louder bands it’s good to be really close though because you want to have that tightness and immediacy. You want to hear the drums and amps.
The phrase is “the [blank] the better.”
When rehearsing for a show…
Jacquie: The sweatier, the better.
When playing rock and roll…
Jacquie: The louder the better.
When doing your best Michael Jackson impression…
Jacquie: The more glitter the better.
When recording a mix tape for your lover…
Jacquie: You know what song I really love? It’s a song by Patsy Cline called “Always”. It’s like one of my favourite love songs. She’s known for her sad love songs. You got to put that song on your mix tape.
When listening to The Balconies in your car…
Jacquie: The more thrusting the better. Or maybe the more head banging the better.