Combing the sounds of '90s alternative with a post-hardcore twist, Doylestown, PA natives Balance and Composure have been building a buzz with their intense, passionate live show and memorable music to boot. We caught up with the band this past week after their set in Pontiac, MI to talk about their next full-length Separation as well as what it was like to record their full-length with Brian McTernan and what they have in store for the future.
[email protected]: Thanks for taking the time to sit down after your set guys, could you take a moment and introduce yourselves and say what you do in Balance and Composure?
Jonathon Simmons: I’m Jon, I play guitar and sing.
Matthew Warner: I’m Matt I play bass.
Bailey Van Ellis: And I’m Bailey and I play the drums.
[email protected]: You guys are currently on tour with dredg, The Dear Hunter and Trophy Fire, can you guys talk a little bit about the tour, how excited you guys are to be out on this tour?
JS: We’re excited not to be at home really. The Dear Hunter guys are awesome, dredg is really cool, and its been a great tour so far.
[email protected]: For those who aren’t familiar with your band, could you give us a quick lesson on how you guys got started and got to where you are right now?
BVE: When we started, we were all in different local bands in our hometown Doylestown [Pennsylvania]. John’s band that he was in broke up and he asked Matt and I, and we were in a band at the time, to start a band with him and another guy. And then we formed in 2007 with another guitarist, and we released an EP. We replaced that original guitarist with another guitar player and recorded an EP, a split with Tiger’s Jaw and most recently a full-length. We’ve only been a band for what, two and a half, three years?
[email protected]: Speaking of the full-length, you guys just released your debut full-length Separation on No Sleep, and its been getting a lot of buzz critically and from fans. What was your initial plan as a band when you sat down to write this record as far as sonic landscape of everything?
MW: I guess we’ve been talking about doing a full length since we became a band. Everything that we’ve been doing has been towards building up to doing a full-length. Originally, when we sat down after doing Only Boundaries, we said ‘Okay, we’re going to do a full-length,” but we were approached to do the Tiger’s Jaw split. So then after that we said we were going to do it. We didn’t really have any plan, we wanna write the best songs we can possibly write as a band, and that’s what we tried to do.
JS: We just wanted to write twelve new songs that represent Balance and Composure the best, I guess. That’s like people first listening to us.
BVE: We didn’t want to rush either. We basically took all of the summer off to do it. It took us like three months to write. That was one thing we all agreed, we didn’t want to set recording dates. We wanted everything to come naturally.
[email protected]: As far as the recording process, you guys recorded with Brian McTernan. What was it like working with him, and how much did he influence the songwriting and recording?
BVE: It was awesome working with him, number one. He’s a super awesome guy. And it was kind of a dream come true that we got to work with him. We had been talking to a bunch of people about recording the full-length, and he was the last guy that we expected to do it. And the last guy that we actually emailed about doing it. We didn’t even think he knew who we were, but he was familiar with us and agreed to do it. He basically, he said to us in the studio that he didn’t want to mess around with what we sounded like. He definitely had inputs on different parts of the songs, but it was cool because he let us do our own thing. He wanted the record to sound like a Balance and Composure record.
MW: Every song that we wrote at home is how it was on the record, minus some small, small things. He didn’t majorly change anything at all, it was all our own ideas.
BVE: But it was awesome having him there to push us to get the best takes that we could out of our individuals instruments, and John and everything.
[email protected]: You said you had talked to some other people about doing the full-length at first, if any of those people had ended up recording it, do you think it would have came out differently?
JS: I feel like Brian was the best choice. First, because we’re all huge fans of everything he has recorded, so we could nerd out with him. We’re fans of how his records sound and he knew what he was doing. Plus, he grew up with the same roots as us. I think it came out perfect. It’s our first full-length, and it’s perfect for what we wanted to accomplish.
MW: I think he really understood what we wanted and were going for. He definitely understood the direction we wanted to take, which is awesome. We couldn’t have been more blessed to be working with him.
[email protected]: What were some of the other people you guys had thought about initially?
BVE: Pretty crazy people. I mean... I tried emailing Brad Wood, who did like Sunny Day Real Estate records and mewithoutYou records. That was like a long shot. We talked to Mike Poorman. It was just a matter of finding somebody who was interested in working with us and was cheap. We had zero money.
[email protected]: It’s hard out there...
[email protected]: What were some of the things that influenced you lyrically and musically during the writing of this record?
JS: Lyrically, it was pretty much anything. Separation is a recurring theme, its a part of our lives right now. We’re separated from relationships, from our peers. We’re in a band, we’re not doing what most people our age are doing, which is going to school, working and being a good citizen. But separation is a part of life, and everyone has to go through it. It’s not exactly all about separation though.
MW: I don’t think there’s any real inspiration for the record. We just wanted to write the best rock songs we could write, and whatever came out, came out, and we’re really happy with how it came out and we’re proud of it.
[email protected]: How did having three guitarists affect the writing process as far as difficulty writing or perhaps maybe writing too much and overdoing certain parts?
JS: Well, we started the band with three guitarists, and they’re my best friends. Three guitarists fucking rules.
MW: It’s loud.
JS: Yeah, it’s loud, you can do more shit. It’s more fun to be honest. It’s not really harder, its more easier.
BVE: You can always count on somebody playing the same thing or the root chords, just to make sure the rhythm is there.
MW: It’s also cool to do two different lead parts and one rhythm part, and if somebody writes two riffs, most bands have to pick one. We can use both. So... BAM.
[email protected]: Even though this is your debut full-length, where would you say this fits in with the rest of your discography?
JS: It’s our best work so far. Just how we started writing songs, we’ve changed up how we have been doing it. We had time to work on music, before with the two EPs we were rushing, like we had four days. It was mostly about not being rushed.
MW: With this being our debut full-length, I think it really sets the tone for what our sound is as a band. The first EP, Eric was in the band not even a month before we recorded that EP, we were writing it and recording it as soon as Eric joined the band. So that was, get songs out with the new guitarists. The split wasn’t rushed necessarily, but it was us trying to figure out our sound still as a band, which is what any band would do. And then with the full-length, we got to sit down and say ‘This is what we want to sound like’, and then we made it sound like that. And it really establishes our sound for what will come in the future.
[email protected]: You said that you had been wanting to write a full-length, but at any point did it hit you like you might not have enough material or just the sheer thought of recording this many songs at once?
JS: I think that that is a normal thing to feel. We don’t want to have any filler songs. I mean to some people they might seem like filler songs, but to us they are awesome [laughs]. We wanted every song to be great, really. We took out a couple that weren’t ready.
MW: We definitely would not have gone into the studio if it wasn’t ready. If we had set recording time for a year and it came time to record and we weren’t ready, we would push it back. Writing the best songs is more important to us than just recording music.
[email protected]: What would you say is the overall theme or message of this album? You touched a little on separation, but when people listen to this album, what do you want them to take away from it?
JS: We want to move people. Plain and simple. We want people to feel something. And that’s why we started this band and how we started loving music and new music, just being able to move someone, or give someone chills. That’s really what we strive for, and I know that’s weird. But that’s the best feeling when it comes to music. That’s what we’re really trying to go for. If it helps anyone, if someone can relate to any of our music, that’s what its all about.
[email protected]: Do you think there is a lot of music out there that is missing that?
JS: Almost all music is missing that. I feel like now, music has gone to shit. I mean there’s great music, but most of it is shit. Are we allowed to curse [laughs]?
[email protected]: It won’t get edited out [laughs]. With this release you guys are kind of the focal point of No Sleep Records, a label that has gotten a ton of recognition over the past few years for putting out some great records, including The Wonder Years and La Dispute. Though people have always known about you to some extent, you’ve been a bit under the radar. Do you think that this record will help solidify your place on this label and prove to anyone who had doubts about your band that Chris was right in signing you?
JS: No, we never really thought about that.
BVE: I feel like, we don’t even look at Chris as like a label. He’s just a super good friend who gets our music out to people. I guess people look at No Sleep, and they think we’re an important part of the label, or at least we’d think they’d feel that way. But it’s never really been important to us.
JS: We’re just thankful someone is releasing it. We like La Dispute, Touche Amore, The Wonder Years. It’s not about the competition, it’s about our friend putting out our records.
[email protected]: I don’t really mean as far as a competition, more so when people talk about No Sleep, certain bands are usually brought up first. But then they kind of forget about all these other great bands.
MW: I don’t know if we are going to be included, but I don’t know if it really matters if we are included or not. Almost every band on No Sleep is a top-notch band. Every single band on No Sleep deserves all the credit in the world, Into It. Over It. and Now, Now. Every band is awesome and what Chris is doing over at No Sleep is awesome.
JS: We hope people will listen to the other bands on No Sleep if they hear our record first.
BVE: It’s cool to have that whole community.
[email protected]: You guys have this tour right now, and after this you’ll be doing a short jaunt with Touche Amore. Can you talk about how that tour can to fruition and how that tour will be different for you guys?
JS: We like to spice it up. We’ll do tours like this, and then we will tour with Touche Amore, and there’s kids at the shows. Everyone has a good time. And Touche Amore is a great band, excited to see them every night.
[email protected]: Have you started to think about what you’ll do after that tour?
BVE: We’re gonna be doing that, then a couple weeks in Canada, then another full US tour, then Australia at the end of August. Then maybe the U.K. in the wintertime. We like to keep as busy as possible.
[email protected]: That’s about all I have. Thanks again for sitting down to talk about the record and the tours. Is there anything else you'd like to say to anyone reading?
JS: Listen to Title Fight. Shed, it’s their new record. It is amazing.
MW: Support No Sleep Records.
BVE: Run for Cover Records. And thanks.
JS: Support good music. Fuck all the bullshit.
You can catch Balance and Composure on their current tour with The Dear Hunter, dredg and Trophy Fire until the end of this month, followed by a run of shows with Touche Amore and White Wives. Also, be sure to check out their newest full-length Separation, out now via No Sleep Records.