Originally from Ottawa, Ontario, The Balconies now call Toronto home. The hardworking rock trio, comprised of siblings Jacquie (lead vocals, guitar) and Stephen Neville (bass), and Liam Jaeger (drums), has been together since 2007 and are finally getting the respect they deserve. They just released an Android and iPhone app and are currently touring the UK and Europe, where they’ve just released the “Kill Count” single. There’s some good news for fans that have been impatiently waiting for new music from The Balconies, as the band’s PledgeMusic Project was successfully funded this past March, which means they will be releasing their new album in July. 10% of all funds raised for the project will go to MusiCounts, Canada’s music education charity which is committed to keeping music alive in Canadian schools.
I caught up with Jacquie when The Balconies rolled through town in October with Big Sugar and Wide Mouth Mason.
Vancouver Weekly: Big Sugar has a heavy blues feel; Wide Mouth Mason, for lack of a better term, is alt-rock – what dynamic do you think The Balconies bring?
Jacquie Neville: I would definitely call us a pop-rock band primarily, but we have influences anywhere from punk rock to blues, to classic rock. I love Michael Jackson and Tina Turner… I mean, we’re kind of all over the map as far as where our influences come from, but I would call us a pop-rock band, for sure. But a loud one. [laughs] One with balls.
Vancouver Weekly: You mention Michael Jackson and Tina Turner. Have you gleaned some of your dance moves from them?
JN: I would say so, yeah! I mean, I can’t dance like them, but they definitely inspired me to just keep dancing throughout the entire show, because that’s all Tina did – she was just singing and dancing the entire time, and that really inspired me. I want to put on a show for people, I want people to kind of get lost in the moment and be a part of that chaotic energy, and I feel the best way to express that is through dancing and playing and trying to do three things at once. […] We like it really sweaty. That means you’re having a good time!
Vancouver Weekly: So you and Stephen are brother and sister. Does Liam have to deal with a lot of sibling rivalry bullshit?
JN: No. Every interview, we get this question. It’s fine.
Vancouver Weekly: It’s an easy target…
JN: Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny ‘cause prior to Stephen and I playing music together, we just did not get along at all. I mean, we were kids, right? And you know, kids will just bully each other and be nasty to each other, but as soon as we found this common ground of music, the dynamic did a complete 180 and all of a sudden, we were able to communicate a lot better, we were friendlier with each other and we became best friends, basically. I know Steve better than anyone and he knows me better than anyone. It’s pretty amazing, because we can almost read each other’s minds now, and I can almost sense what he’s going to do next on stage, or I can sense what he’s going to say next in an interview or whatever. It’s kind of cool that we have this chemistry now, and I think it’s really amazing being in a band with my brother and being on the road with him. I don’t get homesick anymore, y’know? I guess it puts my parents at ease ‘cause they don’t really worry about us getting in trouble, ‘cause we have each other. I mean, well obviously, we talk to each other like siblings, there’s no barriers. We can just blurt out whatever we’re feeling because we have that history together, because we grew up in a big family and always trying to talk over each other and get our voices heard. We always know how to work through our issues and we work very well together.
Vancouver Weekly: Do you find that when you guys write, do you tend to write the same way, or compose the same way?
JN: No, definitely not. Steve is a definite analytical type. He writes a lot of his songs from a very theory/harmony-driven place, whereas me, I go based on feeling. A lot of the time, when Steve’s writing, he’ll write his bass lines first and he’ll write the lyrics, and he’ll analyze the progression of the harmony and where it’s all moving, whereas me, I’ll sit alone in a room with a multi-tracker and just kind of layer things and go based on the energy of that, and how it’s making me feel, and everything kind of happens simultaneously. […] He layers in different ways than I do. For me, it just kind of all happens at once, this weird burst of energy comes through me.
Vancouver Weekly: Does that end up making some of these songs are a “Steven song”, a “Jacquie song”…
JN: It used to very much be like that when we first got together – and Liam also writes a lot of songs as well. When we first got this band together, all three of us were coming from different projects and we wanted to work together and we had a bunch of songs kicking around. In the beginning, it was very much, “Okay, I have four songs, let’s make that a Balconies song; Steve has five songs, let’s make that,” and whatever Liam brought to the table, but now it’s definitely evolved into a collaborative experience. I’ll bring like, a hook to the table, whether it’s a guitar riff or like, a vocal melody, and then we’ll just jam that out and work on structure, harmonies, vocals. Now I feel like it’s helped make the sound a lot more structured and concise, and I feel like we’ve been able to filter out the wishy washy stuff that we don’t really need, y’know, the filler stuff. So now, I feel like it’s really helped focus our sound and has made us a truly Balconies-focused band. It solidified our sound.
Vancouver Weekly: So, you could say – I mean, with Big Sugar having been around for a couple decades, Wide Mouth Mason, well established in the nineties – The Balconies are the babies on the bill. What have you learned from your elders on this tour?
JN: Oh wow, I have to give a shout-out to Gordie Johnson. We linked up with him back in the spring when he was doing Sit Down, Servant! That’s his solo project. We were fortunate enough to open up for him, for those shows, and we just built this amazing relationship with him and he was just so gracious and generous. He kind of treated us like, our dad, on the road. He just really looked after us. Talking to him about music and his influences, and hearing stories about, y’know, road life and stuff and, even Shaun in Wide Mouth Mason… They’re just so wise and extremely knowledgeable, and I’ve just been a total sponge throughout this entire tour. I’m just trying to take in as much as I can, ‘cause they’re just such amazing musicians and I really look up to them. It’s been… it’s been quite amazing. I never thought I’d be able to open for either of these bands.
Vancouver Weekly: So tonight is night 1 of a sold out doubleheader. You’re in Vancouver, on a Friday – what are your insane rock’n’roll plans for after the show?
JN: [laughs] Ummm, I’m not sure yet. I’m really excited because my birthday’s on Sunday, so I think I’m like, waiting… This is like the calm before the storm. I think things will get crazy on Sunday when we go to Whistler. But I think there’ll be some parties happening. I think things will get a little crazy… We’ll see. We never make definite, solidified plans. We just kind of see what happens after the show and chaos always takes over.
Check out The Balconies’ latest effort when it comes out this July. In the meantime, check out the Kill Count EP.