Interview: Balance and Composure

Balance and Composure has been one of my favorite bands since I was in high school so it was such an honor to be asked to sit down with band members, Jon Simmons and Bailey Van Ellis to talk about their new album, The Light We Made. Since forming in 2007, Balance and Composure have put out three full length albums, six EP’s and have done splits with popular bands such as Braid and Tigers Jaw. Continue reading to hear the guys explain how they came up with the new album, some crazy experiences and some super vague song lyrics!

Photos and Interview by: Eden Kittiver

Eden: So, based on the release of the single, “Postcard”, it sounds like you guys are adding some elements to switch up your sound for the new album. Is this something you intentionally created or did it just happen?

Jon: A little of both. We listen to all different types of music and we’ve had some time off since our last album so we’ve all grown musically and we wanted it to be a different album than what we’ve done before.

Bailey: Yeah, I don’t think it was a conscious thing.

Jon: It’s just like where we were when we recorded it.

Bailey: We just wanted to make sound with different instruments and try some new stuff.

Eden: Well I definitely like what I’ve heard so far, but how have you noticed fans reacting to those singles and how do you feel they’ll react to The Light We Made?

Jon: It’s pretty mixed.

Bailey: I think it took people a minute to kind of, digest Postcard. I don’t know, it definitely has been a little mixed but we were expecting that. The second single kind of eased a lot of people’s concerns if they weren’t feeling the first one. I’d say Postcard is the most “different” sounding song on the record.

Jon: Yeah, we were prepared for some people to not like it, but also for new listeners to possibly like it. We were just trying to do what we wanted to do and we expected some hate and some love.

Eden: Do you have a song that you’re most excited for people to listen to?
Jon: Do you want to say it on the count of three? I feel like I know you.

Bailey: Yeah 1, 2, 3…

Together: Midnight Zone [laughter].

Jon: Yeah, the first song on the album is one of our coolest songs, I think. I want people to be like “Oh Snap!” when they hear it.

Bailey: Yeah definitely the most vibe-y song we’ve ever written.

Eden: This is your first release in three years. What have you guys been up to since The Things We Think We’re Missing?

Jon: Kickin’ back by the pool, smoking weed [laughing]. We’ve all just been doing our own thing. We took a lot of time off from touring and stuff so we’ve just been experiencing normal life at home.

Bailey: Still writing and stuff but we didn’t get together until like a year ago, around this time last year.

Eden: Speaking of “normal” life, what do you do day-to-day when you’re home?

Jon: I have a day job. I work a 9-5 in an office.

Eden: And they let you just take off a few weeks at a time to tour?

Jon: Yeah! My bosses are great at getting me time off when we tour and stuff, that’s part of the reason I’m still there.

Eden: Where is “home” for you guys? Do you all still live in Doylestown when you’re not touring?

Jon: I’m in Philadelphia. Bailey, where are you living right now? [laughing]

Bailey: I’m in Brooklyn right now. Yeah, Andy’s in Philly, a couple of us are in Doylestown.

Eden: What was it like growing up in Doylestown? A friend of mine goes to school there and it’s all just like… farm.

Jon: Bucks County is a like a farm-y area and Doylestown is the capital of Bucks County. So yeah, you’re right. [laughing]

Bailey: It’s cool, it’s a small town. It has a bunch of meechy shops and stuff.

Eden: Was it the kind of town you were dying to get out of?

Jon: Yeah for me it was, for sure. I mean I grew up there and I have love for it but I just grew out of it.

Eden: I definitely know that feeling [laughs]. As cool as it is to be away from home, it’s very, very hard to be away from home. What do you guys miss the most while you’re gone?

Jon: Our girlfriends, our families, stuff like that.

Eden: Do you have any pets waiting for you back east?

Bailey: We’ve got some pets.

Jon: I don’t have any.

Bailey: Some cats, some dogs. Matt has a lab/pit mix. We’ve got a maine coon– RIP Bunker. What else do we have?

Jon: Andy has cats. That’s it I think.

Eden: You recently spoke out for the first time about an accident you were in back in 2013, how has that experience changed your lives — both individually and as a band?

Jon: Well, we could’ve died, so that changed our relationships with each other and the way we take on life and our careers and stuff. It was eye-opening. Everyday is fragile and you don’t know if you have tomorrow. I think the whole experience just made us stronger.

Eden: Did you get any cool scars from it?

Jon: No, well some of us did [laughing]. I didn’t get beat up too bad, I was just really sore for the next few days. Bailey broke a toe.

Bailey: Didn’t Erik break his nose?

Jon: Oh yeah! He did [laughter].

Eden: Noses and toes sound minor but those are actually the worst trying to heal.

Bailey: Yeah, but when you tell people you broke your toe it doesn’t sound too cool.

Jon: Overall I think we were really lucky with how we got out of it.

Eden: Ok, moving onto a less depressing topic: who does most of the writing for the band, the lyrics?

Jon: For this last album, Bailey wrote a lot of the music. And the lyrics, too, actually. We usually kind of tag team lyrics and melodies. Bailey will come up with an idea and then we all get together and build off of it and turn it into a song.

Bailey: It really is a pretty split effort.

Eden: Would you say everyone in your band knows all the lyrics to the songs?

Bailey: No way [laughter].

Jon: No [laughing]. I can guarantee you that.

Eden: Who would you say knows the least?

Jon: [Laughing] probably myself, honestly.

Bailey: That’s a great question, yeah. Sometimes, I don’t realize what he’s even saying or what it’s about. Like last time I went through it, I realized I was just assuming you [Jon] were saying something completely different.

Jon: See? [Laughing]. But yeah, I feel like Erik probably knows the least.

Eden: But do you know generally what they’re about?

Jon: I think we all kind of have an idea.

Bailey: I don’t.

Jon: [Laughing] Oh, I didn’t know that.

Bailey: But it’s the same with the ones I write, like you don’t always know the story behind those.

Eden: Well none of your lyrics are very literal so unless you tell someone straight up what you’re talking about, everyone will kind of put their own spin on it and come up with their own meaning.

Jon: Yeah, exactly. Like a lot of them are personal for me but someone else can hear it and it means something totally different to them. Even the other people in our band, it could mean something different to them too.

Eden: Can you name one of your songs that’s kind of vague, lyric-wise and then tell me what you wrote it about?

Jon: That is a really tough one.

Eden: It’s a two-part question, I’ll give you a minute to think of an answer [laughter].

Jon: I can’t even think of a song we’ve written [laughing].

Bailey: You’re putting us on the spot, man this is hard [laughing].

Jon: Ok, the song Void off Separation, that one’s pretty vague lyric-wise. It’s about this time I was at a party in high school and I saw a girl who I could tell wasn’t a completely stable person; she was having a hard time socializing with the people there, and a lot of people were ganging up on her and teasing her in front of everyone at this party.

Bailey: I had no idea that’s what it’s about.

Eden: Yeah, Bailey’s been looking at you so confused the whole time, I think you really shocked him [laughter].

Jon: [Laughing] But yeah, It was just something that really stuck with me and it made me question some of my friends’ motives and what they were really accomplishing by that. It was just an eye-opening experience to see humans attack someone who wasn’t like them.

Eden: Yeah dude, most people are assholes. That’s like the one thing I’m learning as an adult.

Jon: Oh, yeah I know. And the older you get the more you see it.

Bailey: Yeah it’s definitely hard to find a good one.

Eden: How would you classify your sound as a band?

Bailey: Space.

Jon: Swag.

Eden: Oh yes, space swag, exactly what I was thinking too [laughing].

Bailey: Yeah, Space, Hyphen, Swag. Space-Swag [laughter].

Eden: I think that’s the perfect way to put it. Since the release of your newest singles, people are throwing “shoe-gaze” around and I don’t hear it at all. I don’t think they even know what shoe-gaze is.

Jon: Yeah, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

Bailey: Throw a little reverb in there and all of the sudden you’re a shoe-gaze band.

Jon: Even though we’ve been doing reverb, like, our whole lives. I just like to say “Who cares but shoe-gaze is wrong” [laughing].

Bailey: Everyone feels the need to put bands in a sub-genre but it’s so unimportant.

Jon: Music is music. I always just say we’re an alternative rock band… with a twist [laughter].

Bailey: I literally do not know what we even sound like. It’s hard listening to something you’ve spent months making.

Jon: It’s just us. It’s not like a specific sound, just us.

Eden: I think after the band, Ceremony, went from punk/hardcore to shoe-gaze within one album, people just associate a change in sound as “shoe-gaze” for some reason.

Jon: Yeah, I guess that’s where everyone got messed up [laughing]. But we’re going to keep changing our sound. I think with every album we’re going to be significantly different than the last. Like when we made Separation we we’re just kind of just discovering our sound and then, The Things We Think We’re Missing was just straight forward rock songs. And of course, this album we’re moving into that Space-Swag thing [laughter].

Bailey: Yeah I think it’s just gonna change all the time, whatever we’re feeling.

Jon: We’re not gonna put out the same album twice.

Eden: Who’s the coolest person you know, who you probably never would’ve met if you weren’t in this band?

Bailey: Joe Cannetti.

Jon: [Laughing] I was just about to say that! We met him on our first tour, he was a guitar tech for Bayside and he works with Brand New and stuff. But whenever we’re in the same city or festival or anything we have to say what’s up to him.

Bailey: There are too many people to name, actually. All the people we’ve met just from playing shows and stuff are so cool. I’d say like 95% of the people I know I’ve met from being in this band.

Eden: Do you ever wear your own merch?

Bailey: No.

Jon: Yeah I don’t think I ever have.

Eden: Is that something you’re deadset against? Like you don’t want to be that band or you don’t like the designs?

Jon: No we’re not against it but it just feels kind of silly.

Bailey: Yeah we’re working on that.

Jon: We’re trying to come up with some designs we might actually wear.

Eden: So, what you’re saying is, “we hate all of our merch, don’t wear it, we wouldn’t.”

Jon: Yeah… Oh wait no [laughing]. You totally just got me to agree to that, that was impressive [laughter]

Eden: You’re going on tour next month with Foxing and Mercury Girls. Are there any dates on that tour where you’ll be playing a city for the first time?

Jon: I think we’ve been to every city before. We’re going back to Seattle. We’ve only been there once, I think. We always skip it but we love that city.

Bailey: We don’t skip it because we don’t want to go, it’s just so out of the way so it doesn’t always happen.

Eden: Okay last one: tell me the weirdest thing you know about the person next to you.

Bailey: Jon dislikes pickles to the point where I’ve literally chased him with a pickle. You’ve run from a pickle. It’s a pickle.

Jon: [Laughing] No, I don’t like them it’s not a crime!

Bailey: He hates mustard too. I think it was a mustard covered pickle.

Eden: Ok but in his defence, I like pickles and mustard but that doesn’t seem like an intriguing combination.

Bailey: Yeah but it still isn’t something you run from.

Jon: Ok my turn. Bailey is deathly afraid of heights and he’s probably uncomfortable because we’re currently staying on the seventh floor.

Bailey: As long as I’m not near the window [laughing].

Jon: I still love you.

Bailey: Yeah, love you Jon.

Jon: Love you Bailey.