Taking Edgefest To New Heights—An Interview With The Balconies

By Adrienne McLaren

Sunscreen? $8.95. Water bottle? A hefty concert price of $3. A full day of soul-redeeming, mind-tingling and fist pump-inducing live performances for you, your friends and thousands of music-loving individuals? Priceless.

It truly is an experience for all your senses at Edgefest, an outdoor concert festival hosted annually by the good people over at The Edge. This has been my third year attending the largely celebrated music festival and it is a tradition I cannot think of ever bringing to a halt. There is something special circulating in the Downsview Park air during that one special day every summer, and I am not talking weed fumes. The positive energy heard through the music and seen in the grinning expressions of star-struck fans circulating through the entire park is infectious and, frankly, it is difficult not to have a good time. There is a visceral emotional satisfaction that comes with being so physically close to thousands of other people, all with one shared focus. As Ashley Buchholz from the high-energy musical duo USS said right before their final song: “I know everyone’s hearts are beating at different speeds right now, but for this next song let’s sync everyone’s heart to a fixed tempo”—words which aptly summed up the whole festival experience.

I had the utmost pleasure of chatting backstage with The Balconies, a pop-rock band hailing from Ottawa. The band is made up of siblings Jacquie and Stephen Neville and Liam Jaeger. These three musicians are not only delightfully pleasing to the eyes (on stage as well as off), but produce such a broad spectrum of rock-your-pants-off sound that it is downright impossible to listen to just one song and “understand” the band completely. To top it off, they are also such kind and down-to-earth people; I instantly felt a raw human connection after our introduction. It really is special having the opportunity to meet and converse with extremely hard-working and interesting musicians who can also really rock out. There is an impressive amount of talent between all three band members and, from the looks of it, The Balconies seem to be set to move up a couple floors.

Demo: So this is your first time playing Edgefest… what do you think?

Jacquie Neville: It’s been pretty amazing… we love large festivals and summer festivals. It’s hot… we’ve been sweating a lot! We’re so happy to be here and people seem to be very receptive of our show which is great.

D: Is there a special meaning behind the band’s name?

JN: Not a special meaning, but where it came from was from a fellow musician friend. He was hanging out at me and Liam’s apartment when we were living in Ottawa and he said to us “I always thought it would be cool to have a band called “The Balconies” and I was kinda saving that but I think it would really represent you guys well because when you think of a balcony it has nothing but nice connotations.” I feel like our music is kind of like that in a sense that… for our live performances… really crazy and hectic and high energy but you can also enjoy it with headphones or by yourself at home.

D: Jacquie and Stephen, you guys seem to have really good chemistry – is there any sibling rivalry that gets in the way of band productivity or has just being close to one another affected how you all communicate as a band?

JN: Honestly as soon as Steve and I began playing music, like when I picked up violin and then he picked up violin shortly after and then I became interested in guitar and then he got interested in bass, we started creating stuff with each other and I feel like that completely changed our relationship… for the better… because we just understood each other a lot better and we are able to communicate on a creative level. It works for us, maybe it doesn’t work for everyone, but I know that I love having my brother in the band and I think it’s really special and… you know we’re always going to have our little brother and sister tiffs but…

Stephen Neville: As long as I win them it’s fine!

D: So you guys [Jacquie and Liam] met at university in Ottawa while studying classical music, so how did the whole “I wanna be in a rock band” idea come about? Is there any classical influence in your writing?

JN: I’ve always wanted to be in a rock band. Classical music, I’ve been playing since a very young age because I was very fascinated by the violin. My grandparents were very supportive of that whole path, and I still love it, but being creative on my own and writing music, and being in a group, to me that’s the most special thing. I mean I love both of them for very different reasons but as a career choice this is what’s it for me. I’ve known that since I was 11 years old.

D: How did you choose your material for Edgefest?

JN: We had 20 minutes to work with and I think because of the radio station… it’s an alternative rock station, we wanted to appeal to that kind of crowd.

SN: We have songs that range from more dance-y disco-esque to hard hitting rockers…

JN: So we choose the hard-hitting ones today. We chose “Serious Bedtime” and “French Kiss”, which are a little more on the funky side, but we wanted to have a nice mix of our songs, to create a true representation of what The Balconies experience is. I feel like 20 minutes was kind of perfect in a weird way. I feel like it was over in the blink of an eye!

D: What has been your favourite venue to play at?

JN: Wow, for me we recently played the Jackson-Triggs winery where we played with Sam Roberts. It’s this beautiful outdoor amphitheatre in Niagara and it’s just so amazing to look out and see rows and rows of grapes. It was really amazing because we’ve never played an outdoor amphitheatre before… we’ve played outdoor festivals but this is purely built for that purpose and I thought that was pretty amazing.

D: Listening to your music, I hear many different sounds and musical styles. Does The Balconies have a particular sound you try to exhibit?

JN: No, we tend to write what comes natural to us and I mean, writing pop music comes naturally to us I guess.

Liam Jaeger: Yeah, it’s a lot of inside jokes, like you imagine a bunch of friends who hang out, and kind of get each other. Like we all listen to different types of music, but the same different kinds of music, so we’ll come up with an idea and it’s like “oh, these guys get it.” We kind of throw things around, things that would kind of be funny but just to us. All of the song titles are inside jokes…

JN: That’s why people are like “I don’t know any of the names of your songs!” cause they have nothing to do with the lyrics.

D: So what’s the meaning behind “Serious Bedtime”?

LJ: It’s about sleeping your way to the top. We have a song called “The Pit” that we wrote and we thought it was kinda grungy and we thought the word “pit” was just really gross…

SN: …because we were getting an oil change in Calgary.

LJ: This song just sounded like “The Pit”.

D: Can you tell us about the idea behind the impressive music video for your recent single “Kill Count”?

JN: I’m so glad you like it! We had an awesome time filming that. It was a lot of fun working with a big team like that. It was our first time ever working with a director, producer, lighting crew and camera crew… it was kinda overwhelming at first. We were like “Oh my god, this is all for us?” but, it was really amazing seeing live wrestlers and then seeing the CGI afterwards.

D: (jokingly) So the wrestlers didn’t actually turn into sparkles?

JN: (laughs) It was really exciting because we get to add these visual elements to our songs.

D: What can we expect from you guys in the next little while?

SN: Lots of touring (laughs), a lot of shows.

D: And you have a new album coming out this year?

SN: We’re still figuring out the details. As for touring: for the rest of the year we’re going to go across the country again, back down to the States.

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  1. […] Alumni Include: The Lumineers, The Darcys, Tokyo Police Club, The Balconies […]

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