Interview: Jon Simmons of Balance and Composure
By: Annalee Barclay
Balance and Composure
I got the chance to talk to Jon Simmons of Balance and Composure, a post-hardcore band from Pennsylvania. Their most recent full length album, The Things We Think We’re Missing, has gained a lot of attention, even reaching No. 51 on the Billboard 200. Check out my interview before and definitely buy their album, it’s an incredible listen.
Q: I was watching an album review of The Things We Think We’re Missing and the guy was saying that you guys sound like you’re straight out of the 90s but have your own creative style and that’s why he’s really into you guys and into this record. I was just wondering how you feel about that because you’ve said bands like Sunny Day Real Estate have influenced you, but what do you think about being actually compared to that?
J: I think it’s cool, it’s definitely cool. For this record, it isn’t what we were going for; we were trying to be original-sounding. But it’s always cool being compared to your favorite bands.
Q: Which song did you enjoy recording the most off this album?
J: Tiny Raindrop is fun to sing and Dirty Head was cool, we did it live by just playing and singing, and that was cool. Those two I guess.
Q: Well, my next question is about Tiny Raindrop. You’ve talked about how personal it is for you and that you felt you had to be honest with yourself about falling in love and ruining it-type thing. So obviously that song is really personal and means a lot, but why did you pull the album title from that song particularly.
J: I realized it afterwards that that was the perfect line that kind of summed up the whole record. It’s a pretty desperate record I feel, for me. And that line was just standing out to me a lot. I felt it was important, so I used it.
Q: You were the one that decided?
Q: Besides other bands or other music or whatever it is, what are some of the biggest influences behind your music? It’s clearly very powered by emotion, both the lyrics and the sound. Is it personal experiences, personal beliefs, or anything like that?
J: It’s all of it. I mean, it’s a lot of personal experiences. It’s also falling out of the beliefs that I grew up with in a Christian household. It’s inspiration coming from real life and learning and growing as a person and finding things out for yourself.
Q: So did you veer away from the whole Christian household thing? Is that a big thing for you?
J: Yeah, for sure.
Q: I think that’s a big thing for a lot of people that grow up in that kind of environment
J: Yeah and the guilt you feel just trying to be a normal person. It’s just hard to cope with that, I feel like a lot of people can relate to that.
Q: Definitely. It’s two years between the two full length albums. You guys credit the different sound for this one to personal growth and that you recorded it for two weeks in a cabin together. Can you more into detail about what kind of growth—does it come from the Christian household thing or a certain experience?
J: Not necessarily anything in particular. It’s kind of just all of us growing up as musicians and as song-writers and stuff, just trying to make the best album we could. Also, a lot of it is like, I’ve been in relationships for a lot of my life and in this time period I haven’t been. I’ve been doing some soul-searching myself, so I think that had a lot to do with the lyrics and stuff.
Q: Do you think you would take that whole cabin-route again for the next album?
J: Yeah, I think so. I think it really helped us and we liked doing it.
Q: Whenever I hear about bands doing that sort of thing, just sitting there for weeks and getting it done, it always sounds best.
J: It helps a lot, it’s really cool.
Q: Did anything funny happen? I feel like if a band is sitting in a cabin for two weeks it has to get a little weird at times.
J: Oh yeah, it was definitely weird. We’d go out in a town, it’s a weird mountain town.
Q: Where were you?
J: In the Poconos in Pennsylvania. So, it’s a weird mountain town so we did a lot of bowling at the dirtiest bowling ally around. We also got into taking photographs of creepy ghosts, which is kind of how our album cover came to be. We had a polaroid camera and just went crazy with it trying to make creepy scenes or pictures. It became a hobby there for some reason, so that was fun.
Q: That’s awesome. So I read something from October that your dream tour lineup was Foo Fighters, Radiohead, and Manchester Orchestra. How does that feel now to be with Manchester Orchestra?
J: It’s amazing. It’s been our dream realistic tour I think since we started, so it’s kind of a dream come true. It’s really fun and awesome. And they’re all really cool people, it’s great.
Q: That’s sick. Now I’m going to ask weird questions. Okay, so there’s a cage fighting match between Andy and Kevin, who would come out alive?
J: I’m gonna say Kevin only because he’s older and wiser than all of us. I feel like he would just know how to survive in any predicament.
Q: Favorite Pixar movie?
J: Toy Story 3 was amazing.
Q: I cried.
J: Me too. I cried, I really did. And Monsters, Inc. was really good too.
Q: Least favorite Beatle?
Q: What’s your ideal city to tour in?
J: Anything in California, we love it here. Austin, Texas is really cool too.
Q: Who’s gonna live longer, Mick Jagger or Keith Richards?
J: Mick Jagger.
Q: Were you a Blink-182 fan or a Sum 41?
Q: Worst trend you ever succumbed to?
J: I got into the metal core thing for like two weeks when I was a teenager. I got out of it quick, I realized.
Q: Last date you went on?
J: Like an actual date? Hm, probably in the summer.
Q: Was it bad or good?
J: It was…good at the time.
Q: Dumbest professional sport?
J: Curling is pretty dumb.
Q: Can you explain the cat, Michelle?
J: Ha, yeah we bought her at some weird gas station in Ohio.
Q: Does she have a back story?
J: Well, she had a really rough childhood.
Q: She looks like she has daddy issues.
J: She had daddy issues for sure, but she’s also extremely conceited and self-absorbed. But she’s good, we’re taking good care of her, trying to bring her ego down a little bit, but she’s good.
Q: Do you have any top 40 pop music guilty pleasure?
J: I wouldn’t say ‘guilty pleasures’, I’m not really ashamed of anything I listen to. I like all music though, so I like the top 40. I’m a huge Kanye West fan.
Q: I love your shirt. What’s your favorite of his albums?
J: I’d say My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, that album is just perfect. But also Late Registration.
Q: Do you hate 808s? He gets a lot of crap for it but I don’t think he should.
J: No, I love it. He shouldn’t. He took a second to do something different and it’s really cool and it still holds up, it’s kind of timeless.
Q: Well my next question was going to ask who your favorite rapper is, so would that be Kanye then?
J: Either him, he’s my favorite rapper or…I grew up on Nas, I like Nas a lot.
Q: Coke or Pepsi?
Q: And you’re from Pennsylvania, so what’s your favorite venue outside of Pennsylvania?
J: There’s a place The NorVa in Virginia that’s really cool cause the backstage is awesome. Like there’s basketball courts, and like hot tubs and saunas and stuff, it’s really nice. So that place is cool. But also Chain Reaction in Anaheim is really awesome.
Q: Favorite band you’ve toured with?
J: Manchester Orchestra.
Q: Alex Mason from New York wants to know why you guys are so sad.
J: Cause life is tough, I don’t know. I don’t know, we tend to write music that’s sad because we relate more to sad music, it’s more real. When you’re most vulnerable, I feel like that does the most for you. Sad music does the most for all of us, I feel. I think for most people, they don’t really realize that. I mean, how many happy songs do people write? At the end of the day, writing about real life and real emotions is cool. I feel like it’s nothing to be ashamed of either.
Q: Alright well I’ll let you go, you’re free from me.