By: Chiara DiAngelo –
Toronto-via-Ottawa band The Balconies recently released their EP KillCount and have a full summer of tourdates ahead of them. Alongside her brother Stephen (bass, vocals) and Liam Jaeger (drums, vocals), Jacquie Neville is the trio’s dynamic lead singer and guitarist. I had the opportunity to speak with her as the band gears up for Edgefest on Saturday.
Having already played a couple of summer festivals, including their most recent stop at Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the band is looking forward to playing at Downsview Park this weekend. As Neville mentions, “It’s our first time ever playing Edgefest! A few friends have played the festival in the years past and they always rave about how awesome it is.” She notes that it will also be her very first time going to Downsview, so “it will be a lot of fun – hang out in the hot sun, and see some great bands, it’s gonna be great.”
The band’s set is pretty early on in the day, at 1:10pm. Playing a mid-afternoon outdoor summer festival set has got to be a different experience compared to headlining a club gig at midnight. Neville agreed that these circumstances get taken into consideration as the band prepares.
“For summer festivals, we definitely try to keep it as upbeat as possible. We want it to be as high energy as possible and get everyone moving and dancing and enjoying the summer. We try to keep our sets as short as possible, so for Edgefest it’s kind of perfect – the sets are only 20 minutes.”
Aiming to make their set as high-energy as possible, certain songs, like their single “Kill Count” are more likely to make the set-list than others. According to Neville, this one tends to get the crowd “really amped up just because there’s no real words in the chorus, just a ‘wooo-ooh’ so it’s really easy for people to sing along to and get into.”
“We want it to be as high energy as possible and get everyone moving and dancing and enjoying the summer.”
Having been a band for four years now, The Balconies’ live performance has evolved and gotten tighter, especially since the release of Kill Count. I bring up their mind-blowing set at S.C.E.N.E. Music Festival in St. Catharines last month.
“I think now that we’re touring a lot more and we have more stage experience, we’re becoming comfortable and growing into ourselves – not only as musicians but also as performers and as a unit.” She says that not only are they starting to become a lot more aware of each other on stage, but they are also more aware of what is going on around them, including the energy being thrown at them from the audience, which she thinks is “pretty amazing.”
No matter how tight a group is, going to an all-day music festival means seeing a lot of bands in a short amount of time, which can make it difficult for a band to stand out.
“We’re becoming comfortable and growing into ourselves – not only as musicians but also as performers and as a unit.”
Neville stresses that the band just wants to play “an extremely high energy 20 minute set, and get people going.” Being just the third band of the day, she thinks the early set time can work to their advantage, as the crowd will still “have very fresh ears.” I agree with her, adding in that they also won’t have heat stroke yet!
Not wanting to give too much away, Neville hints that the band does have a few surprises planned for Edgefest. “I don’t want to totally spoil them, but we’ve made little trinkets that people can take home with them that we’ll be handing out for free. We’re really excited for those.”
The day of a festival can be stressful for a band. Not only is there a their set to play, but they also often have media-related obligations to fulfill. Rather than pack their day, Neville says that instead the band will be “keeping it pretty simple.” While they have a few interviews lined up, “the whole point of Edgefest was to be able to network and hang out with people taking part in the festival just because we don’t get the chance to do that very often.”
“I don’t want to totally spoil them, but we’ve made little trinkets that we’ll be handing out for free. We’re really excited for those.”
There is also quite a stellar lineup of bands playing, many of whom she is excited to see. “I’ve never seen The Sheepdogs play before so I’m especially looking forward to that.” Good pals USS are also “always very entertaining to watch,” as well as their buddies Acres of Lions, who are playing the side stage right before them. She also mentions Yukon Blonde and Whale Tooth. “We share a jam space with [Whale Tooth] but I find our schedules tend to always miss each other so we never actually get to each other play. It will be nice to get to hang out for the full day and get to hang out with them.”
Immediately after Edgefest, the band will be heading to Ottawa for Bluesfest the next day (Sunday July 15). Having not played Bluesfest for the past two years, Neville speaks about her love for this festival. “It’s going to be great to go back home because that’s where both Steve and I are from. And getting to hang out with the family and see all our friends, it’s going to be awesome, I love Bluesfest.” Their friends in local Toronto band July Talk will also be playing TheRiverStage that day, followed by headliners Wintersleep and The Trews taking the stage after The Balconies’ set. “It’s going to be an amazing weekend!”
As she has brought up her brother Stephen a few times, I have to ask what it’s like being in a band with her sibling. Neville has nothing but good things to say in response.
“The best thing I’d say is, because we know each other so well, we can almost read each other’s minds and finish each other’s sentences. It makes songwriting so easy just because we both have very similar directions and we come from the same background. I feel that as the band evolves, we’re evolving together as siblings.”
It also makes touring a lot easier on her. “I don’t really ever get homesick because I have family on the road with me and we’re like a support team, you know?”
She jokes that the worst thing is “people asking us what the worst thing about being in a band with your brother is.” While people often expect there to be sibling rivalry or constant fighting involved, she and Stephen “get along so well, he’s my best friend, and I would only want to be in a band with him. I couldn’t imagine being in a band without him, the dynamic just really works. It’s efficient. It’s awesome.”
Asking her for any final tips for Edgefest festival-goers, Neville advises, “bring sunscreen – it’s going to be crazy. I made that mistake a few years ago when I went to a summer festival, it can get pretty scary. And stay hydrated!”
“I don’t really ever get homesick because I have family on the road with me and we’re like a support team”
Beyond that, the band is “looking forward to Edgefest and hanging out with everybody and partying. It’s going to be awesome!” I couldn’t agree more! Check out The Balconies’ as they rock the side stage at 1:10pm!