Carolyn Saxton caught up with singer Jon Simmons when he and his hardcore band Balance & Composure came to Syracuse earlier this year. The show looked like this, and her interview looked like this:
20 WATTS: Balance & Composure wrote The Things We Think We’re Missing in a secluded cabin over the span of two weeks. What made you choose this method? Were there any downsides, and would you recommend this method to other bands?
SIMMONS: We were trying to write it at home; we all had jobs and stuff, so we would try to meet up after work. It would get really hard to focus because you’re just drained from the whole day, and there’s a lot of distractions at home so we thought it would be a good idea to just go to a cabin so we could just focus on the music we had started writing. It was really beneficial because that’s all we did all day. I would definitely recommend it to anybody. It’s just nice not having the distractions, because when you’re home you have friends that want to hang out and you have stuff you want to do, and in this town you’re in the middle of nowhere so you just create, which is what we wanted to do, and it worked out. It was great; we got a little cabin fever towards the end, but it was fun overall. And we learned how to cook for ourselves, it was nice.
20 WATTS: You’ve said in other interviews that you’ve been influenced by bands such as Brand New, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Neutral Milk Hotel. Have you been influenced by any bands you’ve toured with, or other younger bands?
SIMMONS: When we tour with our friends, like Title Fight, they’re an inspiration on us like anybody that we look up to. I can’t think of any, like, younger bands right now but we like Ovlov a lot and they’re pretty young. We haven’t met them yet, but we’re inspired by a lot of things, and a lot of our friends. Manchester Orchestra was a huge inspiration for us, and Circa Survive as well. We take inspiration from everywhere and everything.
20 WATTS: That brings me to my next question, which involves Manchester Orchestra. You’ve already been able to tour with Manchester Orchestra. You’ve said that you’d love to tour with The Foo Fighters. So, other than The Foo Fighters, what are some bands you’d like to tour with?
SIMMONS: Yeah, there’s a lot. Radiohead would be a dream, but that would never happen in a million years. We like a lot of bands. We like that band Land of Talk, but I don’t think they’re doing anything anymore. Me Without You we would tour with, we love them that’s one of our favorite bands.
20 WATTS: How do you think Balance & Composure’s sound has changed since your first release? Has the band made deliberate changes, or has the sound matured on its own with you guys?
SIMMONS: I think it just happens naturally on its own. We were trying to change; we’d change the way we write songs a little bit each time. I think it’s just a natural thing. Our new record is more mature, than our first one, which was a little juvenile given that we were so young. So, I think it’s just natural and we just let life happen to us and let that alter our music.
20 WATTS: If you can choose, what are your favorite songs off of each of your full lengths?
SIMMONS: On the first one, I like “Progress, Progress” a lot. I like “Patience” as well on that one, it’s hard to choose between the two. On the new one I like “When I Come Undone” just because it’s different, it’s a different sound for us and I like that. It surprised me that we created that. If I had to choose my favorite one, it’s hard to say. It changes from day to day, but right now those are my favorite ones.
20 WATTS: This may be a sort of similar question: do you have any favorite songs to play?
SIMMONS: Yeah, I like playing “Cut Me Open” a lot. I like playing the ending, it’s a lot of fun. Right now that’s my jam.
20 WATTS: What is a typical day of tour usually like for Balance and Composure?
SIMMONS: We usually wake up in a hotel or something. I wake up next to a dude, a hot guy. We usually always get breakfast; we Yelp! the best breakfast in town and we usually go there, like a diner or something. My band loves omelets and stuff, and I like hash browns. So we do that, and that’s a fun tradition. Then we go to the show for load in. We set up, do sound check, and then basically just hang out until the show. Whether that involves playing games, gambling, drinking, or just sitting there with everyone on their phones. It depends.
20 WATTS: If you could pick only three records to listen to for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
SIMMONS: In The Airplane Over The Sea – Neutral Milk Hotel, Illmatic – Nas… This is a hard question. What’s one of my favorite albums? This is the toughest question you’ve ever asked. Let’s say Stay Where You Are – Saves The Day.
20 WATTS: What musical advice would you give to your younger self?
SIMMONS: Take guitar lessons. Stick with them. I did them for, like, a year and then I stopped. I should have learned my hand more before starting a band, but I guess that’s okay.
20 WATTS: Other than taking guitar lessons, do you have any advice for other musicians or people that are trying to make it in the scene?
SIMMONS: For younger bands that are starting out I think it’s really important to get a hometown following, and do that for a couple years before you start touring. I see a lot of bands start touring right away and it’s really hard for them to catch on because they need to establish themselves. I think a lot of bands don’t realize that because they see their favorite bands go touring and they wanna just go right into that.
20 WATTS: If you weren’t doing music, what could you see yourself doing instead?
SIMMONS: I’m really into film. I would like to be involved with a film somehow. I like the idea of writing scripts, that’s something I’d be really into that I think about a lot. Also filming and directing is really fun for me.
20 WATTS: Do you have any up and coming bands you think we should keep an ear out for?
SIMMONS: Ovlov. They’re really good. This band Violent Soho from Australia.
20 WATTS: What are your favorite venues or states to play?
SIMMONS: My favorite venue is actually in Philly where we’re from; it’s called Union Transfer. Really cool setup, great vibes there. I like playing in California a lot, like the Anaheim/LA area is really fun. I like playing Seattle. I like playing Toronto.
20 WATTS: What is the most memorable, or craziest fan experience that you’ve had?
SIMMONS: I think it’s crazy whenever people have our tattoos, like tattoos of our lyrics and stuff. It’s cool, it makes me feel like “I hope they like us forever, I hope they’re not gonna regret that.” But it’s a huge compliment I think it’s so cool that someone would put something that you had part in on their body forever. I think that’s insane.
20 WATTS: Do you have any closing comments for the good of the order that you’d like to say to our readers?
SIMMONS: Keep doing you, and be proud of what you believe in.
Image by Adam Gendler