“At the end of the day everything just boils down to this: it’s the same five people in the same room just getting together, jamming and writing.”
Balance and Composure’s Bailey Van Ellis is quick to get stuck into the discussion that’s swarming around his band’s latest evolution. Change is a pretty standard talking point for most new releases, but has caused a particular stir for Bailey and co. around their third outing, ‘Light We Made’.
“It’s kind of hard for me to notice but it seems a lot of people have recognised that,” he continues from Brooklyn, where the band are currently preparing for their upcoming US tour. “It’s hard being so close to something and listening to it to see what it sounds like. A lot of the time when people ask me what we sound like, I have no idea what to say.”
While this may be the view from the inside, elsewhere it’s slightly different – comments on YouTube for their ‘Postcard’ video read as you’d expect for a shift in sound: “This track is awesome, but I really hope the rest of the album isn’t like this,” and: “Am I the only one who thinks this track is garbage? Praying this a one-off…”
People can be quick to deride the new or unexpected, but in reality it’s what keeps things exciting – trying to please the masses is an endless task. “There has been a small amount of kids who are like, ‘I’m not feeling this’, but we expected that,” Bailey explains. “I feel like a lot more listeners have open minds and are willing to take in something new, or something that they wouldn’t expect, and take the positive from it, see where we’re coming from.”
In introducing this new development they had to go hard or go home. “We knew what we were doing, and wanted to put something out there that would kind of show people how far we’d gone in the process of writing this new record,” he elaborates, “we’d put something weird out first [‘Postcard’] and then I think this second single [‘Afterparty’] was more towards our roots. “We could’ve played it safe and sounded like us, but we wanted to do something different and keep it fresh.”
They’re are keen to prove their new electronic percussive elements will work onstage, integrating with the rest of their back catalogue. “It’s kind of weird thing when you go back and listen. When we were doing the setlist for this tour we had to go on to Spotify to find out what songs we had,” Bailey laughs. “We were listening to our older stuff trying to figure out what we should play and we were like, ‘Holy shit, this is what we sounded like?!’”
The band find themselves in new, refreshed territory and are discovering that it’s pushing them to further their performance. “I don’t want to sound cocky, but with these shows coming up – it’s the best we’ve ever sounded. I think we’re all just better musicians and we’ve come up with cool ways to incorporate electronic elements into the set.”
The excitement isn’t lost as Bailey explains what they’ve got prepared. “I think it’s really fucking cool, I’m excited for people to see how we do it. With a song like ‘Postcard’, there’s an electronic drum track there which is something that I programmed and I can play, but will throw real drums on top of it to make it different live.”
The final product, if you hadn’t guessed by now, is different to any previous Balance and Composure record. It’s complex in its execution, straying toward shoegaze and involving layers of rich and striking melody. It may not have the immediate and attacking presence of ‘Separation’ or ‘The Things We Think We’re Missing’, but it stands on its own, which gives Bailey confidence. “I think it’s an album that you can sit down and listen to multiple times and kind of hear everything differently, or hear something new each time, you know?”
The lush sound they’ve created truly works better as a whole, the record taking on the stance of being an experience, something you can get lost within, which Bailey knows can be a rarity. “It’s different to a lot of music that’s being released today in terms of how everything is released as a single,” he explains, “and not a lot of people take into consideration the form of an album. I think the album just has a vibe and fits well together.”
Time has been spent studiously processing what the years prior brought them, including 2013’s car crash that saw the band having to cancel a tour and re-evaluate what they were doing. 2014’s ‘The Things We Think…’ approaches this subject, but on ‘Light We Made’ the band found a fresh perspective: “There was nothing forced, we spent three years in between albums, there was a lot of time to discover new things,” Bailey ponders.
Certainly, a change of sound can be risky – but this album couldn’t have happened any other way. “As an artist you never want to stay stagnant and doing the same, or continuing to do what you know what you’re good at. I feel like coming from the five of us, and how we all knew that we wanted to push ourselves and create something new, something we haven’t tried before – that’s what this album was all about.”
Taken from the November issue of Upset, out now – order your copy here. Balance and Composure’s album ‘Light We made’ is out now.