In a scene full of bands identifying themselves with the genres of “hardcore” and “metal,” Doylestown five piece Balance and Composure dares to be different. Drawing from a diverse group of influences within the “indie” genre, they prove themselves to be talented beyond their young years. The five members of Balance and Composure – Jon Simmons (vocals and guitar), Andy Slaymaker (guitar), Dan Kerrigan (guitar and WCU freshman), Matt Warner (bass), and Bailey Van Ellis (drums) all combined forces in September 2007 in Doylestown, PA and recorded a three song demo that November. Their next EP, released in July 2008 was titled “I Just Want to Be Pure.” Shortly after releasing their EP, Balance and Composure embarked on a 10-day tour that went through Baltimore, Richmond, North Carolina, Connecticut, Boston, New York City, and New Jersey with their friends I Am Alaska.
Balance draws from a varied pool of influences, citing indie giants Explosions in the Sky, Red House Painters, Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, Neutral Milk Hotel and American Football; 80s mainstays The Smiths; and “emo” staples Jimmy Eat World, Braid, Mineral, Texas is the Reason and Jawbreaker; and even Johnny Cash.
These influences become apparent and critical when one listens to the band’s July 2008 EP.
The first song “I Just Want to Be Pure” is a very short instrumental track with faint singing in the background, ala “Tautou” by indie / emo heavies Brand New. I’m not sure if this really necessitated a separate track and not just an introduction, but diehard Brand New, and similar bands, fans will have their interest peaked early. As the CD progresses, moving onto “Weakman, Weakboy,” the listener is introduced to the band’s most purely (no pun intended) “emo” track, which features singer Jon Simmons’ dulcet tones overlayed with a Brand New-ish background and even appearances by a tambourine and chimes. The EP moves on with a third track “Alone for Now” which reminded me of a very sad / “emo” Mewithoutyou. If Aaron Weiss had a really bad day, he might write this song. Balance begins to really show off their spot-on guitar work and borrow from Mewithoutyou with the inclusion of shouting (not screaming) and Brand New with some shouted gang vocals.
The fourth track, “Waiting, Thinking, Giving Up” is nothing short of an epic, including many of their influences to form a 3:39 masterpiece of diverse genres. The song pairs its “emo” love themed lyrics with catchy, dancey, crowd pleasing guitar hooks done superbly well and heavily influenced by Minus the Bear, a trend that continues on to the next two songs. “Waiting” also contains pop elements reminiscent of The Starting Line, making for an interesting blend of three similar but contrasting subgenres of rock.
The fifth song, “Pull of the Ground” continues in the same vein as “Waiting” with more Minus the Bear guitar work (but with a piano background, another interesting and unique blend) and gang vocals, but made softer and slower. The final song on the EP, “Chapter 20” includes more Minus the Bear guitar work with slightly more math rock sound, a dancier beat, and more “emo” lyrics. This track employs some tricks common with bands like The Smiths and The Cure, who often disguise serious subjects in their lyrics with a cheerful melody.
The song is a rollrecoaster – not unlike this EP – slowing down then speeding up again. Overall, “Pure” packs a lot into six songs, delivering a large range of influences, and showing off a prowess for blend and guitar work that is highly skilled.
The only weak point would be the “emo” lyrics, which lack inventiveness at times, falling back on familiar stereotypes. However, despite this, Balance and Composure prove themselves a promising young indie band for fans of clean, dancey music with surprising depth.
Want to see them live? Here are some upcoming shows:
October 16th, 2008, 7 p.m. at the Moose Lodge in Doylestown, PA with Ace Enders (of The Early November and I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business fame), The Good War, and Clarity.
October 24th, 2008, 8 p.m. at Pebble Hill Church (320 Edison Furlong Road) in Doylestown, PA with Arbor Vitae, The Menzingers, and All in a Year.
November 15th at the North Penn YMCA in Landsdale, PA with TBA.
Amanda Warren is a third-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at AW631747@wcupa.edu