The Balconies take on bullies 

band opens for big sugar oct. 21 at Buffalo Bills

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The day might have been well underway for working stiffs, but at 10:30 a.m. on a Monday, drummer Liam Jaeger was groggy. "I'm sitting in the van because everyone else is asleep," he explained over the phone from outside a motel in Nelson.

Jaeger and his bandmates in Toronto trio The Balconies might be burgeoning rock stars, playing late and sleeping in, but back in high school, that certainly wasn't the case. And that's part of the reason the group decided to dedicate their weekly video blog to addressing the recent tragic death of Amanda Todd. The 15-year-old Port Coquitlam girl committed suicide Oct.10, weeks after posting a YouTube video using flash cards to describe years of being bullied.

"I was always interested in music when I was a kid," Jaeger said. "Most of the other kids were into being crazy kids and sports and I was never into that stuff. I can remember many instances where I wasn't into what everyone else was doing and people were mean about it. For me, I got to an age where I was like, 'I'm going to start a band and nothing will matter.' Some people feel like they don't have anywhere they can go or anyone to talk to."

In the band's poignant video, singer/guitarist Jacquie Neville mimics Todd's clip, replacing the tale of harassment with a message of hope while singer-songwriter Cat Power's mournful "Names" plays in the background. "I think it's really important everyone's aware of the way their words and actions can affect other people," Jaeger said.

The Balconies are particularly adept at using social media to communicate with fans, keeping them abreast of video shoots, new releases or their take on current events. "We feel like it's common courtesy to get out there and reply and at least tell them we appreciate them," Jaeger added.

That do-it-yourself work ethic has helped them thrive since releasing their self-titled (and produced) debut in 2009.

They've gone on to earn opening slots for Wide Mouth Mason, (with whom they're currently touring) Big Sugar (their next major gig) and Cold War Kids, to name a few.

They have also weathered a complicated dynamic. Jaeger and Neville met at the University of Ottawa while studying classical music — Neville for viola and Jaeger for classical guitar — and began dating shortly after.

Throwing Neville's younger brother, Stephen, into the mix as a bass player, the group began to craft explosive rock tracks, buoyed by Jacquie's blistering vocals. But after dating for several years, the pair broke up.

"But the band is still fine," Jaeger added. "It's what we want to do. We're all very understanding people and we're all on the same team...We're very lucky because we all know each other really well and we know everybody is committed to this project."

To that end, the group is prepping their next full-length album, slated to be produced by Arnold Lanni (Our Lady Peace, Finger Eleven) who just helped the band cut a new single. With an arsenal of tracks ready to go, they're anxious to hole up with Lanni in a California studio.

"It's a very interesting time for us right now because we've rehearsed so much playing all these gigs with these tunes," Jaeger said. "It feels like the band is a well-oiled machine at this point."



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