Balance interview

9 01 2009

In the summer of 2008 I saw Balance on their tour with Commitment Crew. From the moment this Swedish band stepped on stage the place just blew up. They were so energetic, they really blew me away that night.  The band had such a cool vibe I decided I wanted to interview them. I contacted Ulf and sent him some questions about Balance and the Swedish hardcore-scene.



Can you introduce yourself and the band? Who is in the band, is anyone involved in other (former) bands/hardcore related stuff, how have you been around as a band? What are you guys doing in daily life?
My name is Ulf, I play the guitar in this band called Balance. We’re a straight edge hardcore band from Lund, Sweden. Johan sings, Kalle plays the bass and Max does the drumming. We have been around for a little more than a year. I think we had our first rehearsal in September 2007 when I, Kalle, Johan and Ulrika, Johans girlfriend, moved in together in a house in Lund. We don’t live together anymore, though. Before Balance, we have all been involved in other bands and projects. Johan and Max were in a band called Castaway who released a really good demo in 2005 – I think Burning bridges was their best song. Kalle sang in a band called Hold the Line, and I play the guitar in Go For Broke as well. Most of us are fanzine editors as well, as Johan has done Learn To Listen Fanzine, Kalle has done Thumbs Up & Boots Down fanzine together with another guy named Kalle, and he has done some other zines as well. I have done Changes Fanzine in the past, and right now I’m doing Effort Fanzine together with, yet another, Kalle. Kalle seems to be a very popular name in the Swedish hardcore scene, so let’s sort some things out. These are the different Kalle’s I know:

-Kalle who plays bass for Balance.
-Kalle who sings in Go For Broke and does Effort ‘zine with me.
-Kalle who sings in Commitment Crew and did TU&BD zine with Kalle Balance.
-And then there’s another Kalle who plays the bass in a band called The Kind that Kills.

I hope that cleared up some of the confusion that is being caused by everyone having the same name in Sweden. My name is very unusual though. It means wolf, which is really cool, but I didn’t like it when I was younger. However, it has grown on me and now I’m quite proud of it. Names aside, besides Balance, we all work or study. Kalle does a lot of small, part time jobs here and there. Max is a mailman, I recently quit my job in Linköping to move back to Lund where the others live and I’m looking for a new job. Johan is studying some heavy technology/physics/math kinda deal.

What was the main reason for starting Balance? Are there any goals in particular you want to achieve?
The reason why we started Balance was because we all were good friends, and we hadn’t lived in the same town before, so now that three of us were living under the same roof, we HAD to start a band, because we’re into the same stuff, we’re all straight edge and we know what we want to do with this band. Inspiration wise.. I don’t know. I’ve heard a lot of people comparing our sound to Internal Affairs, which I can understand, but I wouldn’t say that we’re influenced by them. They’re a good band, but I don’t really find inspiration there. I’d say that just the four of us being together in the rehearsal room, and hanging out, jamming, worked as inspiration for the demo. Just being stoked on having a new hardcore band put together. We’re all into bands like SSD, Judge, Infest, Breakdown and such, and having in mind that we wanted a hard hitting edge band, those bands sure influenced us in a way. We don’t really have a goal with Balance, ’cause if we had a certain goal, that would mean that once we reached that goal, there would be no reason for us to continue as a band. What we want to do with the band is basically just to tour, everywhere – if we could, we’d do it non-stop. We want to see where this band can go, and where it will take us as individuals. Since the band started, a year ago, I think that not only have we played and seen new places, but also discovered new things about ourselves, each other, evolved as friends and as a band. So I’m excited to see what will happen next.

Who writes the lyrics, what are they about? Is there a particular message you want to spread?
Johan writes the lyrics for Balance, so I guess this is more of a question for him, but since he is in Hong Kong right now, probably hunting down some serious feet heat, I’ll try to answer this question as good as I can. Most of our lyrics speak for themselves, there are no hidden codes or anything behind them, they are all very straight forward. I guess most of our lyrics are covering what you would call “standard hardcore topics”, such as straight edge and vegetarianism. However, that’s no reason NOT to bring those issues up, cause it still means a lot to us. With all the fucked up drugs out there, and kids getting drunk even before they’re teenagers, we want to represent an alternative. Cause most kids today don’t even question why they drink, because it’s the “normal” thing to do. And that’s fucked up, so that’s one reason we find it important to bring up the topic of straight edge. We know that it’s been done before, but that’s in the past. We are doing it now.

Are or were there any bands that had an influence on Balance, both music and lyric wise? If you should make a mixtape, which bands would be on it?
I’d say that hardcore wise we’re all influenced in one way or another by older bands. We’re mostly into bands that either came out in the 80’s or bands that wish they did, haha. I write the music in Balance, and for the new songs we’re working on now, I’d say that there is a rather broad variety of influences involved. To me, being inspired by something does not necessarily mean that what you create sounds/looks like the source of your inspiration. While writing the new songs, I’ve found myself very inspired by Chain of strength (especially the What Holds Us Apart 7″) and Unbroken, but I don’t really see their sound coming out in the riffs I write. It’s more of a feeling or emotion that is being translated differently through the riffs I write. Both Chain and Unbroken are bands whose sound is very intense, and that’s what I’m going for when writing music, I want the intensity. If we would make a mixtape in Balance.. wow.. You wouldn’t believe it. It is very rare that we listen to hardcore in the van. Here are some non-core bands/musicians that, like it or not, get more plays than even the best of hardcore bands (Youth of Today that is, of course): Journey, Michael Bolton, Chicago, the Cardigans, Morrissey/the Smiths, Springsteen.. And lots more. We’re into well written music, even if it’s not hardcore, which seems to surprise some people. However, whenever a jam from the Age of Quarrel is played, needless to say, we go nuts. Stage dives (van dives?) between seats have occured, more than once.

You guys did a Europe tour this summer. What is your least favorite part about playing in and touring with a hardcore band? And what do you enjoy the most?
The worst: Having your second flat tire in two days, late night, in the middle of the french countryside, where noone will stop to help you and noone understands what you are saying. And as an effect of that, you end up trying to sleep, sitting in the van, freezing, with all doors locked, while some sketchy dude is selling drugs outside your van. Been there, done that.
The best: Rolling into a city where you’ve never been before after a long nights drive, not knowing what to expect and when you go up on stage, the whole crowd is moshing already during sound check, and when you start to play, everyone knows every word. This has also happened to us.

Touring with a hardcore band can get you in the weirdest places. What’s the most sketchy show you have played yet?
We have done some sketchy shows for sure, but the one that takes the price must be the show we played in Simrishamn (Sweden) a couple of months ago.  We played at a youth center in front of a crowd of 10-13 year olds, none of them ever having heard of this thing called hardcore, girls screaming between songs, asking for autographs after our set. AND on top of that, before our set there was a Q&A about straight edge and vegetarianism. We got the weirdest questions.. “What movies do you watch as straight edgers?” “Are you communists?” “If you don’t eat meat, doesn’t that mean you eat the animals’ food?” Weird, indeed.

Can you tell me something about the swedisch hardcorescene? When you played in Belgium I remebered us discussing about bands as Refused, Abhinanda,… Do you think these bands still have it influence in the now-a-day swedisch hardcore scene?
I think the impact that those old Umeå bands had on the Swedish scene is more indirect today. I mean, I guess kids still love Refused (I never got into them however), but I think it’s more like.. If those bands hadn’t been around then, the scene today would probably have been a lot different, and probably not as good. But, I know very few Swedish bands that are directly influenced by those bands, if we talk about sound.

Balance released a demotape on Rearrange Records, a 7inch on Not Just Words Records. Is there any reason you desided to sign on labels in Belgium and the Netherlands?
No reason really, but a funny coincidence. Rearrange showed interest in us, and wanted to put out the demo on tape in Belgium, and we thought it was a good idea to get a bit more exposure over there, and we are very appreciative of their work with the demo. I don’t know if that has anything to do with us releasing a record on Not Just Words. We simply emailed Ronald the songs, and he and Franke were into releasing it, so we’d be stupid to turn that down. NJW has been awesome to work with, and we don’t have any ambitions to change labels for our next release.

Have you noticed any change in the way people look at you as a band with the release of the 7inch?
That’s a good question. I’m not sure. It’s hard for us since we’re not really on the outside looking in, you know.. We experience this band first hand, but I have noticed that more and more kids are picking up the 7″, coming out to our shows, stagediving, singing along etc. But that’s just natural progression. Not many kids pick up a new bands demo, compared to when the same band releases a record. But of course, comparing the demo to the 7″, a lot has happened. The songs are better, the sound quality is WAY better, the cover looks awesome AND it’s been released by one of the best hardcore labels in Europe, so I guess that turned some heads as well.

What can we expect from Balance in the near future?
We’re currently writing songs for an LP to be recorded this spring. So, be on the lookout for that. Other than that, you know us. We’re crazy about touring, so you’ll probably find us somewhere near soon.

I’m out of questions, any shoutouts?
Thank you Gilles! Sorry it took so long for us to answer the interview, I hope you think it turned out good anyway. Shout outs to: Josef Skog, Hårda Tider, Commitment Crew, I don’t wanna grow up & Effort fanzines, Johansson for taking it, Atlas Losing Grip, TKTK, Anchor, RIGHT IDEA. As Aram would put it – PEACE!

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Interview by Gilles Smeyers for Never Go Inside. Thanks go out to Gilles, Ulf and Balance and everyone’s pictures I borrowed for this. I hope you don’t mind.

Balance – In Like a Lion out now on Not Just Words Records

Balance myspace

Not Just Words Records website

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