The Balconies

The Balconies Compare Scenes: Toronto vs. Ottawa

I don't know much about Ottawa's music scene. I don't know what the hipsters, artists, and angst-ridden teens are doing in our nation's capital (or if there are hipsters at all), but I hope that they're developing something faster and more interesting than what goes on in the parliament buildings.

Ottawa'sThe Balconies are playing tonight at the Horseshoe Tavern here in Toronto as part of Bookie's Nu Music Night, so I thought I'd speak with Liam (drums, vocals) and gather some insight about the "goings-on" in the nation's capital... and maybe talk about the band as well.

Liam took some time off from recording vocal tracks for their upcoming full-length, which should be out this summer. The majority was recorded at Carlin Nicholson's Leslieville studio (he plays in a Toronto band called Zeus). Liam is hoping that this record will be able to capture the energy of their live performance better than the tracks that are currently on their MySpace page.

"We've done a lot more over-dubs. It's a funny thing, we've discovered that when you're just a three-piece [guitar, bass, drums], if you just record that straight-up then the amount of energy isn't as loud or crazy as we'd like it to be. So, at first we tried doubling a guitar here and there and things just progressed from there. The result is lot more energy coming through, which is hopefully closer to our live performance."

All three members of the group have been classically trained in music at the University of Ottawa, and while Liam has been residing in Ottawa since 2002, he is the only non-native member to the city. By August, The Balconies plan on moving to Toronto, which is Liam's stompin' ground. I thought that the mention of this move might be an opportune time to inquire about Ottawa's music scene.

"It's small. It feels a lot more like a community. In Toronto, no matter how long you've been playing there, there will still be bands that have been working at it for a while, that you've never heard of. Whereas in Ottawa, it's definitely possible to know everybody at once. There won't be more than one good show each night. Maybe, sometimes two things will get booked, but that's really rare."

So is that a positive attribute, or is that bad? It sounds bad to me.

"It's cool, because it means that everyone in other bands are going to be coming to your show and being really supportive, which is nice. Whereas in Toronto, bands seem to have smaller groups of friends."

But I know that Liam enjoys Toronto, because he's coming back and dragging the band with him.

"I love playing Toronto. I love it because people in Toronto will just go out to check out shows. And once we live in Toronto we can do more GTA tours. Ottawa is just so far from anything. Personally, every time I go back to Toronto there's so much life, and people being creative. In Ottawa, it's so quiet and conservative. Everywhere you go there's someone telling you 'don't do that'. The mood in Ottawa is, as someone described to me, like there's always someone shaking their finger at you."

This will be The Balconies first time playing at the Horseshoe Tavern and they are really looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to them being part of the Toronto indie scene. They should fit in just fine.

Photo by Ben Welland

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