Indie pop trio Balancer are lovely for oh so many reasons, but their loveliness might be equally indebted to their actual sound as their regional ambiguity. Francisco Valentin (vocals/synth), Felipe Piedrahita (guitar/synth), and Gabriela Jimeno (drums/samples) hail from Puerto Rico and Colombia, met in Boston and currently reside in Brooklyn. Sonically, they’re quite sunny and uplifting, fuzzy and gospel-esque, equal parts tropical and alt rock. Their Kickstarter-funded debut LP, Tipsoo, dropped this February and may be the perfect summer album, inspired by both their travels to once-foreign lands and a nostalgia for their previous locations. Gabriela Jimeno recently took some time to chat with us about the band’s still relatively brief history.
High Voltage: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat (in addition to the hard copy of Tipsoo and the stickers you sent our way).
Gabriela Jimeno: You are very welcome.
HV: You’ve only been together since 2012. What have been the highlights of Balancer, thus far?
GJ: Well, it’s hard to choose, because it is the entire thing, you know? We feel so lucky to be together and be making music that almost every day feels like a highlight. We have had very hard moments, of course, as well as very happy ones, but they are all part of the journey. Definitely the time we spent writing and recording Tipsoo in Seattle has been a highlight, as well as the success of our Kickstarter, but music (and art in general) is such a tough business. There are ups and downs, especially in this time and age. That’s why we try hard to keep our focus on what truly matters to us, music, and that makes it easier to see each song, each show, each day (each interview like this one) as a highlight.
HV: What is it, specifically, that brought the three of you together? You came together in Boston, but none of you are actually originally from anywhere near there.
GJ: We all moved to Boston to go to music school there, which is where and why we met. Common music interests and personalities brought us together as friends first, and it took a single listen to Francisco’s original songs for Felipe and me to know that we had to play and make music with him. It was like “love at first sight” musically. It took us maybe 30 seconds of playing together to feel the chemistry. We just kept playing together ever since.
HV: You released your debut LP this February. Have you had any favorite reactions to it, whether from critics, fans, or just friends and family?
GJ: Yes, it has been very surprising and rewarding to us that people feel very connected to it on a very deep level. We have had only good reactions to it, which has never happened to us with any album or band in the past. We have heard words like “trance,” “journey,” and “soothing.” All great words. It is hard to remember any one in particular.
HV: What would you consider to be the album’s most significant influences, both musical and otherwise?
GJ: Musically, bands such as Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, The Beatles, etc. Otherwise…freedom, the coming of age and nature, and our relationship with it.
HV: Do you have a particular favorite album track, one you’re most proud of or one that best represents your current musical mindset? “Traveler” is especially impressive, like a hyper-soulful, hyper-psychedelic, and hyper-minimalist mid-90s Smashing Pumpkins. Hopefully that’s not insulting.
GJ: [laughs] Not insulting at all! Favorite track on the record is “Mount Rainier (Woke Me Up).” This song is the key to understanding the essence of the whole album. It is a breaking point as it marks the passage of one act into the next and in it every aspect of the album is represented. The song is actually two songs that are forged together by a dream-like transition. The first song being a reflection of life being seen for the first time with a clarity that had never been there before. It’s the awakening of a new self, the rebirth of the hero, after dissolving into the belly of the whale. As this song starts to fade away into chaos, a vortex of energy, a new song is being born. “Mount Rainier” feels like a sunrise. The break of day bringing light and hope into the soul, “everything is fine now,” “life is good and will take care of us now.” We have gone into the night of the soul and now we are back to where we belong, the warmth. This might be too much of an explanation but it is just because it’s a very personal reflection of what this song represents in the album and our lives.
HV: And do you, as a band, have a particular process of writing and recording together, or do you just “let it happen?”
GJ: We have a process that includes “letting it happen.” The chemistry of the three of us together is a lot of what makes our sound, (or at least the search for a sound) because of that, the process always starts with the three of us playing, recording that, listening back, choosing whatever is worth rescuing and making it into a song. We have a “fourth member” which is our engineer and producer, who is very involved in the process of writing and – of course – recording.
HV: What do you have planned for the immediate future? Any chance of some live dates?
GJ: We are already writing a lot of new music. We want to keep recording and releasing music, as well as hopefully touring as much as we can to promote Tipsoo around the country. For now we are constantly playing in New York City and its surroundings, but hopefully we will be “in a city near you” soon. Thank you!