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Three of a Perfect Pair : The Rise of Pink Balloon Band
By EA Poorman
Fort Wayne Reader
Pink Balloon Band is a three-piece rock 'n roll band that pay homage to the kinds of rock songs that get stuck in your craw and won't leave you till you've hummed the damn thing out of your head all day. Then, when you least expect it, another one makes its way into your skull and you’re humming it as you go to bed, much to your significant other's (or cat's) chagrin.
Ian Skeans (guitar and vocals), John White (bass and vocals), and Ian Ruisard (drums and vocals) have been playing music together for a good portion of their lives, in different bands and situations. But only in the last year have they been making strides as a honest-to-Jebus live band. Skeans over the last couple of years has put out several acoustic EPs as Pink Balloon Band and has played several shows with nothing more than his acoustic guitar and magical head of hair. I even talked to Ian back in the beginning of 2014 about the band and what sort of plans he had for PBB. Well, we're in the middle of 2015 and things are happening.
Since 2014 Ian, John, and Ian have been working on the full-length debut of Pink Balloon Band all by their lonesome. Doing it DIY-style, they've managed to put together a 7-song LP that is pretty damn great (I've heard it...trust me.) So I got together with the PBB fellas and we talked about the new record and the aging process a mustache has on a person.
EA Poorman: So I've listened to the album a few times now and it's a great bunch of tunes. How long have you guys been writing and recording it?
Ian Skeans: Some of the songs have existed for a while, unrecorded. The actual writing and recording of the rest of it was over the course of 4 months or so.
EA Poorman: A couple have even showed up as acoustic versions well over a year ago on the Bandcamp page, right?
Ian Skeans: Yeah, that's correct. There were a couple songs that I'd wanted to see brought into a full band arrangement for quite a while. It's been really fun to watch them transform into their current arrangements.
EA Poorman: It's cool to see how they've grown over the course of the last year or so.
Now Ian Ruisard and John White, in the process of bringing these songs into a full band setting are you two adding your own ideas and helping arranging the songs as well?
Ian Ruisard: In a lot of ways we are. Skeans tends to bring the songs to the table and we develop them from there as a group.
John White: Some of the older songs that already existed were just a matter of learning the parts, but the newer material we've all had a good bit of input on the song structure and writing our own parts.
EA Poorman: I would imagine getting out and playing helps to solidify the sound, as well as allowing all three of you to bond musically. Makes for a fun time recording and playing. How long have all three of you been playing together? As PBB, and possibly prior to the great balloon.
Ian Skeans: We've all known each other for a really long time. John and his brother, Daniel, were probably the first people I ever played music with. We were actually in a band together a few years ago.
John White: My parents bought me a guitar when I was 10 or 11 and I remember going over to Skeans's house and learning power chords and Weezer covers and we've been messing around musically, off and on again, ever since.
Ian Ruisard: I started playing music with these guys late in the game and started off around 17 learning bass by listening to New Found Glory's Sticks and Stones album. Shortly after, John, his brother Daniel, and I started playing music together as Dino Riki. Skeans joined a bit after that and things got real.
EA Poorman: Let's talk about some of the songs. I'm curious as to where some of the lyrical ideas come from. It's a question every guy that writes lyrics never wants to answer, so that's why I ask it. First question is about the song "Ask Me My Age Again". How often are you asked your age?
John White: Daily
Ian Skeans: I do get asked quite a bit. I've always looked young for my age so it comes up a lot, generally met with scoffs of disbelief. I'm sure that will all level off soon enough.
Ian Ruisard: People tend to think I'm older but I'm sure that's just the mustache.
EA Poorman: Mustaches age you by 15 years easily. Tom Selleck is only 26 years old.
Ian Skeans: The song titles are generally completely irrelevant to the lyrical content and are comprised mainly of really lame, inside jokes.
EA Poorman: Ahh, so the titles are red herrings covering what the songs really about. I see.
Ian Skeans: Yeah, to a large extent. I write all the lyrics on my own but we name the songs as a group and they're generally done on the spot.
John White: With "Spicy Keychain" it was a joke that we found pretty hilarious and declared it to be the title of the next song whenever it got written, and that's how that particular song was named.
Ian Ruisard: Sometimes we have two or three song titles before we even have a song written.
EA Poorman: "Tied To The Mast" seems to cover that songs content pretty well, unless I'm misinterpreting it.
Ian Skeans: Regarding "Tied To The Mast", it's a reference to the movie, 'What About Bob'. Sometimes the titles just fit.(laughs)
EA Poorman: Musically, what was fueling the guitar-driven sound on the record? Lots of great feedback, fuzzy bass, and big drums. What albums were you guys looking at for some sort of sonic palate when you were recording?
Ian Skeans: We're all big fans of Weezer's first couple releases, Pinkerton especially. That was the sonic palate I was shooting for. Guitar driven rock and roll is something, as a guitarist, that I naturally love. It was really fun to incorporate.
John White: Tony Molina's Dissed and Dismissed was a sonic goal for me in terms of walls of fuzz, feedback, and a real raw, almost live sound.
Ian Ruisard: I've only been playing drums for a little over a year so with my still developing skills I tend to go for big, powerful drum parts that fit the needs of the songs as opposed to a lot of technical filler. The big drum sounds on Nirvana's In Utero were a heavy influence.
EA Poorman: You guys have definitely achieved that rickety, jangly Pinkerton vibe. And there's that in-the-red vibe that Steve Albini brought to In Utero. So many DIY bands unfortunately shouldn't be DIY as they just don't have the ear for mixing and engineering. You guys don't have that problem. Did it ever cross your minds to go into a studio and record? Is it something you guys would ever consider?
Ian Skeans: I love the idea of a big production, super polished studio release. But I'm also realistic about my time and financial limitations. The recording process is something I enjoy doing and I'm always learning something new. There's a really great feeling with taking a song from a melody or concept in your head, writing it and performing it as a band, and then being able to track it yourself and bring your own style to the actual recording. However, I've really hit some limits in being able to make an unbiased mix of my own performances. I'm really proud of what we were able to put together but I'd never rule out the opportunity to record in a legitimate studio environment.
John White: I'm super proud of how everything came together. I feel like the recording is a good representation of who we are as a band and how we sound. I'm very content with recording albums this way but going to a studio to do a full album would be a very cool experience in itself.
Ian Ruisard: I've always considered the DIY recording side of things to just be part of being in a band. It's a lot of trial and error. As long as I'm always hearing improvements from one release to the next, I'm happy.
Ian Skeans: A lot of my hesitation with these DIY recordings is I tend to be the guy manning the board and turning knobs after hours. We all get together to critique mix downs but it feels like a lot of it falls on my shoulders which can be an exhausting process. I'm happy to do it but I also would love to have some else's ears take the reins at some point.
EA Poorman: So when is the album being officially released? And is there a release show lined up?
Ian Skeans: It will be up for streaming on Bandcamp 7-28-15 and we are planning a release show for the physical CD's on August 1st at The Brass Rail in Fort Wayne, IN.
EA Poorman: Any big plans for the show? Special guests? PBB t-shirts? Pyrotechnics?
Ian Skeans: We're currently slated to be playing with our pals in The Snarks and The Wickerwolves. We'll have some new merch at that show as well. We're all looking forward to it!
EA Poorman: What's the plan for the remainder of the year? More shows? Did you guys have any songs left over you didn't use that could end up on an EP? A 7" perhaps?
Ian Skeans: We're definitely still writing. We've got a few shows in the upcoming months and continuing to book from there. The next release will probably be an EP of some sort. Maybe something a little different, stylistically. A 7" release is something we'd all love to do at some point in the near future.
Head to Pink Balloon Band's Bandcamp page at Pinkballoonband.bandcamp.comon 7/28 and stream their excellent full-length self-titled debut. Download it if that's your thing. Then hit the Brass Rail on August 1st and check 'em out live with special guests The Snarks and The Wickerwolves and buy a CD. Do it.