Balkans is the project of four little rocker dudes from Atlanta who really caught our attention on their last trip up here to in New York, live and on the record. Sure the south is a breeding ground for guitar bands, but this raucous quartet stands out from their similarly tagged ‘garage’ peers by trading the standard blah rattle for a taste of early 00’s rock (much to the delight of Vice) and genuine its pop penning chops. Their self-titled debut drops today (May 10th) via Double Phantom, so you should probably read this interview, buy their album, and then come check them at Glasslands in June!
Is there a story behind the name ‘Balkans’? When I first heard of you guys I was half expecting horns and a lil mandolin strumming…
It was our Grandfather’s idea. I asked him what to name my band and he was all “Balkans”. I don’t know why, or maybe he said “Ball Skins”, I’m not sure. Frankie knows for sure.
I know super young bands often have trouble booking shows since they’re too young to actually get in to most venues–was that (is that) a particular obstacle for you guys? How do you work around the age issue?
One time my fake mustache slipped off while we were playing, that was a rough show! But for real, usually we just get on each other’s shoulders and wear a big trench coat. The south is not strict at all, so it wasn’t a big deal til we started touring. Union Pool in Brooklyn gave us some shit and tried to kick us off our headlining show when we were like 18 or 19, but Woody ended out getting away with his fake ID that night. For the most part we book our tours around cool DIY warehouses and such so we don’t have to deal with the hassle, those shows are twice as much fun anyway.
You have a few 7″ already out and about in the world and now you have a debut LP right around the corner–is there a track you are particularly proud of or that stands out as a general band favorite?
“Edita V” is probably the band favorite, it’s the most energetic and always a blast to play live. We usually do its last in the set so no one has to worry about breaking strings and fucking shit up a lil bit. Don’t make us do an encore!
How did you hook up with your label Double Phantom?
We were both really drunk. It was a one time thing, we don’t really talk about it with each other any more. But yeah.. we have been working with Double Phantom since we were like what, 16 years old? At that time it was just a local 7 inch thing, its crazy to see them selling records in places like Japan now. Totally stoked that we have been able to do all this with our old home-town buddies, we are in good hands.
You guys have been picking up a lot of love lately, and with that love comes opinions. What influences do you hear in your own music? As Balkans matures, does its sound ever surprise you?
Yeah, these past few months have been great. It’s a total shock to see this record getting national attention, and definitely exciting for us. Balkans were initially pretty noisy and juvenile, we were playing punk house shows in high school, getting crunk, kicked out of venues, etc. But before recording the album we got into a pop phase. We listened to bands like the dB’s, Katy Perry, Outkast and Television and I think that defined a lot of the more pop aspects of the record. Also, The Beatles. We all want to be The Beatles!
So many amazing artists have risen from the Atlanta area; I’ve visited a couple times but I just remember like a few nice malls and a huge airport (didn’t really get to see the cultural side obviously). Is the young music community down there centered in a certain neighborhood or suburb? Do you feel any connection to the bands that preceded you there?
Different areas tend to have different styles of music. In the northern suburbs like Marietta there’s a lot of emo and metal and shit like that, in Atlanta there’s a lot of everything really, punk, rap, Alt country or whatever the fuck, and some like electronic bands. The music we are more familiar with around here is the punk and independent bands. The hub for that scene is on the East side of town, we throw shows at Arcades, Bowling Alleys, Basements, wherever. Black Lips and Deerhunter were awesome at paving the way, and were super helpful to us as we came of age, everyone was. There is a great sense of camaraderie here!
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