INTERVIEW: Balaban and the Bald Illeagles

Hailing from Stourbridge, post-punk alternative rock band Balaban and the Bald Illeagles tease their upcoming album with title track Going Clear.

A grungy, rough-and-ready single, Going Clear explores the murky themes of religion and power.

I had a chat to guitarist / vocalist Roscoe Balaban, bassist Ian ‘Onion’ Whittaker and drummer Jon ‘Cosy’ Compton to find out more…

Hey guys! How did you form as a band?

We had all previously played together in other bands. Ian and I had formed a band back in 2009 called Hans Gruber (named after the infamous villain in Die Hard). We released a 3 track EP before Ian got a job down South and the band split up.

We’d formed that band with mutual friend Matt (Miles Perhower) who was friends with Jonny too, and in 2013 we joined Matt’s band Perhower – a band that lasted a short period, but spawned an album called On The Spectrum (which we recorded in my old kitchen).

After that band lapsed, the three of us formed a band called Shagnasty Bastards, but it only lasted 2 practices. I spent the next two years in Matt’s band Miss Halliwell, who had been around since the early 2000’s and had various hiatuses, but the band did gain cult status with it’s mental live shows and the music was proclaimed Marmite; suffice to say a one of a kind experience that has shaped my understanding of music since. Roll on early 2016, we all found ourselves free to form BATBI and the rest is history.

Where does the band name come from?

Roscoe: Well, the band name comes from the fact that both Jonny and Onion have no hair – thus they are ‘Bald Eagles’ – and with both also usually sporting unkempt beards they have been stopped and searched at airports as they were mistaken for potential flight risks… thus a play on words was coined: ‘Bald Illeagles’ (I hope that’s not too controversial!)

You are about to release your debut album, Going Clear. Can you tell me about how the record was written and produced?

Roscoe: The album has come together over the past two years. Writing songs is a continuous process; we recorded our early songs before we were even ready to play live.

The self-titled debut EP BATBI (recorded at Magic Garden Studios with Gavin Monaghan) is a very rough-around-the edges early version of the band (you can find it on Spotify), whilst Going Clear shows a band that has matured no end and grown in stature, both as a live band and an entity.

Most of the songs deal with difficult subject matters such as religion (Going Clear), mental illness (Dwindle) and impending apocalypse (Trumpageddon).Music Crimes and The Pugilist deal with the state of the music industry and how difficult it is to be a raw, honest band in a world of fakery and fashion conscience.

The album was recorded, mixed and produced over an 18 month at Stourbridge Studios (our hometown) with Christopher Wilson, who did a stellar job.

The album is available from Friday 22nd March on Spotify, Deezer, iTunes, Google Music and Amazon Music as well as physical CD copies available on Bandcamp, or directly from the band on Facebook.

What’s your favourite song on the album and why?

Ian: My favourite tune is The Pugilist because I love playing it live and finishing our set with a massive rock meltdown.

Jonny: I love the swagger of Trumpageddon, as well as the lyrics and Trump quotations used in the studio version. It’s also my favourite to play live.

Roscoe: I’d have to say the title track – Going Clear. It’s got an interesting structure and is a composition rather than a straight-up verse / chorus-style song. To be honest, we do love all the tracks on the album and we’re very proud of the finished product.

I see you’ve got an upcoming launch show on 29th March at Claptrap in Stourbridge – looking forward to it?

Roscoe: We are very much looking forward to it! It’s in our hometown at our favourite venue!

If you’ve never been to the Claptrap, you are seriously missing out – it’s a proper music venue and they treat all performers with respect. It’s a magnificent space and the sound in there is second to none. Sean and Sarah who own and run it are a pleasure and we expect it be a packed-out night down there! We’ll be playing the album in full start to finish, so that will be exciting!

If you could tour with any band in the world, who would it be?

Ian: There are a few band I’d love to play with, but if I had to choose.. Queens of the Stone Age.  They are definitely best ‘commercial; rock band in the world for me – they write great songs and I love every album they come out with, plus we’d fit well on a bill with them…

Jonny: Pendulum… Roscoe and Onion are into their rock music, whereas I’m easy… I mainly listen to dance music in the day… Any 90’s dance will do!

Roscoe I’d agree with Onion, but if I could plausibly play with anybody, it’d be Magazine so that I could meet Howard Devoto, who’s a massive influence on me.

What’s coming up next for Balaban and the Bald Illeagles?

Roscoe: With any luck, a year full of live shows! We’re just in the process of booking shows up and down the country. Logistics are the hard part; as we all have full time jobs working unsociable hours and other commitments, so it’s making sure we can all be in the same place at the same time so we can go hard at this and hopefully continue to grow the band!

We are looking forward to playing in Manchester for the first time ever. I love it up there because they really do love music and they have a big sense of community, which I feel is lacking in Birmingham.

As well as this, we have already started work on our next release! We aim to get this one out much quicker than the last one and hopefully continue to entertain and excite people!

Friday 29th March – Claptrap, Stourbridge
Friday 26th April – The Courtyard, Worcester
Friday 10th May – The Giffard Arms, Wolverhampton
Thursday 13th June – Night and Day Café, Manchester
Friday 6th September – Ye Olde Foundry, Dudley

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