SXSW Interview: Balms

The madness has begun here in Austin, and if last night’s turnout was any indicator, it’s going to be a crazy week for everyone. We have a few more interviews trickling in, so we wanted to be sure that Balms are on your radar as you make that final push towards SXSW.

ATH: Whats the name of the band/group? Where are you from?

Balms: Balms from San Francisco, California

ATH: Describe your groups sound.

Balms: “…moody, guttural yet syrupy opus that plays with the Pink Floyd-coined idea of ‘delicate thunder.'” – Stereogum

ATH: What was your most recent release? Any planned releases from 2019?

Balms: We released our debut full-length album, “Mirror”, on February 1st of this year. We are currently on an 8-week, full US tour supporting it. Coast to coast and back.

ATH: For most SXSW sets, you get 30 minutes to leave a lasting impression. Whats your plan of attack? You have a set list mapped out yet?

Balms: Right now we are about 5 weeks into our tour, so we have had plenty of time to dial in a flow that we feel exposes our audience to the best parts of the record and our sound. The nice thing is that, compared to the record, the live sound is a bit more edgy, and there are some interesting live-version embellishments there for people who are familiar with the record.

ATH: Lets say your band has been booked an official showcase at a pop up venue somewhere in the middle of 6th street. The lineup features thrash metal, hip-hop, spoken word, and you. The sound is horrible, the lineup is not your style, and the crowd seems angry at the world. How would your band deal with such a situation?

Balms: Though our music is certainly on the intense, serious, and deeper end of the spectrum, at the live show we try to keep it light and operate casually and humbly on-stage. Our hope is for our music to engage and touch you as deeply as possible, and often the best way to make that connection is to share in the ridiculousness of certain situations. Basically, self-awareness is key. Simply saying what everyone is thinking and having a good time goes a long way.

ATH: There are tons of bands coming into town. Of the 1000+ bands coming into town, who would you ideally like to play with. What band friends will be here?

Balms: Oh man, there are so many! We have some friends from the bay area making their way down, like Wander, topographies, Banquet.. and some friends we made on tour like Trauma Ray, Grivo, Taking Meds, Oginalii.. We played Part Time Punks in LA early in the tour and they are doing a rad showcase. We actually helped start a festival some years ago called Dreamgaze in SF and LA, and it’s continued on via an internet radio station called DKFM, and this year they are hosting a post-SXSW “Dreamgaze ATX” fest the following weekend. That’s a great lineup of bands and friends.

We don’t think there’s any ideal bands to play with for us — especially on this tour its been a joy to find new amazing bands and be surprised. We are a band that doesn’t fall into one specific genre or scene, so we think our ideal is to play with really interesting, innovative, fresh bands comprised of good people.

ATH: What has everyone in the band been listening to, or, what plays in the tour van/car/bus?

Balms: We have actually been listening to a lot of Howard Stern since our van has a free subscription to Sirius XM. It’s easy to get lost in that show. Musically, John has tried playing bands and albums related to the place were in at the moment, like Spoon in Austin, Kanye in Chicago, Vampire Weekends Contra in Mexico and their self-titled in Boston. Les Savy Fav, YYY and Parquet Courts in NY, No Age in LA, Liars in both NY and LA. Tarot Sport is amazing during daytime drives in the desert. During the scenic drives Jared enjoys Sun Kil Moon, Jose Gonzalez, or other lullaby musics. We have a bunch of other CDs in the car as well, which have been making their way into the rotation: Modest Mouse, The Cure, REM, Oasis, Deerhunter, Nickelback….

ATH: Describe your perfect festival, real or not? Whos headlining? Wheres it take place? Etc.

Balms: We think the perfect festival for us would be one where all our band-friends are playing, we camp out somewhere beautiful for the weekend and have hella games / immersive art / beers / chill out cozy spots, and all who attend are the handful of people at each of our shows who come up to us after the set and really felt it. Those people.

ATH: Whats on the bands rider? If were bringing you food and booze, what can we bring you?


– Al Pastor with homemade corn tortillas and the marinated pineapple slices (either from Mexico or Flaming Tacos)
– Queso (I’m partial to Torchy’s, not gonna lie)
– a good breakfast IPA and endless Modelos
– gas station coffee
– Pepsi Zero
– Fiji Water
– American Spirits (unfiltered) / Bugler rollies / Camel Turkish Royals
– Nintendo Switch / Smash Bros Ultimate

– A Japanese arcade cab with all the fighting games
– A slice of NY pepperoni pizza
– A burger from Fatso’s Last Stand in Chicago

ATH: The band gets to create their own taco pop-up shop at SXSW? Whats the name, and what sort of tacos will you have? Any sides?

Balms: Slow cooked Al Pastor with the pineapple on top, and the fire roaster on the side to crisp it up before cutting it to order. Sides will only be dank house-made salsas (a pico, verde, and smoked) with crispy fresh corn chips. Definitely some rajas too. Oh ya, and the best Chile Relleno you’ve ever had.

Side-note: John actually works at a taco shop called ROCKO’S TACOS out of Oakland, CA, with his friend Rocky Yazzie (from the amazing Bay Area band Turqouiz Noiz) who specialize in Navajo-style frybread tacos and hatch chiles / New Mexican style ingredients. (ig: @rockys_frybread)

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