The art of Balance, Composure, and tattoos

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First Posted: 4/1/2014

Jon Simmons has traveled all over the world with Balance and Composure, but this Friday will mark the first time he’s ever performed at a tattoo convention. The idea alone was enough to convince him to play a solo acoustic set that evening.

“That’s why I’m open to it – I love new experiences. It was pretty funny when I got asked. I’m like, ‘You sure they want me to play acoustic at a tattoo convention?’” he recalled with a laugh. “But hey, maybe I’ll get some free ink.”

The singer/guitarist has been playing in bands since he was 13, moving from a church band into punk groups throughout his middle and high school years until 2007, when Balance and Composure formed with four other members in Doylestown.

“I just like the idea of making rock music and not necessarily calling it punk or anything like that. With this band, we can just make music, any kind of music we’re feeling at the time. I think that’s really cool,” Simmons explained. “I found a bunch of cool dudes to play music with and they’re like my best friends now. I just got really lucky.”

The popular indie rock act just released their second full-length album, “The Things We Think We’re Missing,” last year, writing the record over two weeks in a rented cabin.

“All of us have grown up a little bit. It’s something we created. At this point in our lives, this is where we’re at musically and playing songs-wise. I just think it’s a really natural progression,” he acknowledged.

“We changed the formula a little bit by going to the cabin and just writing for two weeks straight and just really working on getting songs together for an album. We took it more seriously and at the same time had more fun with it too.”

Inspiration comes “in waves” for Simmons, and famed Philadelphia producer Will Yip helped guide the band’s ship across that creative ocean.

“It was just way different working with Will than any other producer just because he was our friend and we didn’t feel intimidated or anything. We could feel comfortable and just try anything. It was just a great feeling. It was really fun with him too. There was no pressure; it was just all fun and making music,” he noted.

“He’s just so focused and into the music that he’s just an inspiration to keep going.”

After reading over the lyrics he had written, Simmons said the title had to reflect the “desperate tone” of the album.

“The whole record is about me wanting more and more and more out of life, and I just took a step back and I thought, ‘This is kind of about all the things I think I need in my life.’ I think I need to be happy. It’s the things we think we’re missing from our lives, so it was me reflecting on what I’d just written,” he explained.

“It’s a desperate album, which is fine. It’s a human emotion we all have, a feeling we all know. You just want more and more and you feel like things are never how you want them. You feel like you’ll never be happy, but if you just take the time to think about what you really have and the opportunities you have then it’s not so bad after all.”

It’s a “constant struggle” for Simmons, but he admits he’s much happier when playing music, particularly during Balance and Composure’s first headlining tour last year.

“That was the time of my life. That was really, really fun. It was shocking because I couldn’t believe people were coming out to see my band. It was a dream-come-true tour. It just blew my mind,” he enthused. “I had so much fun. It kind of gave me hope for the future.”

His solo work, which on Friday will include new original songs, some covers, and Balance and Composure tunes, fulfills his persistent need to perform during the band’s downtime.

“I’ve got to play some songs that I’ve written recently and stuff, so I like to get it out and just use it as an outlet,” he said.

“It’s softer. It’s just me and an acoustic (guitar). It’s just me playing around with melodies, trying to write good songs. I think it’s a little more melodic; it’s not as heavy, obviously. It’s just me.”

Friends with both Title Fight and Tigers Jaw, he last performed in NEPA during Title Fight’s 10th anniversary show, calling the area the band’s “second home.” Next, the quintet will be supporting Manchester Orchestra, one of their major influences, in just a few weeks.

“It’s kind of crazy. We can kind of stop after this tour,” he joked.

“I just want to be able to live off (my music). I want it to be my job. I just want to still be loving it too and love making it. I just want to surround myself with music and creating. I don’t think I’ll ever stop.”


Jon Simmons was one of the Electric City Tattoo Gallery’s top picks for performing artists they wanted at the shop’s annual tattoo convention, but his show isn’t the only thing organizer Michael “Woody” Wodock is looking forward to this year.

“I’m getting tattooed twice, so I’m pumped about that,” Wodock said. That, of course, and the camaraderie.

“I get to see my friends come out, dudes I don’t get to see all year.”


Electric City Tattoo Convention schedule

Friday, April 4

Convention hours: 3 p.m.-11 p.m.

7 p.m.-7:20 p.m.: Lotus Fire Belly Dancers

8 p.m.-9 p.m.: Jon Simmons of Balance and Composure acoustic set

9:20 p.m.-9:40 p.m.: Belching contest

10:30 p.m.: Tattoo of the Day contest

11 p.m.: Convention closes

11 p.m.-2 a.m.: After-party at The Keys (244 Penn Ave., Scranton)

Saturday, April 5

Convention hours: 12 p.m.-11 p.m.

2 p.m.-3 p.m. Hula Hoop and Pie Eating contest

3 p.m.-3:45 p.m.: Best Asian Art-Influenced Tattoo contest

4 p.m.-4:45 p.m.: Best Sleeve (color or black and gray) contest

5 p.m.-5:45 p.m.: Best Back Piece (color or black and gray) contest

6 p.m.-6:45 p.m.: Best Traditionally Influenced Tattoo contest

7 p.m.-7:45 p.m.: Best Realism Within a Tattoo contest

8 p.m.-8:20 p.m.: Lotus Fire Belly Dancers

8:30 p.m.-10 p.m.: Miss Electric City Pinup Pageant

10:30 p.m.: Tattoo of the Day contest

11 p.m.: Convention closes

11 p.m.-early morning: Painting pork chop sheets with Elijah (paint and paper supplied)

11 p.m.-2 a.m.: After-party at The Bog (341 Adams Ave., Scranton)

Sunday, April 6

Convention hours: 12 p.m.-8 p.m.

3 p.m.: Best of Show contest

3 p.m.-4 p.m.: Best Worst Tattoo contest

5 p.m.-5:30 p.m.: Tattoo of the Day contest

8 p.m.: Convention closes