Chris Olszewski lead vocalist and guitarist of Balloon Ride Fantasy is the featured mug on HughShows Live @ Eide’s for August. We tracked him down, so you could learn a bit more about the featured face and his band. Along with Chris, the other members of the band include Phil Conley on synth and guitar, Brad Schneider on bass
Bethany Berkstresser on Backing vocals and percussion, Jordan Wood on Keys and synth and Brian Ganch on drums and sampling. Don’t miss Balloon Ride Fantasy, Several Conclusions, Action Camp and Essential Machine Saturday, August 12 from 1 to 5 at Eide’s Entertainment.
Sound Scene Express: What’s the name of your band? What’s the origin of that name? Have you changed the band’s name before?
Chris Olszewski: Balloon Ride Fantasy is our one and only name. The other founding member, Phil Conley, and I, were out drinking with our old band and he came up with the name. It was a kind of a joke at first but I really liked it. I thought it was such a ridiculous name that people would immediately roll their eyes when they heard it, but still be curious. A band named Balloon Ride fantasy could either be fearless or pretentious depending on how good the music is. After our band broke up we formed Balloon Ride Fantasy, and so began our epic battle against preconception and mediocrity.
SSE: What genre of music do you consider your work to be? Who are your major influences?
CO: We have labeled ourselves as “Fantasy Rock”, which is pretty apt for explaining a bulk of the music. I would probably tweak that to “Fantasy/sci-fi” because I write a lot about robots and what not. There is a good bit of pop sound in there too.
For this band, my initial influences came from the soundtracks of fantasy movies from the 80’s. I love the epicness of it all. At this point, I don’t really pull from outside sources, more from my own mind. I stopped listening to music because I like where I am now and don’t want anything to mess with my homeostasis. Phil has told me in confidence that he is inspired by the screams and nightmares of small children. He said that without their anguish to fuel him he would’ve given up on music years ago. I’m joking of course, in case his mom reads this.
SSE: How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?
CO: I’ve known Phil for around ten years. We formed a progressive, guitar-heavy band called Federali in 2003, in which we both played guitar. We complemented each other well then and still do now. Phil and Bethany have been together for around four years I believe. She actually auditioned to sing in Federali a while back, that’s how they met. Jordan and I have been in bands together and have gotten very drunk together as well. Brad showed up to audition and he was so cool that we asked him to join immediately. Brian is a godsend. He’s really good. He came into the band about a year ago after our old drummer Eric quit and rescued us from drummerlessness.
SSE: What are your day jobs? If any.
CO: I drive a school bus unfortunately. I hate kids. Just kidding. Phil does graphic design at CMU, which comes in handy when we need designs for flyers or merch. Bethany works in international education. Brad is a poker dealer at River’s Casino. Jordan lives under a bridge so he lives off of the land mostly. Brian works at a music store.
SSE: Who writes your song lyrics? What is your inspiration?
CO: In our band Phil writes the music and I write the lyrics and melodies. It works well that way. There is tweaking of course. For many of the songs, I get inspired by the names Phil gives them. I use them almost like writing prompts. For example, one song we have he named “Advance With The Mayor”, and I wrote it about a disillusioned unicorn mayor. Other times the feel of the music jumps right into me and I immediately know what I’m gonna sing about.
SSE: When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music together?
CO: In 2009, Phil started sending me these awesome fantasy-type songs and I couldn’t resist writing weird shit to them. We ended up recording an ep called “Monocle City” which was accepted well among our friends and other people. WYEP started playing a few of our songs which got us a bit excited, since they’re known to be picky with what local music they play. So, in the summer of 2011 we decided to form a live band.
SSE: Where have you performed? What are your favorite and least favorite venues?
CO: We’ve played at Club Cafe a bunch, Brillobox several times, Howlers, Thunderbird, a few outdoor shows like Millvale Days and Live On Liberty. We just played the Arts Fest downtown last month, which was awesome. We even made the news for about two seconds. Our last show was the Westmoreland Arts Fest which was cool too. Having six members, most of whom play more than one instrument, it’s really hard to have a favorite place. It’s tough to accommodate that much shit at any venue, which usually leads to an anxious feeling of impending doom during most sets. So, I guess I love and hate each venue equally. The people who come to see us are always awesome of course.
SSE: What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?
CO: We usually practice on Thursdays. Sometimes we switch to Mondays if needed. We do well for having so many schedules to deal with. Practice is always fun. We get along very well so there aren’t many blow-ups or ill feelings. Usually there is one person who fucks up the vibe, but not in this band. It’s a new thing for me. We do tend to talk a lot when we should be playing though.
SSE: What’s your ultimate direction for your band? Are you seeking fame and fortune?
CO: Yes fame and fortune sounds good. Honestly, I’d be completely satisfied getting paid enough that being a musician is my only job. But I have high hopes for this band and our upcoming album, which will be dropping like an atomic bomb this fall. A company called Indaba music in New York has been incredibly supportive of our music and band. We’ve also been featured on the Microsoft Surface project, and continue to have a relationship with Microsoft. It’s reassuring when people take interest in you. Like, maybe we aren’t just wasting our time.
SSE: How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? Do you have a website with sample songs or a demo CD?
CO: Right now we have a bandcamp page which is balloonridefantasy.bandcamp.com with tracks and links to buy our first ep. And the new album soon enough. You can like us on Facebook and say hi. We would love that. We’re on all of the other social media sites and on Pandora as well.
SSE: How do you feel about being featured on HughShows Live @ Eide’s flier?
CO: I honestly didn’t know until I read this. Pretty awesome! Thanks Hugh!
SSE: When is your next show?
CO: We’re doing the All-Scene Entertainment Festival at Mr. Small’s on Saturday, August 2, and then of course Hugh Shows Live a week later at Eide’s.
SSE: Is there any thing else you would like to add?
CO: Just a big thanks to you guys for taking an interest in our band. Check out our new album in a few months. It will be quite sexy, I promise.
HughShows is a free monthly family-friendly Pittsburgh concert series featuring:
Several Conclusions (Dark Folk) 1pm
Essential Machine (Indie Folk) 2pm
Action Camp (Electro-Doom Rock) 3pm
Balloon Ride Fantasy (Alternative Pop) 4pm
presented by The Wilderness Recording Studio
If you are attending, please consider bringing a new school supply item (listed below) for the Homeless Children’s Education Fund’s GEAR FOR GRADES BACKPACK DRIVE.
-Small Boxes Crayons
-Small Tissue Packs