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Knee Deep With Ne-Hi

Ne-Hi lead singer Jason Balla discusses clichés, egos, and obligations

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    Knee Deep With Ne-Hi
    Bryan Allen Lamb
    Ne-Hi headline Space (fka the Hideout) on April 28. (Photo by Bryan Allen Lamb)

    "Just be yourself." "You can’t please everyone." The overused clichés you've no doubt heard countless times actually apply to the Chicago quartet Ne-Hi

    Currently touring in support of their recently released sophomore album “Offers," the band navigates the 11-song LP through modern new wave/indie-punk music that ends up sounding like a more energetic Midnight Oil.

    I spoke to their lead singer, Jason Balla, over the phone ahead of the group's stop at Space (fka the Hideout) on Friday, April 28. Although Ne-Hi don’t care what I (or anyone else, for that matter) think of their music, it hasn’t always been that way. After signing to their current record label over a year ago, Balla and the band (which also consists of Alex Otake, James Weir and Mikey Wells) felt a certain pressure to appease others:

    “Right when we signed to [Grand Jury Music], and thought about making this last record -- I guess there was this whole process we kind of worked through that made the record possible -- but there was a creative time where it was this self-imposed stress where ‘people care now’ or something," Balla told me. "There is this hump you have to get over of, like, you’re still doing the same thing: just trying to make good music. So we got in our heads about it for a little bit, but luckily we were able to shake that loose, because I think that’s poison, really.”

    Art and music can be a selfish endeavor and maybe that is the best way to go about it. You can’t please everyone, so Balla looks to create something that is genuine, something that he and the guys in Ne-Hi like.

    ”My philosophy has always been: If you’re just doing it from the heart and it is actually interesting to you, the people who you want to hear that are going to notice," he said. "There is obviously a lot of stuff that does well that’s not guided by those principles but I feel like that’s the kind of world that I, at least, try to exist in -- as far as art and music goes. I don’t know, people are looking out for that kind of stuff and for something that’s actually real.”

    That’s how Balla operates, but I wondered if the rest of the band was on the same page when it comes to creative goals.

    “It’s cool, we bring a lot of different things to the band, as far as tastes and kind of, like, creative energy -- but pretty much across the board, we’re just a band who puts in the work and go play and try to make something that is exciting to us. It’s kind of lucky that we don’t have to navigate any swelling egos, yet.”

    Ne-Hi headline Space (fka the Hideout) on Friday, April 28, with Sixes and Half-Eaten. Tickets are available here.

    Musician, people-pleaser, lover, fighter and writer Matthew Craig Burke has been spewing musical words of wisdom since never. He lives off of peanut butter sandwiches, beer and Beck Hansen. Follow his updates on Facebook or contact him directly.