Olafur Arnalds for BalconyTV Brooklyn

Imagine you’re on a rooftop in Brooklyn in Spring overlooking the East River with the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop.  To add icing to the cake, one of your favorite artists is playing a stone’s throw away. That is how I spent last Tuesday with BalconyTV Brooklyn, a magical experience is filmed at The End Studios in Greenpoint.

Tonight – Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 – catch another session of BalconyTV Brooklyn at Brooklyn Bowl. RSVP here.

I sat down with the two masterminds behind BalconyTV Brooklyn after the Olafur Arnalds session.  Hello, Chris O’Konski and Joe Kelley aka the “Two Lion Cubs of the Savannah.”

The Lion Cubs (L-R): Joe Kelley and Chris O'Konski

GP: Who gave birth to BalconyTV Brooklyn? And how?

Chris: BalconyTV is an online music video show that features established and emerging artists in over 40 cities across the world. The original Balcony was founded in Dublin by Stephen O’Regan and Thomas Millet in 2006, but the show has since spread like wildfire and now has locations in every continent except Antarctica.   I originally started filming for BalconyTV NYC in 2010, and Joe jumped on as host/booking agent shortly after in Spring 2011.   We produced dozens of shows together at that location, but ultimately decided that — in order for the show to reach its full potential — we’d have to take it to Greenpoint and form BalconyTV Brooklyn.


Joe: BalconyTV as a whole was formed back in Dublin in 2006 by Stephen O’Regan. As for the Brooklyn show, Chris and I started out shooting on a very “sketchy”  balcony/rooftop in Manhattan right outside Times Square. It was fun and we loved it but our resources were very limited. No electricity for one, and with so much of great music unable to be performed acoustically we had to check out new locations. Brooklyn is a mecca for culture and art and we wanted to be a part of it. Chris had begun shooting the Times Square show a little before I had moved in to begin booking and take over as host back in Spring 2011.

GP:  How did you end up partnering with The End?

Chris: Upon deciding to take the show to Brooklyn, we were introduced to Brian Crowe & Matt Flynn at The End Studios in Greenpoint by a mutual friend in music.  The End has top notch staff and recording facilities — not to mention a pretty killer view of the Manhattan skyline — so establishing it as the new home for BalconyTV Brooklyn was a no-brainer.  We officially launched January 17th, 2012, and our first performance was championed by The Ugly Club on the 18th in a foot of snow and subfreezing temperatures.  Over a year and a half later, I think I speak for the whole BTVBK crew when I say our summer shoots are easily the best.

Joe: Actually, I had been contacted by a fairly well known Brooklyn bases band’s manager to have them on the show. They of course could not perform as acoustic and stripped down as we needed them to on our Manhattan balcony. She then referred me to The End Studios in Greenpoint and put me in touch with Matt Flynn. I was living in Greenpoint at the time and was excited to check out the space. Once we did it was all over. The crew, the view, and the resources have made our show 10 billions times better.

GP: What’s the “soul” of BalconyTV Brooklyn?

Chris: Besides music, which is the heart and soul of BTVBK, the show comes down to two things — the experience and the product.  We like to start shoots early so that bands can become acquainted with our rooftop, get warmed up & sound checked, and also have time to drink a few beers and relax.  Once the vibe is right and and levels are set, we cue the studio, roll camera, and film the performances — usually 3-4 bands per shoot.  In addition to the bands, we have between anywhere between 10-50 people that come to our shoots and rock out on the rooftop. We welcome anyone who might be interested in our show to come have some fun and be a part our production.  Big applause is always great at the end of an episode, and having more friends is way better than having less friends.  After the shoots conclude, our second objective is to deliver videos that bands can be proud to show their current fans and use to promote upcoming shows & albums.  All of our audio mixes are run through Studio A at The End, and each video is shot with the tone of the artists’ song in mind.  For example, we recently filmed an episode with Villagers and, rather than using our traditional light, we built a lighting rig with some fencing and outdoor string lighting.  This created a fireside, homey feel that highlighted his linguistic, story-telling style.  It’s that flexibility and quality control that helps us operate BTVBK efficiently and create unique content in an increasingly competitive online music video industry.

Joe:  The soul of BTV BK is definitely the artists. Each artist comes to each shoot and is instantly taken away by overpowering view of the Manhattan skyline. An image known throughout the world. Then they give us to privilage of having them play on our balcony. The ambience of the shoots is also an important aspect of the show. We all look forward to these days when we hang with friends, hear amazing music, introduce the artists to an amazing outlet and group of people. We also enjoy when people come to watch the show live. We recently had people yelling from Transmitter Park to come up and watch live. Of course we allowed them too. We also had our neighbors watching from their rooftops. We welcome all new fans of the show to get involved.

GP:  Who were your favorite artists that you’ve hosted?

Chris:  Each artist brings a unique flare to BTVBK, so picking one or a few is tough.  However, some highlights are:  Olafur Arnalds, Skinny Lister, Villagers, The Ugly Club, Savoir Adore, Sheppard, and Apollo Run.  We’ve never had a bad experience, though.  Every artist we’ve had has been super enthusiastic about creating a great video and I think that’s reflected in each episode of our archives.

Joe:  Hmm… I would have to say Olafur Arnalds. I am a huge fan of his music and it was such a different feel for a show. I have loved all the band’s that have some to play but there was something about the Piano, and strings, and amazing vocals that gave me chills during that video.  I have also loved Villagers, The Ugly Club, Matt Pond, Rocket & the Ghost, and Alexz Johnson. Those were all pretty amazing as well.

GP: Who would be your dream artist to play for BalconyTv Brooklyn?

Chris:   I’d love to have some classics like The Allman Brothers and Talking Heads play our balcony.  If I’m living in 2013, though, HAIM, Amtrac, and St. Lucia would be great.  Mikhael Paskalev & Lemâitre are also heating up.  And Prince just because… I could probably make a list of 300 bands and still not be satisfied — but I guess that’s good for us in the long run.

Joe:  Oh Wow. I’d definitely have to say Prince would be the raddest of all time. There are so many out there that is a very difficult question to answer. I would love to see Simon & Garfunkel perform “Only Living Boy in New York” in front of our view THAT would be unreal.  Why, do you know Prince?

Check out their last rooftop session with Matt Pond PA and keep up with them on Facebook. The Olafur Arnalds session will be available on 4/30 here. Catch another session of BalconyTV Brooklyn Tonight – Tuesday 4/30 from 8pm-12am at the Brooklyn Bowl. RSVP here.

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