Balloon Ride Fantasy
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Balloon Ride Fantasy

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | SELF

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Pop Indie




"Review: Balloon Ride Fantasy – BRF"

Like the harmonizing of a thousand angelic voices uniting together to create one single spellbinding force to be reckoned with, “Welcoming Party” invites us directly into the insular, unforgivingly atmospheric universe of space age tones and ethereal cries of war and peace that Balloon Ride Fantasy dispatches with little inhibition on their stellar new extended play BRF, due out for international release this coming July 20th at the height of summer. It doesn’t take long for us to get into the groove of things and get lost in the flow of the song, which quickly picks up in tempo and accelerates into a full on assault on our eardrums, complete with a vicious bass and vocals that soar upward into the heavenly ethers that gave birth to them. As the dust settles and the exotic foreboding stride of “Arcadia” plants itself in our scope of vision and overwhelms us with its colorful textures, we start to float along to the staggeringly weightless beat whether we want to or not, and it starts to become clear that Balloon Ride Fantasy is in complete control of what happens next, both emotionally and physically, on this adventure into the misty unknown. “Human Bird” deceives us into thinking that we’ve reached some sort of an oasis of stability before wasting no time in ripping the carpet from beneath our feet and allowing us to careen into the most exciting and primal catharsis of the entire record during its fun, freewheeling chorus. The glare of the spotlight starts to warm us and it’s almost like we’re in the club with Balloon Ride Fantasy instead of listening to their studio dabblings, something that makes this release stand out in stark creative opposition to the artificiality of the bulk of 2018’s pop output to date.

The intimate nature of the first half of BRF isn’t lost on the second, with “Gods Beyond the Moon” picking up the pieces from “Human Bird” and pushing them into an effectively dizzying and hypnotic rhythm that is as haunting as it is danceable. It doesn’t become clear until after listening to BRF in its entirety that the track is largely a primer for the awe inspiring pop gold that is “Robots in Lust (Night Song),” by far the most accomplished and mature song that Balloon Ride Fantasy have released in their career thus far. Steeped heavily in the funky, dark ambient grooves of old school industrial pop and glazed with a dreamy arrangement and production that allows it to play out like a piece of high society art, it’s solid enough to earn my nomination for best non-single track of the year. As “Heartfighter” launches us into a swirling, cataclysmically charming whirlwind that brings BRF to an elegant ending, the only complaint that I was really left with as a critic and as a new fan is that there isn’t a seventh track to follow up this one. But even though I could have stood to hear a little more from these guys, their point was made and my attention forever captured. In summary; BRF packs the biggest punch of any extended play I’ve reviewed this year, and it would be criminal for any music enthusiast not to catch a glimpse of what this band is doing for pop right now, period. - Music Existence.

"PREMIERE | Balloon Ride Fantasy Releases 'Arcadia'"

Made up of Chris Olszewski (lead vocals, producer), Phil Conley (guitars, synths), Bethany Conley (vocals), Brad Schneider (bass), and Jordan Wood (keyboards, synths), Balloon Ride Fantasy has shared the stage with The Chainsmokers, Chvrches, and Metric, as well as opening for The Naked and Famous at the Feed More Festival. In addition to music, Wood has appeared on HBO's Mindhunter, and NBC's Downward Dog.

"Arcadia" kicks off with coruscating synth layers leading into a new wave pop tune. Olszewski's textured timbres pervade the lyrics with gleaming sonic hues, as Conley's background vocals finance smooth sighing harmonies akin to gossamer tendrils. A simmering sax solo infuses the tune with taut harmonic pigments.

The rhythm of the track takes on an electronic dance momentum, infusing the music with a pulsing, driving energy. The combination of new wave pop flavors and dance brio gives the tune chic stylish tinctures of oomph, especially on the swelling colors of the chorus.

Shot with Ridley Scott-like interplays of dark and light, the video was filmed at Pittsburgh's famous hot spot, Evaline Party House. The visuals depict an initiation party for a mysterious cult, governed by a lioncorn, which is a hybrid of a lion and a unicorn. Mannequins, masks, and glow sticks saturate the video with fantasy ambience.

With "Arcadia," Balloon Ride Fantasy integrates creamy new wave flavors with the pulsating vitality of electronic dance. The result is a yummy concoction of stylish music. - Pop Dust

"Balloon Ride Fantasy Drop EP"

Out of obscurity and forcing their way into the spotlight with the tenacity and passion of seasoned vets in Pennsylvanian space pop unit Balloon Ride Fantasy, who have a brand new extended play simply titled BRF and aren’t compromising when it comes to cultivating a sound that owes commercialism nothing and only adheres to the limitations of our natural ability to process sound (although they even tend to push the boundaries on that one, too). BRF isn’t just a new rock album from another Pittsburgh garage band looking to break out of the northeastern circuit and into the national spectrum; it’s essentially a six part swan song that echoes from the depths of the darkest ambient corners of pop to create a stereophonic exhibition into very modern, post-pop territory. I had the pleasure of listening to BRF ahead of its late July release date and was stunned by the excellent content that I found from this fairly unknown, working class rock band.
BRF is futuristic in all the right ways. It’s catchy, minimalistic, ironic and irreverent lyrically, non-evasive, very accessible and intimately produced with a special attention to the little details and nuances of Balloon Ride Fantasy’s sound. While I would have maybe made the vocal tracks a little higher in the mix during a couple of the more chaotic spots of the record, overwhelmingly there is little – if anything – that even the most discriminating of music fans could find to complain about in this EP. As indie artists have taken more to making albums which abandon ego in favor of doing whatever it takes to increase the effectiveness of the music, we seem to be collectively taking for granted how awesome it is to relate to an artist on such a humble level. But thanks to this crystal clear, high definition backdrop that creates an all too perfect platform for Balloon Ride Fantasy to showcase their persona and identity at full volume, we’re able to appreciate all of the tiny moving parts that are working together to make their sound such a tour de force.
Balloon Ride Fantasy could easily be a hit with fans of rock, pop or electronica, and it’s all in thanks to their versatile songwriting style that encompasses influences and thematic elements of all three genres in a fantastic, artistic meld for the ages. From start to finish, it never feels like the band is playing down to us or patronizing our sensibilities with all lot of predictable, slighted narratives that would have sadly cheapened this record beyond the point of recognition. Thankfully, these cats know exactly what they’re doing behind the sound board as well as out in front of the crowd, and it doesn’t involve any sort of hidden agenda aimed at getting us separated from our money (and sense of integrity as an audience). Right now they’re dominating college and specialty radio, but as BRF continues to gain momentum over the summer, the end of the year could easily see Balloon Ride Fantasy taking their sound to the next level of fame and superstardom. - Vents Magazine

"Balloon Ride Fantasy Welcoming Party"

Within the huge synth opening of Welcoming Party, the first song on Balloon Ride Fantasy’s all new six song extended play BRF, we get an idea of just how big a picture the Pittsburgh quintet intends on painting for us over the course of the next few tracks, and judging from the shimmering frills and suffocating wall of sound that instantly rips us asunder into the opulently spacey world of their aesthetic, it’s going to be a more than ambitious undertaking.

These initial instincts are proven true over and over as we make our way through the progressive sonic journey that BRF really is, and by the time we get through our first listen of this EP, it’s abundantly clear that if there’s a new big name in the indie pop game, it’s Balloon Ride Fantasy.

Merging dreamy vocals and thick musical harmonies isn’t a completely new concept, but there’s no debating that the way BRF interprets the captivating crunch of shoe-gaze is dramatically different than any of their contemporaries have dared to try. Balloon Ride Fantasy are a pop band, but they employ such an artsy, existential approach to laying tracks in the studio that it’s easy to forget that the origin of their existence is anything other than five stewards of an ancient craft coming together to preserve its dignity and integrity as a new generation crusades forward in search of progressive sounds different than the ones that they inherited from their elders.

Human Bird has got to be one of the darkest and grittiest neo-house tracks that I’ve ever heard in my life, and the way the track swings back and forth between pop gloss and the mischievous swagger of the left-field underground is a jarring yet beautiful collage of violence in audio.

In a sense, you could say that Balloon Ride Fantasy know how to channel 80’s grooves better than anyone else in the business outside of cover bands, and that while their sound can be somewhat retrospective in nature, they manage to give a lot of classic tones a very modern makeover, perhaps making their boxy, more angular qualities a bit more accessible to the average, mainstream music listener looking to get into pop that weighs a little heavier than what most of us find when browsing over the white noise on FM radio.

If I were a betting man, I’d definitely put my money on this coming decade being heavily influenced by the same formulas that Balloon Ride Fantasy and other no wave revivalist bands hold in such high regard. When you think about it, you could do a lot worse than music that celebrates the feedback and textured grooves that can evoke all of the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up with the single strumming of a deep bass note. If you can’t wait a moment longer to know what the future is going to sound and feel like, I’d recommend you check out BRF the next time you’re in the market for new music. I have a strong feeling you won’t regret it. - Stereo Stickman

"Preview: Band Balloon Ride Fantasy takes a New Wave trip"

Balloon Ride Fantasy would have been a great playlist addition back when WXXP was at 100.7 playing the Pet Shop Boys, Thomas Dolby and the Human League.

The Pittsburgh group, which releases a second, self-titled album this week, is a fully equipped New Wave/synth-rock band with pulsing/pounding electronics, intricate guitars, dance beats, catchy hooks and just the right amount of weirdness. It gets an extra lift from the dreamy interplay of singers Chris Olszewski and Bethany Berkstresser.

Balloon Ride Fantasy
With: Wicked Chief.

Where: Pittsburgh Winery, Strip.

When: 9 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets: $12;

“I’ve always been in love with ’80s music, pop culture, movies, just the overall vibe of the era, especially the way fantasy and sci-fi were depicted in movies like ‘Legend,’ ‘Gothic’ and ‘Blade Runner,’ ” Mr. Olszewski says. “With this band I think we’ve captured some of that feeling without totally ripping it off. I also love interesting and original lyrics, songs and albums that ignite the imagination. I wanted to emulate these things with my own creative ideas mixed in.”

Balloon Ride Fantasy grew out of a prog rock band with BRF guitarist Phil Conley — Federali — which dates back to 2003.

“After we broke up,” he says, “Phil started sending me these really cool instrumental fantasy-type songs he was working on.”

That was about five years ago, and though he was just “getting into singing,” he put vocals on some of the songs and they released an EP as Balloon Ride Fantasy — “Monocle City.” With a sniff of success, including airplay on WYEP, they formed a full band in 2012, which included Ms. Berkstresser, a member of prog band Rainstation Zero who had previously answered a classified ad to sing for Federali.

“I had to go to their practice space at ABC on the [South Side] Slopes by myself having never met them before. It was definitely one of those situations one would advise a daughter against going into alone. But luckily their ad was legit and they were nice guys.”

Federali settled on a male singer, but Ms. Berkstresser kept tabs on what the Federali guitarists were doing.

“I looked them up when I was living in Korea in 2009 and was blown away when I heard ‘Monocle City’ because Phil and Chris had really evolved their sound and it was so different from what they were doing in Federali. I could see they were really growing as artists and continuing to challenge themselves as writers.”

They are joined by keyboardist Jordan Wood, bassist Brad Schneider (The Incline) and drummer Brian Ganch.

Since fleshing out the band, Mr. Olszewski, who drives a school bus during the day, says, “I think we’ve become better songwriters and have homed in a bit more on our style over the past few years. We’ve had input from the other four members, giving our sound a diversity it was lacking.”

Those little surprises extend to the lyrics, which offers thematic elements that fall between the prog and New Wave worlds — like songs about mythical creatures.

“There are three songs on our new album that center on one unicorn at different stages in his life,” Mr. Olszewski says. (Don’t worry if you’re not into unicorns because it’s barely noticeable.)

“There is also a continuation of characters, places and themes from our previous EP. I would like to write it all out in book form some day to better clarify what is difficult to pick up through poetic song lyrics.”

Scott Mervis:; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg. - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"On its new record, Balloon Ride Fantasy avoids the generic"

From the opening notes of "Species," the first single of Balloon Ride Fantasy's new self-titled full-length, the band makes something very clear — the song could only be theirs.

The six-piece "fantasy rock" band sounds like something out of a sci-fi thriller — think Daft Punk meets Swimming With Dolphins, with spacey vocal harmonies. "I can't be [generic]. I'll have to add shit until it's not," explains singer/guitarist Chris Olszewski. "Even if it's not as good. I don't care. I wanna be different."

It's that need to stand out that drove the creation of the band's LP, which will officially be released on April 7 — the band will play its release show a little early, on Saturday.

BRF started in 2009 as a Postal Service-like collaboration between Olszewski and guitarist Phil Conley, both of whom had been members of prog-rock band Federali. Conley would send music to Olszewski, who would add lyrics. After releasing Monocle City in 2011, the two solidified a larger lineup, and in 2013 started working on Balloon Ride Fantasy.

Even without knowing the band's distinct sound, the name will likely stand out. Years ago, during a post-Federali practice hangout at Dee's Cafe, Conley joked that they should start a side project called Balloon Ride Fantasy. Others at the bar thought it was stupid, but Olszewski liked it. Immediately, he knew what he wanted the band to sound like: something from the '80s, something that could have come out of the movie Legend.

The band may have started as a joke, but Olszewski took the making of this record seriously. Everything on the forthcoming LP, apart from the live drums, was recorded in Olszewski's bedroom in Sharpsburg. Taking a meticulous approach, he re-recorded the guitar and bass parts multiple times, and even mixed the record himself which, in this case, was a particularly daunting task: to get the sound wanted, he created 70 to 100 tracks on each song.

"[I'm] not a professional by any means, but I can pull it off ... I've been doing it for awhile," adding with a modest chuckle, "I'm alright." - Pittsburgh City Paper

"Balloon Ride Fantasy album release show"

This Saturday evening at the Pittsburgh Winery, Balloon Ride Fantasy celebrated the Record Release of their full length self-titled LP.

Five-piece Pittsburgh rockers Wicked Chief opened up the night with an overall unmemorable set that really didn't serve to translate their sound well to a live show. The best song in the set was their only new song of the night, aptly named "New Song". One issue was that you could hardly hear the keys and so you begin to wonder why Wicked Chiefs even need someone on keys when it's always drowned out by everything else. The crowd was appreciative of the set and I'd be interested to hear more new songs from Wicked Chief as the most promise was found in their new song, but their live show needs better sound mixing first.

Balloon Ride Fantasy came on after to perform a great set that was a mixture of their latest songs from their LP and songs from their EP. They're a 6-piece fantasy rock band, comprised of two people on vocals, two on guitars, two on keys, one bassist and one drummer. Any time you have more than 5 members in a band, it always interesting to see how well all the different musical components work together as a whole. For Balloon Ride Fantasy, every piece is ever present in their sound and you appreciate how they've crafted their sound to utilize every instrument very well.

Their set consisted of songs that range from incredibly dance-y to moodier tracks, all infused and injected with a great synth sound that was invoking the crowd at the Pittsburgh Winery to get out the seats and dance along. They opened strong with "Automaton", from their new LP, and had a great flow within their set from song to song with breaks that worked well for both their changes and allowing the audience to catch their breath before continuing on. Other notable songs were "Spellcaster", their Bowie cover and the single off their Balloon Ride Fantasy LP, "Species". There was no traditional encore because, in the words of their vocalist/guitarist Chris, they "literally don't know any other songs."

A lot of credit goes to Jordan, on keys and programming, for his work with the lights during their set. They were timed to match the tracks they were used in and it really transformed the look of the stage of the Pittsburgh Winery to make the stage all their own. Speaking to the band after their show, I learned they were working to add more fixtures to their stage show to further evoke their style. I very much look forward to seeing how they work to tighten up their set and show and would encourage anyone to check out future shows from Balloon Ride Fantasy.

-- Long Hong - Pittsburgh Music Report

"Balloon Ride Fantasy Planning Album and Music Video"

Electro pop rockers, Balloon Ride Fantasy have been busy putting the finishing touches on their follow up to 2011 ep “Monacle City.” They just announced the date and location for their album release show. Be sure to snatch your tickets for Saturday, March 28 at Pittsburgh Winery with Wicked Chief. This is a cool intimate venue with a great atmosphere. It holds only 100 people and will sell out. You can purchase tickets at Showclix for $12. Also be on the look out for a new Balloon Ride Fantasy music video with local filmmaker Tom Larkin. In the mean time, check out the acoustic video of “Room Spins” below with Chris and Bethany. - Sound Scene Express


Now that we are well into the 21st century,
there are finally hopeful glimmers of musical
hipness emerging from the industrial exterior of
the Steel City. Balloon Ride Fantasy provides
their own contributions to the development of
Pittsburgh’s musical rebirth with an intelligent
twist on today’s indie rock band. The six-piece
ensemble has taken new wave to the next
level. Their synth-heavy progressive rock style,
combined with sci-fi-inspired lyrics, has resulted
in the development of what they have dubbed
fantasy rock. “We invented that, by the way,” says
bass player Brad Schneider with a grin. “Most of
our stuff doesn’t sound like it’s influenced by
any particular genre exactly. All of our songs
have a totally different feel to them.”
After a number of years playing with a heavier
progressive rock band, Chris Olsziewski and Phil
Conley branched off and spent the last three
years finding their way into uncharted territory.
The other four band members—bass player
Brad Schneider, drummer Eric Neugebauer,
keyboard player Jordan Wood, and vocalist
Bethany Berkstresser—were sought out. The
current ensemble was formed by September
2011, five months after the release of the
debut album Monocle City. “They wanted a live
band for the songs they recorded,” comments
Schneider on his entry into the band. “It takes a
while to find the right people to make it fit and
to make it all work.”
The unique name of the group often
becomes a topic of conversation. The band
explains that their intention was to find a bizarre and memorable signifier for audiences. “It fits
the style of music, too—fantastical,” explains
Berkstresser. “It’s fantasy with a modern
Their infatuation with the idea of fantasy
is boldly reflected in their sound. They utilize
haunting harmonies and electric vibes to create
their own brand of smooth and eclectic rock.
Despite their avant-garde, electronic style, they
claim the structure of their music is based on
pop, especially music from 80s icons Michael
Jackson and Prince. “We get the 80s nostalgia.
Not to where it’s exactly replicating 80s music,
but it’s that same carefree, fantastic feel 80s
music has,” comments Olsziewski, the primary
Olsziewski receives lyrical inspiration from
80s fantasy movies as well: “Legend, Labyrinth,
The Beastmaster—I love things like that.”
The poetic lyrics on Monocle City are about
whimsical subjects, including a zombie outbreak
as well as surreal depictions of simple, familiar
moments. “Chris is really original,” Berkstresser
praises. “He doesn’t write about relationships.”
Unexpected elements, such as prayers and
verses in Japanese, create a wide range of
themes. This compilation of intriguing materials
prohibits one’s ability to pin a specific formula to
the band’s work.
However, the lyrics do not rely on the bizarre
nature of the subjects to make them unique.
The artistry of Chris’ poetry lies in the humorous
prose and intelligent execution and arrangement of his lyrics. He creates vivid depictions of
dreamlike worlds using effective brevity
and cunning literary devices without losing
the substance behind his fanciful writing.
This original brand of lyrical content
complemented by their unique sound has
established Balloon Ride Fantasy as their
own genre within the offshoots of indie
Like many new wave bands, they are
aware of the challenge in executing a
quality live performance while keeping the
energy high and the audience loose. They
recognize that their unique sound tends to
inhibit the audience. “People aren’t used
to it,” Chris admits. “It takes a more openminded
crowd.” The extensive variety of
song styles encourages different reactions
from audiences. “There are songs that you
can dance to for sure, and there are some
that you will just watch and pay attention
to,” Brad explains. They have played past
shows at Brillobox, Club Café, Howlers,
and the Thunderbird Café. They were also
recently featured at the September WYEP
Third Thursday show. Anyone looking to
experience Balloon Ride Fantasy live can
look out for their next performance on
December 1 at Club Café in South Side.
For now the band is working towards
finishing their next album, which they expect
to release by Spring 2013. Until then,
Balloon Ride Fantasy virgins can find their
music for free online by visiting their website
at I recommend
that Pittsburgh music enthusiasts become
familiar with their work, because Balloon
Ride Fantasy is among the first in a new
generation of local music. - The Cut Magazine

"Balloon Ride Fantasy Share Personal Illusions on New Album"

Balloon Ride Fantasy‘s self titled album has been a long time in the making. The band has been teasing the album for at least two years now. For good reason though, when your band is as complex as this one and everything is on a DIY basis, it takes a long time. Recording, mixing, studio time, vocals, a limited budget all can pose as obstacles.
The sextet isn’t like your typical pop/rock band that sings about love, heartache or rebellion, their music is like their name suggests; fantasy. They have songs about a “Unicenticorn,” a “Unicorn Fantasy,” and of course “Balloon Ride Fantasy.” Although, there isn’t a particular theme to the album, keyboardist and guitarist, Phil Conley jokes, “I think most of the songs are about sexy robots.”
“Species,” is the opening track on the 11 song album and also the first single released earlier this month and understandably so. The synth driven song has an MGMT and Phoenix flavor to it. It is a catchy tune with a perfect blend of lead vocals from Chris Olszewski and backing vocals from Bethany Berkstresser. It really sets the tone for the entire album.
“The Anchor and The Sail,” might be the hidden gem in this collection. It starts out with a subtle drumming and goes into Olszewski singing “You are the wave on this cold ocean, you are the wave thats holding me down.” Eventually breaking into the best part of the song, belting out “Why Don’t you just take your time and We’ll be here…” The song is relatable in the sense that we can all feel held down weather it is a relationship, friends, or work, but Balloon Ride Fantasy cleverly simplifies a topic and makes it about an anchor in an ocean.
Another brilliant track is “Advance With the Mayor.” The song forces you to close your eyes and envision plasticine faces bowing to the Mayor in the early part before chanting out the chorus and later finishing off with a haunting voice stating “It all comes back to you in the end.”
“The Silver Key,” is the heaviest track on the album beginning with a mischievous synth beat, and Olszewski hissing out the vocals. The song changes directions half way through showing off Balloon Ride Fantasy’s mastery of song arrangement.
“PG Sex Scene,” is a band favorite. “It’s got a chill vibe to it and a fun guitar part to play live,” said Conley.
The song “Balloon Ride Fantasy,” closes out the album. This is an anthemic song, where the group really paints a perfect picture of what a balloon ride fantasy might be like. The song closes out asking, “Do you believe in Fantasies, do you believe in us?” Finishing off with a sick guitar riff and drum work.
The album is an easy listen, one that could be put on repeat and heard over and over again. Each track is unique and offers a look inside the bands fantasy world. Balloon Ride Fantasy is one of the few bands that are able to pull off the sci-fi genre in an ingenious way.
You can pick up a copy of the album this Saturday during the bands album release show at Pittsburgh Winery with special guests Wicked Chief. Show starts at 9 and limited tickets available. This will sell out so don’t wait too long! - Sound Scene Express

"Balloon Ride Fantasy - Monocle City, self-released"

Seven songs from a new, local indie-pop duo heavily informed by the Death Cab/Postal Service school of thought and the more recent Brooklyn synth-pop revival. Mostly soft, whispery tunes backed up by synths and drum machines (and occasional acoustic guitar), the CD features some tight harmonies and well-placed sound experimentation -- plus, a song that's mostly sung in Japanese. Beautiful and largely sleepy; no reason this band shouldn't take off. - Pittsburgh City Paper

"Local 913, Episode 6 - Balloon Ride Fantasy"

Fans of The Human League, Thomas Dolby, Dead or Alive and other great new wave acts from the 1980’s, take note: Balloon Ride Fantasy has made your favorite record of the year. Formed in 2012, Balloon Ride Fantasy’s roots can be traced to the now-defunct Pittsburgh prog-rock band, Federali. Members Chris Olszewski and Phil Conley released the EP Monocle City under the name Balloon Ride Fantasy. They caught the attention of vocalist Bethany Berkstresser, former member of Rainstation Zero, who had been keeping tabs on the Federali guys for a while. They added Berkstresser to their lineup along with keyboardist Jordan Wood, bassist Brad Schneider of the Pittsburgh group The Incline, and drummer Brian Ganch. While Monocle City was a great mix of indie-rock and pop, their new self-titled LP is an all-out new wave affair, a glorious tribute to the music and pop-culture of the 80’s. Balloon Ride Fantasy takes their affection for the sound of the 80’s even further than their contemporaries like MGMT or Foster The People. They even do one of my favorite things, where they named a song after their band. That’s right! The last song on the new record is called “Balloon Ride Fantasy!” Lyrically inspired by certain films of the 80’s like “Legend,” “Gothic” and “Blade Runner,” Balloon Ride Fantasy is not afraid to explore themes of sci-fi and fantasy. The incredible part is that they pull it off. The new record is an enjoyable listen, even if the songs are about unicorns and magic spells. Or rather, is it especially enjoyable because the songs are about unicorns and magic spells? Depends on who you ask, I guess, but regardless, check out their new self-titled album. - wyep 91.3


BRF EP (2018)

Balloon Ride Fantasy (2015) Self-titled

Monocle City EP (2011)



Sexy robots and fictitious creatures like the human bird are brought to life through the music of five-piece synth pop/new wave band, Balloon Ride Fantasy, based in Pittsburgh, PA.  The band has crafted a sound of dreamy vocal harmonies that soar over rich, synth-heavy instrumentation and catchy, danceable beats. Inspired by fantasy fiction and pop nostalgia artists like Prince and Michael Jackson and films like Labyrinth and Blade Runner. Their imaginative lyrics explore futuristic dream worlds. The group will soon debut their third release, the six-song EP BRF, which continues the evolution of the band’s colorful sonic escapade.  Balloon Ride Fantasy’s new music video for their EP’s second track, “Arcadia,” was recently filmed at Pittsburgh’s famed Evaline Party House and features an initiation party for a mysterious cult, run by a lioncorn leader.  The lioncorn being the band’s mascot, which is a lion/unicorn hybrid.


What started as a duo between longtime bandmates, Balloon Ride Fantasy’s songwriting foundation is the team of lead singer/producer Chris Olszewski and prolific guitarist/synth player Phil Conley.  Dynamic and pop-friendly lead vocals by Olszewski are complemented by the background vocals of Bethany Conley, Phil’s wife, who was initially drawn to the early BRF demos she’d heard while living across the globe outside of Seoul.  A golden Craigslist find and holding down the low end, bassist Brad Schneider creates slick, enchanting and energetic riffs.  The band practices at Schneider’s home on top of the city in Pittsburgh’s iconic Mount Washington neighborhood.  Rounding out Balloon Ride Fantasy’s sound is keyboard and synth player extraordinaire Jordan Wood, who also programs and synchronizes lighting for the band’s live shows.


Balloon Ride Fantasy’s performance highlights include 2016’s Thrival Music Festival, where they shared a stage with The Chainsmokers, Chvrches, and Metric. They also opened for The Naked and Famous at the Feed More Festival in 2017. After releasing their self-titled album in 2015, Balloon Ride Fantasy were selected to play the prestigious National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Show in Anaheim, CA.  That same year, the band made it to the top ten Semi-Finals (out of over 300 national artists) in the “Land the Big Gig” Contest for Milwaukee’s Summerfest. Their songwriting has been recognized by the Indaba Music Community, and several songs from their 2011 debut, Monocle City, were licensed for use on the Microsoft Surface tablet.


Closer to home, the band has achieved substantial local success.  They have been featured in several music festivals (including the Three Rivers Arts Festival, Strip District Music Fest, and Picklesburgh), as well as enjoying regular airplay on local and regional radio.  Perhaps their favorite honor to date is the “2015 Album of the Year” award from music blog Sound Scene Express.

Band Members