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A Touch Elastic Punk: Steve From Belvedere

Belvedere – Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A Touch Elastic Punk: Steve From Belvedere - 'Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense' album cover

It’s fair to say, that Belvedere have been away but in this here 2021, they have returned. “A Touch Elastic Punk: Steve From Belvedere” is now arriving in front of your visual cortex at an opportune time. After twenty-five years in the fast melodic Punk game, the Canadian titans have come along way both in sound and genetic make-up but one thing has remained true. That of course being, the Belvedere way. Do I need to explain what that is? Well, arguably no. But why no?

Well, as you cascade through Punk music history since 1995, especially within the indomitable realms of Skate Punk and Melodic Hardcore, you would be truly hard-pressed to miss the band’s moniker being a ubiquitous presence. A presence that has now entered its sixth iteration with the forthcoming new album, Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense via both Lockjaw Records in the UK and Thousand Islands Records in the band’s own Canada.

I recently entered an email exchange with Mr Steve Rawles about it all. It got silly. Belvedere have returned.

So, Steve, I usually start with something somewhat abstract. In the style of a “proud-mum” cascading her child’s achievements down to anyone that will listen, tell us who you are and what you do? Mr Rob-jaw Piper himself has some credit in this one.

Oh yes, this is Steve from Belvedere and my first band Belvedere has been around for twenty-five years with a seven-year break in between as they were “finding themselves”. I’m so proud of them for releasing their sixth full-length album. I can’t stop gushing about the touring to thirty-five-plus countries and playing over fifteen hundred shows. They’re really growing up to be their own style of band and I just couldn’t be any more proud. Did I mention they’re a C+ student?

C+! Oh my! That’s Punk-Rock honour role material! First of all! How has it been being in a band for you during all the restrictions and such? The fact that you are releasing a new album having “found yourself” suggests there was a silver lining to 2020 so to speak.

Also, how is your 2021 so far other than drowning in vinyl variants for Belvedere and otherwise?

Oh well, I’m just happy to have everyone at home. I do miss them so when they’re on the road and worry all the time. They’ve been keeping busy with writing music and working on colouring inside the lines. Making good progress on that.

2021 is looking very good with high hopes for the end of the year. I wanted more variants of course, but when is it ever enough?

That’s good to hear! In the lines is where it’s at, can’t be going against the grain now! Positivity is certainly a welcome contrast to what’s been, gone and somewhat lingered. Ha! Indeed, when is it EVER enough!

Speaking of alluring, rotating and spinning noise discs, how does it feel to finally be at this stage, waiting for ‘Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense’ to finally leave home and go to the university of life? How did you end up with Thousand Islands Records and Lockjaw Records as chaperones? I’m amazed this manner of speaking has lasted to question three! But in all seriousness, after a five year-gap, was the process of choosing a label taxing at all or clear from the start?

Oh, we’re going all the way in character with this one my friend!

It feels very good to ship this kid off to college. While it’s been a fun year watching it grow, it’s time for it to get out there and stand on its own. Remember when they said never go back to the ex…Well, they were wrong! Anywhoo … So it’s been a time of excitement and nervousness as there are a few newbies in the group, but it’s been going swimmingly and the recording process was awesome. Even with one of the group being in Toronto and having to DI their bass parts, we still pulled it off. Great parenting right there!

So our wonderful chaperones – Lockjaw and Thousand Islands have been very supportive and there as a shoulder to cry on during those “tough teen years” and we’re a better group for it. Thanks all! So we applied there first for that coveted student “internship” and look at us now. I’m not sure this is making sense anymore. You?

Belvedere - 'Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense' - “Optical Blur” LP
This variant is available from Thousand Islands Records

It’s so heartwarming to see how proud you are! I think I understand but then again who knows what people reading this will think?!

‘Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense’ seems rather apt considering the last few years, was there a defining moment that cemented it as the title of your soon to be Skate Punk diploma? Or was it something you’d been ruminating on for some time? Punk albums have come a long way regarding their titles since the olden days after all.

So each of the albums in our repertoire (thanks grade 12 french) have titles with five words / six syllables in it. So we had this template and also our last couple of albums were going in a numerical direction. Fast Forward Eats the Tape (Four – C+ student remember), The Revenge of the Fifth, ‘Hindsight […]’ is – well you get the point. The next album will be called ‘Seventh Son Of An Eight Son’ or whatever… and I don’t care if any other band has this title. 

After agonizing with Ryan our bass player for a week on fifty-plus names, we casually mentioned it to our drummer Casey in the studio. He’s like – ‘How about ‘Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense’?’ That was it. Literally. He was so casual about it and we were like ‘YES!!!’

Then I started to think of the past week that I had wasted …

I can remember nothing from my French from school, so you’re better than me. Well, I do have some hilariously broken German, but that’s another matter! I can imagine Casey finds the whole thing quite amusing. Perhaps keep ‘Seventh Son Of An Eight Son’ and stake your claim. If anyone gets iffy about it, challenge them to a series of riff and BPM-offs. That’ll show them! Maybe you can even release a concept EP – ‘Then I started to think of the past week that I had wasted’.

You say the recording process went swimmingly enough but how was the writing process and how long did it take to get to the final stage?

Well yes, someone said that album title sounds a lot like some band called I-ern Maydon, but I’ve never heard of them. Besides, even if we do copy them, what are they going to do? Get the lead singer to fly himself over to Canada on their own plane and start shit? How ridiculous!!

Thirteen made the final cut for the record, how was the process of whittling the album to that down to that number? Were there any songs you had been sat on for a while or any from the archives as it were?

As soon as we knew tours were getting cancelled by last April, Casey brought forward some music which turned into ‘Good Grief Retreat’. After that, we got to work and wrote fourteen songs in eight months. We cut one song that turned out well but just didn’t fit the album.

We all had ideas – some full music and some just riffs. Once we had the arrangements on clumps of songs, we tried to demo them so I could start writing lyrics to them. We kept going until we had a full album but started making plans with labels after about seven songs mostly done and set deadlines for the end of November as we had to start recording in December.

Band’s affording jets? I think its time for bed Steve, you sound confused. School in the morning!

I was going to ask if any surplus tracks from recording would be used elsewhere but that answers that! Do you have a favourite or favourites on the record lyrically? And to extend that, are there any that were difficult to write or took longer compared to the rest? Obviously, this depends on how much you want to give away this far ahead of release.

Not my band silly!! Iron….never mind. Maybe the joke flew over my head or mine didn’t land.

I’d say about ten of the songs came pretty naturally and the last three I had to go into the studio for a few follow up sessions. Not that I didn’t dig it, but I came up with some ideas that I thought would be better for the song. Which is usually the case with recordings. It’s just a snapshot and I wanted to update the snapshot before signing off on it.

So far I’ve seen the album described as somewhat of a hybrid of what people expect from the band but also more so indicative of where Belvedere are now stylistically. How would you describe where the band are now regarding your spin on techy-Skate Punk? Again, this is entirely up to you on how much you want to give away.

Yes, it’s likely hard for people to judge where we’re at from one song (‘Good Grief Retreat’), but it’s a good first song to show. You’ll be hearing more in the next few weeks. While there are a few curveballs, I think fans of the band will be pleased!

Not being made from Iron means curving to and from the known is quite easy I imagine. Is there anything instrumentally you, or the band collectively, are particular excited for people to hear or are notably fond of? I will die on this hill!

Yes, some might say we’re a touch elastic Punk and ahem … Metal.

I’m pretty pumped for people to hear the new guys as they did a great job on the record. Drums, guitar, bass, vocals. Hey – it sounds like a band right?

Then the most important aim has been achieved!

Now you’re sat there with ‘Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense’ in front of you. What do you think Steve from back in the day would say after hearing it hot off the mixing desk for the first time? And how would you respond to him?

Haha, well I think perhaps times were different as an eighteen-year-old in 1995 and my standards were a lot lower. So I’d like to think he’d think it was pretty awesome. Then again, he might be confused as to why there aren’t more songs about wrestling.

Belvedere - 'Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense' - “Iridescent Slick" LP
This variant is available from Lockjaw Records

Was the song that didn’t make it about wrestling? You can tell me.

Ha no, it was a nice song but it didn’t really fit. 

So, with younger Steve in mind, why Punk-Rock and why what’s been dubbed as Skate Punk? Did you have an album that became your catalyst? Was it a live show? Or did you piggyback off something else?

Punk-Rock was always accessible to a young guitar player like myself. I could actually play along and I learned a lot about the world and politics, looking through a different lens. It all just made sense to me. I’d say ‘Suffer’ from Bad Religion was the one that really hooked me, though I was already listening to other “Alternative” and “Punk” bands at that time. ‘Suffer’ just spoke to me and gave me a road map.

‘The album that changed everything’.

Or to fit the syllables – The album that changed shit. Ha!

Again to reflect on the new album’s sound, were there any key bands or records that you could say pushed you to where you are now? If ‘Suffer’ gave you a roadmap, what were the most memorable stops?

I think it would be foolish to say influences from our younger days didn’t make their way in but we all have very different musical backgrounds and influences. Really we were trying to make the best Belvedere record that we could.

That’s hard to argue with. Would it also be fair to say that Belvedere are now the band of syllables? Syllable-core.

It is my understanding that production was handled in-house. What’s it like having that readily available? Is there anything behind the scenes that fans might not be aware of that is part of the process or differs in the production phase because it was just there so to speak? To be blunt, was it easier than having an external party doing it?

I would take the band of Syllables but would give credit where credit is due. SNFU’s albums all had seven words and that was the inspiration. We realized it around ‘Angels Live In My Town’-era and kept it up. Though the ‘Twas Hell […]’ title is pretty suspect grammatically.

We tracked the album at Casey’s studio (Echo Base). Recording bands is his full-time gig. On the last record, we also tracked the album at Echo Base but mixed and mastered at The Blasting Room. While they did a great job there, it made for a rather expensive album to make all-in. Casey and I felt like we could do a good job on this one and handle all aspects. Casey did a great job from start to finish.

This also enabled us a more free timeline to track and mix which was helpful given Covid restrictions. Ryan actually tracked in Toronto by DI in his apartment because we couldn’t get him to Calgary at this time. But we made the best out of a tough situation.

Belvedere - 'Good Grief Retreat'

Well, without giving anything away from my end, it certainly sounds like an album. I also now feel like I need to sit down with Casey and discuss Star Wars!

Was that a new thing for you or do you have some past experience with that wing band-life?

I think you should – he would like that or perhaps discussing Star Trek a little more.

I’ve produced a few bands over the years and been involved with over twenty releases. While Casey is the designated “knob turner” and general smart guy in the studio … I have some ideas to throw in.

That’s the next interview sorted!

We joked earlier about the vinyl variants for ‘Hindsight […]’. How was the process of choosing the variants per label? Were any of them inspired by anything or was it simply what you liked?

I can’t remember but both the labels and I were kicking around ideas and both had seen some fun designs that we built off of. We wanted each label to have a rather opaque splatter, a solid colour and a “fancier” one. It was nice that each label had their own variants and we all decided together. It’s been a really good team between the band and the labels. It really feels like everyone is moving in the same direction with lots of great ideas and the team is genuinely pumped about the album.

I can safely say that I 100% agree with you there, the buzz from both labels (both run by wonderful people) has been proper infectious. On the subject of records? Do you partake in vinyl at all? Are there any plan to press or repress any older Belvedere noise?

I absolutely love vinyl! We have a nice collection at home that spans many genres and we listen to them often with our son.

We’ve re-released all our albums except ‘Because No One Stopped Us’. You can find ‘Angels Live In My Town’ and ‘Twas Hell […]’ as a double album from Jumpstart Records. I believe they still have a few copies of ‘Fast Forward Eats The Tape’. I still have about ten copies left of ‘Revenge Of The Fifth’ that can be ordered off our bandcamp site!

A Touch Elastic Punk: Steve From Belvedere - Band promo shot

That’s good to hear! Less so for my finances but what will be will be. Right, now as much as I’ve enjoyed talking to you, I must now risk implanting an ill-feeling or at the very least frustration from you onward to me.

A question I’ve started asking people on most interviews is to compile a prospective five-track sampler from their career to encapsulate their sound as a “best-of” or alternatively a place for a new listener to start. This time I’ll allow six. You’re allowed to choose two tracks from the new album and four from Belvedere’s past. What are your choices?

I’d say ‘Good Grief Retreat’ and ‘Elephant March are some nice new tunes to get you familiar with the album. ‘Elephant March’ will be coming out in a few weeks!

(Very soon at the time at which this interview is published! – Matt)

For old tunes:

‘Brandy Wine’ – A crowd favourite and singalong. We end most sets with this.

‘Three’s A Crowd’ – I don’t know what it is about this one, but I love the Three’s Company riff (‘Come and Knock On Our Door’)

‘Excuse Me Can I Use This Chair’ – Again with the singalong.

Two Minutes For Looking So Good’ – People break shit during this song.

You’ve said you’re a big fan of vinyl, but I wanted to ask you who you personally have been listening to the most in recent times? What have you been spinning from your collection and what have you been blasting otherwise? The last year or so has seen a huge amount of fast melodic Punk releases, are there any that stuck out for you at all?

And, to extend that, what are you looking forward to most from the Punka-verse or elsewhere?

Love vinyl. I just got one of my favourite records,  Bodyjar – ‘How It Works’ on wax and I love it! We have the ‘Greatest Hits’ of Foo Fighters and Some Lana Del Ray and Jack Johnson spinning usually at our house. I always love throwing ‘No Control’ by Bad Religion on. The kid digs it.

We had Much The Same’s latest going there the other day and a band from Quebec called Brand New Lungs. Great stuff.

I actually have that Brand New Lungs LP, proper tuneful stuff.

So, Steve, I think its time to let you graduate from this interview! Thanks for talking to me about all things Belvedere. Before we sign off, is there anything else regarding the band, album or anything you want to say to the people reading this?

I think we’ve said it all. So thanks to you, my bandmates, Thousand Islands Records and Lockjaw Records and of course all the buds and fans of the band. Really appreciate that people are still listening!

And that was, “A Touch Elastic Punk: Steve From Belvedere”.

Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense releases on the 14th May 2021 via Thousand Islands Records in North America and Lockjaw Records in the UK and Europe. Find all you need below.

 

Founder of Ear Nutrition, Matt is likely reasonably over 25 and first cut his words writing for the now hiatus-existing site, Musically Fresh. He enjoys a variety of guitar-driven music but has a strong penchant for Punk music, with fast melodic Skate Punk sitting firmly at the top.

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