Words: Miljan Milekić
I still remember a conversation I had with a friend of mine some years ago. “You know, you have to do something different, something innovative today if you want to be a good band,” he said. “Or, if don’t, you have to be fucking good at what you do. Like, I don’t know, Belvedere.” And that’s probably how I’ll remember Belvedere forever. They hadn’t really reinvented the wheel with their fast and energetic blend of skate punk. They do what they do, and they are good with it. Fucking good. They just released their brand new album ‘Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense,’ so we immediately reached out for an interview, and caught up with guitarist and singer Steve Rawles.
Hi guys! Hope you’re all safe and good in these crazy times. I would like to jump straight to the new record ‘Hindsight is The Sixth Sense,’ which I had a chance to hear, and so far I love it. Are you happy with how it turned out?
Steve: I really love the record and am very proud of it. It was a lot of work and difficult to compete with everything going on around us, but was really pleased when it was done. I hope everyone digs it.
I know it’s very early in the process, but did you get the chance to hear some reactions so far?
Steve: Yeah, I definitely have a few “gut checks” from the labels and close buds (Paul from La Armada). Good vibes all around and that’s awesome!
I think I asked this one a million times already, but with everything going on in the world, how did the writing and recording process look for this one? How challenging was it to put all the pieces together?
Steve: Well, it took a bit longer because of rolling restrictions but we tried to make sure we had enough time. Also, Ryan [Mumby] lives in Toronto and we had to cancel his flight a few days before his recording because of badly-timed restrictions coming in. (laughs) But he did his bass parts through direct input from Toronto, and Casey [Lewis] directed him and worked it out. Thanks, technology (and Casey)!
If I’m not mistaken, this is the first record since Dan [Wollach] and Ryan joined the band. Except for the fresh perspective and new energy, what would you say, what was their biggest contribution to this record, and the way it sounds?
Steve: The news guys did a great job of throwing riffs and song ideas into the hat. Always had great ideas and we just worked it all out as a band. No egos, and just focused on making the best record possible for Belvedere.
On ‘Comrade,’ ‘Memento Mori,’ and ‘Automate,’ you brought a couple of guests. Some of them a bit surprising, at least for me. How did it happen and how do you choose people to collaborate with?
Steve: Roger [Lima, Less Than Jake] and I had done a NOFX cover together for Mikey’s Ukulele channel. So he was the first call when I was looking for someone to join the song ‘Comrade.’ Rody [Walker, Protest The Hero] and I have known each other for a while and I love his voice, he was very gracious with his time. Dylan [Toews, Wolfrik] got the call the night before we mixed ‘Memento Mori.’ I needed a screamer and he showed up big time!
What came first, the song or guests? Or were they collaborative efforts all along?
Steve: The songs for sure, they were all given the demos but were encouraged to do what they felt the song might need.
This is your second record that Casey got to produce. How important was it for you to keep this part of the process “in-house,” without too much outside influence? Having someone who knows exactly what you want.
Steve: Very important, cost-effective, and necessary given we had to shift gears due to Covid stuff throughout the process. There was no traveling to another studio and we needed as much time as it took to get it right.
It seems like Thousand Islands Records is currently on a roll, releasing straight bangers, ‘Hindsight is The Sixth Sense’ included. How encouraging is it to be part of the setup with so many great bands?
Steve: I’m a big fan of the label, the people at the label, and the bands. In fact, I book and manage several of them and already a great relationship with them. It was an easy decision, and the same with our UK/EU label – Lockjaw Records.
Belvedere x American Socks / Belvedere – Slaves to the Grind coffee and CD bundle
For this release, you teamed up with some super cool companies such as American Socks or Anarchy Coffee Roasters to offer your fans some special packages and bundles. How did you get the idea to do something like this?
Steve: Mostly we had time to do it. With all touring put on hold, I’ve tried to do everything possible to come out with cool stuff for the band and our fans.
I have to admit that I love this kind of stuff, as it only shows how much artists care about their fans. However, do you feel like this could become a new normal for underground bands, with limited physical sales and small revenues from streaming platforms, who are by far the most dominating way of music consumption nowadays?
Steve: I totally agree, we have a Belvedere beer coming out in Alberta, our coffee, and a few other things. I think it’s great to put out cool things for fans and we’re so lucky someone is buying it! My basement would be quite full if not.
Belvedere has a cult status in the skate punk, and the skateboarding community. For you and as a band, how much are those two things connected?
Steve: While I can’t do much more than a decent ollie, I skated a lot as a young kid and it was my mode of transpo for a long time. It’s a scene I’m very much involved in and love. I have a lot of buddies who skate and I hope my kid takes it much further than I did. It’s awesome ripping around our community together. Most of the bands I listened to as a kid was from watching old skate, snowboarding, and surf movies.
So, the last one is more of asking for a favor than a real question, but here it is – Can you please not make us wait five years on the new record again? (laughs)
Steve: Absolutely. The band is definitely a lot more full-time now and I’m sure after we make up all these shows, we’ll get cracking on even more new music!