Steve RawlesBirdAttack (US), Effervescence (FR), Funtime (BE), No Reason, and Lockjaw Records (UK).
By Dustin Blumhagen on April 23, 2016 at Calgary, Alberta
Belvedere were one of the biggest Canadian bands to come out of the 90’s skate punk scene. They toured extensively, not only across the country, but into far reaching international territories. They showed up on Warped Tour when it was largely based on Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph skate punk bands, released four albums, built a strong following and then suddenly disappeared. After a quiet return to live shows a few years ago, including the large Groezrock festival in Belgium, the band is back with a new album and plenty of live dates to showcase their new songs and lineup. After a recent hometown show playing with Propagandhi, I had the opportunity to speak with Steve Rawles about their triumphant return to the stage and studio.
During your initial decade as a band you toured with some great groups, released four albums and took the band to other countries. When you decided to dissolve the band in 2005, were you simply exhausted?
That’s exactly it. For about the last 5 years before we split, we were on the road 200 days of the year or more. It began to really weigh on everyone. We weren’t the best at communicating back then so when I said I didn’t want to keep doing it, everyone just said the same thing. They were all tired of it too.
Your return comes almost another decade after your breakup. Were there any doubts about coming back together as a band after such a long time?
For the 6 years Belvedere had split, I was still touring fairly heavily with This is a Standoff. I was still seeing a lot of the same fans at the shows. Many asked about Belvedere and if we would get back together. I didn’t think it would happen to be honest, but when the 4 of us started talking again, it reminded me of the excitement of being in band when I was younger. It felt like the right thing to do at the start. Once we got through our first show back in Paris, it seemed like we had never stopped.
I’m not sure what the exact sales numbers were for each album, but it seemed to me that Fast Forward Eats the Tape was Belvedere’s biggest release at the time, which made it surprising when the band decided to take a break. Was the hectic recording schedule to blame for some of the negative feelings about being a band? When you approached the new release, did you intentionally take a longer time to write and record?
Yes FFWD was Belvedere’s biggest release and we were in the middle of some great tours when we decided to stop. I wouldn’t say recording was what really caused the band’s friction, but it didn’t help. We did FFWD over 17 very long days. By the time we were mixing, we were behind schedule and didn’t have a back-up plan. The producer Blair, the engineer Al, and I worked around the clock the last 4 days. Al would edit a song for 4 hours while Blair and I slept, then Blair and I would mix a song for 5-6 hours while AL slept. It was terrible.
The new release took so long because this is how it has to work for the band. With jobs and families most of us can only get in the studio for a few hours at a time a few hours a week. It took us a year and a half to write and 2.5 months to record. Good thing our drummer has a studio. Then we mixed/mastered it at the Blasting Room in Colorado for a week which was awesome. Overall just a really relaxed recording and there was barely any friction for the 2.5 months.
Belvedere has always had a technical punk sound with some skate punk influences. It seems like there are a few songs on the new release that are a little heavier than we’ve heard from the band, incorporating a bit more hardcore or metal influences. Did the decision to experiment happen naturally in the writing process or was it an intentional decision to push boundaries?
This album is a snapshot of where we are right now I think. Transmissions really reminds me of some of our older stuff but overall I’d say we’re trying some new things but mostly trying to make a better Belvedere album than the previous ones. I think we did it on this album.
You recorded in Calgary this time around at Echo Base. Was the decision to stick closer to home based on things like family and career commitments? The Blasting Room in Colorado is pretty renowned in the punk scene, was it exciting working with them for mixing and mastering?
That’s exactly it. Our drummer Casey owns and runs the studio. This is where we practice and write. It only made sense to record it here and no one else would have been so flexible with our schedule. I know the other guys enjoyed recording with him, but I’ve done a couple albums with Casey and he really gets how I function in a studio. Especially in the vocal department we work really well together. The blasting room was great. I spoke to Bill (Stevenson of Descendents, ALL, Only Crime) a few times on the phone regarding booking the session and he was awesome to deal with. Andrew (Berlin) was really great to work with mixing this and Jason (Livermore) just nailed the Mastering. Those guys are real pros.
The concept behind the latest album is “an attempt to communicate the band’s beliefs that human beings should show more compassion for each other and take responsibility for their own actions, instead of placing blame at other’s doors and asking for the forgiveness of a higher power.” Can you clarify your ideas behind this concept?
These ideas are really prevalent in the lyrics on the song Revenge of the Fifth-which is one of the more ripping songs on the album. I think that we really need to care more about each other, the planet and the species on this planet. We’re all we’ve got, and we need to take responsibility for our actions.
Each of the album titles contains 5 words and 6 syllables. How difficult was it to modify to fit this mould?
Not that hard. But it is a fun little game we play as a band trying to find a relevant title that fits this and then shape album art around it. SNFU has been doing it for years. I think their albums are all 7 words. It’s awesome.
You’ve played Europe, which many bands acknowledge has a stronger punk scene than North America, but you’ve also played South America recently. It seems that these countries are often overlooked by touring bands. What made you look down south when booking tours?
Our first tour to South America was in 2004 and this included a stop in Latin America to the Dominican Republic. Paul from La Armada brought us down to Dominican and we’ve been friends ever since. South America can be tough in that because of the costs, flights, visas and timeframe things can get screwed up. However we just went down with Solid Music Entertainment and they were amazing. We toured with Lagwagon, Mute and the adrenalized.
The fans in South America are incredible and we’ll continue to go back. This doesn’t take away from Europe as people are wonderful there as well. We’ve been to Europe so many times and absolutely love it there.
This is the first recording with Casey Lewis on drums. You’ve also started playing live regularly with the new lineup. How are things going so far? Is there an adjustment period working with a new drummer?
Casey filled in on a Japan tour a few years ago. He was in the band full-time shortly afterwards. We’ve all known Casey for a long time and he’s a great friend and drummer. He really did his homework so we didn’t really have much of an adjustment playing-wise. It’s been great having him in the band. For so many reasons, there wouldn’t have been a new album without him.
Thanks for your time, Steve.
Look out for the first new release from Belvedere in a decade, The Revenge of the Fifth in stores and online.