"Someone at a show asked me once if I like music. Of course I fucking like music. I'm a musician." This is just one of the many terrible, terrible questions Belle Game frontwoman, Andrea Lo, has been asked.
Belle Game is a Vancouver, BC band comprising of Andrea Lo (vocals), Katrina Jones (keys, vocals), Alex Andrew (drums, rythm guitar) and Adam Nanji (lead guitar) who have created their own hazily crafted and immensely emotional brand of crush-pop since their debut album, Ritual Tradition Habit, in 2013.
Four years can be a long time in the music landscape, but Belle Game seized this lapse to experiment heavily with new sounds, layering dark, dreamy textures onto their signature sound. On September 8, Belle Game returned with a new record, Fear/Nothing. The 10 track album, as Lo puts it, is "a shift from a place of logical and tangible sounds to a feeling." The raw emotion behind this change gives way to many of the ethereal landscapes found in Fear/Nothing. You can hear the power behind vibrato and reverb laden tracks like "Spirit," where Lo's piercing vocals and dreamy lyrics cut through the electronic haze with electrifying strength. Swirling, wavy, and droning synth along with heavy drum beats form the basis of much of this record.
Fear/Nothing echoes the nostalgic feelings of driving through the night in a car filled with dark and dreamy pop beats. It's chilly and artful in a simplistic sense. The simplicity and randomness, almost an out-of-focus feeling, is what gives tracks like "Bring Me" a powerful punch, while towering vocal hooks make "Yuh" as catchy as it is powerful.
Lo sat down with Ones To Watch to talk new album Fear/Nothing, shifting their sound from logic to a feeling, current tour with Broken Social Scene, rowdy tour mishaps, and other questions you should never ask a band.
OTW: I first heard Belle Game when driving at night on a lonely road, and it fit in incredibly well. How much have you changed from those 2013 days of being played on local Canadian radio to now?
Belle Game: We always do a night drive with our album to test it! I can't tell you how many times I've listened to albums while driving late at night.
We, as a group and individually, have shifted and changed and grown a lot since that time. As a result, our music has changed a lot, as well as our relationship and conversation with music and how we make it.
Oddly enough, the change is not with intention. But a huge thing I keep stressing about this album is that it's really been a move from logic to more of a feeling. It's interesting listening to our first album in retrospect. It was four years of our lives where we were writing throughout it, and in four years you can be really different people along the way. Looking back and seeing how we were engaging with music back then and how it was reflected in each track was interesting.
OTW: In Ritual Tradition Habit, there are a few upbeat-pop tracks like "Wait Up For You" and "In Secrets," but Fear/Nothing is more laden with abstract, dark, and heavy synth beats. How much of your own personal experiences are embedded in these changes?
Belle Game: Our personal experiences are deeply embedded in that album. That four years was a huge time for change, experiences, and revelations, as life goes. When writing Ritual Tradition Habit, we were a much younger band. To be completely honest, we were still tinkering with our understanding of music and how we played. With Fear/Nothing, it was less of a conscious process. But it wasn't driven as a feeling like "I feel sad," but driven by a more subconscious thought process.
OTW: You're touring with Broken Social Scene right now. How does it feel to go on tour with such quintessential Canadian band? Especially since (BSS front man) Kevin Drew produced your newest album.
Belle Game: Kevin Drew was a huge catalyst. Years ago we met Kevin Drew when we did a residency in the Banff Art Centre. Kevin was that huge help for us. When you're in his presence you don't have to do much to get something good, and he helped us stretching logic to feeling on this record.
Going on tour with Broken Social Scene is huge for us and really important. That band was a really big soundtrack for each and every one of us. It was our soundtrack for growing up and driving around in the dark. So it means lot more to us than just visibility.
OTW: Without going into detail, my friends and I had one of the craziest nights of our lives after one of your shows. Turning it around to you, what has been your rowdiest tour mishap?
Belle Game: It was in Edmonton. If you're talking about making a mess of ourselves then that was definitely Edmonton. It was our very first tour ever opening for Hey Ocean! at The Starlite Room. We were playing our first album and we were just kids playing our first album. We played our show, had a great time, and went to the merch table. Our drummer at the time's friend was in town and he paid for two hotel rooms for us that night. He heard some bad news and was just feeling like shit. And to cheer himself up, he just wanted us to drink with him.
First off, Belle Game aren't big partiers. We like to drink coffee and watch Seinfeld and play board games on tour. So we're back at the merch table and this tray comes to the merch table full of a drink called a handgrenade. What a bad sign. Anyhow, he brinks up this tray of drinks, and I know none of us should do this.
But, this guy just bought us these drinks. So we celebrate.
Maybe 2-3 minutes later, another round comes up. And we're all so paralyzed by our innate politeness, and we know it's a bad idea but we kept drinking them. After 2 or 3 I distinctly remember everything being fine and then everything hit us out of left field. Katrina and I were standing at the merch table and then had this moment of recognition where we looked into each other's eyes and telepathically realized we were fucked. It was like being on a rocket shooting straight up and we completely crashed. I found myself, the one and only time in my life, being that girl on the bathroom floor by the toilet being so dizzy. Katrina was viciously defending me from this promoter trying to get into the bathroom. Above all, it was the winter in Edmonton and it was fucking freezing.
Luckily our bassist was really sober. Alex slept on the floor of the hotel, I unabashedly threw up halfway to the hotel. Thinking about that night makes my stomach turn just thinking about it.
OTW: Being on tour and doing press you probably get asked a lot of dumb crap. What are personally your least favorite questions to get asked?
Belle Game: Anything with little thought put into it. With interviews, it's when they obviously haven't really listened to your album or looked into the band. If we're doing this album tour and someone asks you about an old album and nothing else. Or even something cliché like, "how do you write music?"
I much prefer questions that show intelligence, depth, and curiosity. Asking how we write music does none of that, and constantly having to repeat these answers is tolling. Id much rather getting into some deeper ideas and sharing the creator to listener experience which can really engage both sides.
Catch The Belle Game at one of their upcoming tour dates:
October 10, 2017 Minneapolis, MN, First Avenue
October 12, 2017 Saskatoon, SK, Amigo’s
October 14, 2017 Edmonton, AB, Mercury Room
October 15, 2017 Edmonton, AB, The Needle
October 20, 2017 Vancouver, BC, The Commodore Ballroom
October 21, 2017 Vancouver, BC, The Commodore Ballroom
October 23, 2017 Seattle, WA, The Neptune Theatre
October 24, 2017 Portland, OR, The Crystal Ballroom
October 26, 2017 Oakland, CA, Fox Theatre
October 28, 2017 Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern
December 1, 2017 London, UK, Sebright Arms
December 2, 2017 Paris, France, Le Pop Up du Label
December 4, 2017 Amsterdam, Netherlands, Sugarfactory
December 5, 2017, Hamburg, Germany Nochtspeicher
December 7, 2017 Berlin, Germany, Monarch