I think that my today’s guest doesn’t need any introduction. Steve Rawles is a lead singer/guitar player for legendary Canadian skate punk bands Belvedere and This Is A Standoff. He’s been an integral part of the worldwide skate punk scene since the early 90s. When people advised me to start doing interviews on the blog, Steven was undoubtfully my first pick. Belvedere recently released a brilliant full-length Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense, so I spoke with Steve mostly about the album, but you can stumble upon some other stuff as well. You can check out the entire interview below.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions? How have you been? What’s going on in the Belvedere HQ?
Steve: Thanks so much for having me. We’re doing ok. Anxious to get out there as soon as we can, but thankful to be spending time with family. Not a lot going on right now, we’re hoping to start practicing again soon!
A month has passed since you published your brand new album Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense. What are your impressions about it? How the audience reacted to new tunes, and are you satisfied with their reaction?
Steve: It’s been a really great month other than the vinyl being delayed. People have been very kind and it feels good to get the album out there. I’m really proud of it.
Could you tell me a little bit more about the recording process? What are the pros and cons of working on the album by completely following DIY ethos? Has pandemics affected your recording process anyhow?
Steve: Sure, we did the whole album at Casey’s studio – Echo Base. Because of restrictions, we had to be in the studio one person at a time. Casey in the console room and the other person in the live room. Also our bass player Ryan had to track his parts through DI from Toronto which took a little more time but ultimately was fine. I can’t say there were any cons to this album. It was one of the best recording experiences I’ve ever had.
The first thing I noticed about your latest material was a very detailed approach to lyrics, which lean towards a nearly philosophical personal perspective on each topic you covered. Have you firstly sorted all the themes you wanted to cover on the album, or the topics arrived gradually during the composing process?
Steve: Thanks for noticing. I didn’t set out with many topics to start, but as I went through the writing process, I ended up covering quite a few topics. Everything from oppression on the working class, and commentary on society’s inequalities and inequities to more personal songs about feeling inadequate in many situations and wanting to be a better husband, father and human being.
You paid a lot of attention to the tiniest details while working on this material. Was the assembling process challenging comparing to your previous recording processes, or it came naturally?
Steve: I think more than anything we’ve done in the past, we had time to work on the material and take it home to listen. Communication was a huge part in the development of the songs and the recording process. Our FB band thread would take up many pages in a book, that’s for sure!
I spent quite a while reading the thoughts of your longtime fans, and a lot of them described Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense as a perfect blend of Belvedere, and This Is A Standoff. Have you done it purposely, or it’s just pure coincidence? Could we expect This Is A Standoff reunion and maybe some new recordings?
Steve: That’s cool that people think it’s a hybrid of the two bands, but it certainly wasn’t intentional. For one thing, John, Graham and Nick are so integral to This Is A Standoff, it just wouldn’t be the same without them. It’s really coincidental because everyone including the new guys contributed heavily on the album. It was a team game!
The visual identity of the album is absolutely beautiful. Who’s the author, and what message you tried to convey with the artwork?
Steve: Heather McLean is a Calgary-based artist who is known in many places for her artwork and tattooing. She was a friend of the band and did an amazing job. Our good friend, Sebas Therault from Sterio Design did the layout, texturing and topography and did an awesome job. The message was simply that anticipating issues and learning from your mistakes would truly be a sixth sense. It also fit nicely with our album title format. 5 words and 6 Syllables!
The band went on an indefinite hiatus back in 2005 and remained inactive until 2012, if I am not mistaken. In the meantime, you started This Is A Standoff. Revenge Of The Fifth and Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense sound more polished and technical comparing to the preceding releases. Does your approach to songwriting/composing changed during your period in This Is A Standoff, or you just wanted to set the bar higher for your newer recordings?
Steve: I think just over time you try to push yourself as a musician and a songwriter. You also want to push your albums sonically and make better recordings. We sure tried our best on this last one and I think did a decent job.
Belvedere is famous for obsessive touring habits, but the pandemic spoiled your intentions to properly promote this material. What tactic/approach you used to reach out to your fanbase this time?
Steve: I’ve done everything from acoustic festival streams (Manchester Punk Fest / SBAM Fest) and also the band did a live performance that was streamed. I’ve also kept busy doing guest spots on Mikey’s Uke channel and Punk Rock Factory’s Disney album. Whatever I can to connect and do anything music related.
Speaking of touring and gigs, do you have any particular country or venue where you feel most comfortable performing?
Steve: I love Dickens in Calgary and Foufounes in Montreal, Cyclone in Shibuya, Japan, De Klinker in Aarschot Belgium are all places we’ve played a lot and love.
You guys are known for your technically demanding fast-paced tunes but are there any musical styles you enjoy playing in your spare time? What music styles and artists you enjoy besides punk rock?
Steve: Oh I listen to just about everything. I used to play classical music on piano but also grew up on 60’s tunes because of my dad and my uncle. I still listened to mellow tunes, metal, hardcore, hiphop and jazz. Whatever happens to come up on the playlists or whatever suits the mood.
That’s it. Thank you so much for your time. Would you like to say something to your fans and readers of this interview?
Steve: Thanks so much for the interview and please keep an eye out for the new album – Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense. We can’t wait to see you out on the road soon!