Deanna Belos has been blazing a trail attending shows and writing songs on her guitar since she was a teen. Over a decade of being in the crowd, and with some encouragement by some local Chicago punks, she assembled a band together and switched sides to write her debut album, Rhombithian, earlier this year under the name Sincere Engineer. Editor Samantha Barrett spoke with Deanna Belos about punk, anxiety, and the new record.
You started out listening to punk pretty young? Did you know this was your path in life?
No, not at all. I wanted to be a dentist up until I was 20, I put all my eggs in that basket and it did not work out. I have a degree in biology and I work in a lab. I have been playing a guitar since I was 12 or something like that. I wrote some songs and I guess Toby found out about them, that is how that started. I did not put myself out there, you know what I mean.
You were not actively seeking the punk life, the punk found you?
Correct. That was pretty much it. I went to a bunch of shows and that is how I know Toby but that is not something that I seek out. I mean, I play guitar and I like doing it but I was never like I can’t wait to play in front of a bunch of people because I was super terrified about that. It took like a lot of courage and beer to do it the first time.
Well you have been doing this for a little while now. Besides the beer, is there anything else that you do to cope with all this anxiety?
You mean like right now is it coming off. I have it all the time. Usually being super nervous means that you really care about what you are doing. When you are done it really feels awesome so…I try to remember that.
Is there a backstory to naming your band Sincere Engineer?
Not really, kind of? Brendan Kelley from the Lawrence Arms was on a podcast, I think it was maybe 2008 or something like that… a long time ago. He was like mumbling or something…I think he was talking about Neil or something. He said Sincere Engineer, he was listing off the records he has engineered in the past. It always stuck with me. I liked that it rhymed, I am not like an engineer or anything but it has been my handle for my social media’s throughout my life so when it came time to name the band I was like “Oh… I already have that.” Kind of doesn’t make sense now since I have a full band now, when they play with me I am not sure what to call them. The “engineers” or something but that sounds lame, so far it is what it is.
One of your all-time hero's is the one and only Brendan Kelly, How has he/The Lawrence Arms influenced the direction you took with this band?
They are my favorite band, they just influenced me in general but for this band, I would say it is like 50/50. A couple of years before I started writing this album, I was really into emo revival type of stuff like the band Snowing and Algernon Caldwallader and stuff like that. All of these noodly bands. I definitely pulled inspiration from that kind of stuff too. But generally speaking, the Lawrence Arms is like I dunno… They are like number 1 and the rest is like whatever, I pull from them too.
Red Scare released Rhombithian, your debut album this year. I read somewhere it took you 9 months to record the album. Did all the hard work and time pay off?
I think it did. I like the way it sounds. It took that long because we did not do full-day sessions in a row. So the first day we did the drums and the guitar and we took it song by song. Each song we had one day set aside for vocals and stuff. And we all have full-time jobs so by the time 9 months rolled around. It is not the way usual people do it but that is how we did it, it was all we could do. No one was doing to take a week off to do this so… We tried really hard to make it as good as possible. We had to scrap entire songs. The Corndog Sonnet one we completed it and was like I can sing it better if we moved it up a couple of keys. So we scraped it completely which was really hard for me to do. I really wanted to put it out as soon as possible. I think it was for the best for the end product to wait until it was the best it can be.
How has the album been received so far?
Good, I think. I try not to read too much into that because the internet people are not that nice. From what I heard it is good, I think. Punknews wrote something about it.
Your songs are somewhat sentimental and stories of your experiences. Tell me about “Here’s Your Two Dollars”?
That is one of the oldest songs on that record. I don't even remember what is about… uhh. It is about someone being distant. We actually had Evan Weiss (Into It Over It) play lead guitar on that song. I am a fan of his music, so it is pretty sweet. That song is more abstract than the other songs. A Lot of imagery of the lake and stuff that ties into the whole theme there. It is definitely the outlier of the record there is no other song that sounds like that. It is even structurally different. That song has been here since the beginning.
You did earlier performances of this track on acoustic and this album was recorded with a full band. How was it turning older songs into a full band track?
It got way better. There was some acoustic little breakdown thing there when I wrote it. I was like 19 or 20 at the time, I am going to blame that to being young and stupid. The acoustic version is on YouTube, for whoever wants to watch it. It got way better. Amped guitar adds so much to it. It is more dynamic now, which is awesome, it makes it sound way bigger.
Will this project continue as a full band?
It is going to be half and half I think. If I get offered and my band can come then they will absolutely play or if they want me to play solo then I will. It will be on a case by case basis. I prefer to play with them though, it is so much more fun. I can mess up all I want, I cannot even play. They can cover it up. They are so much more talented than I. Nick, Adam, and Kyle are great!
You just played a sold-out record release show for Rhombithian. How was that?
It was amazing. It was super fun and everyone was drunk. I got hit in the face with the microphone. Someone broke their leg. It was nuts.
That is pretty impressive.
Everyone was telling me that it was so pitty, like mosh pitty. We’re not like a super aggressive band so it was funny to see everyone moshing to it. It was awesome. I had a lot of fun. It was basically a party of all of my friends.
You played fest for the first time this year, how was that?
I played by myself but I think everyone in my band was there. It was awesome. I felt like all of Chicago was there. Everyone was singing along, I was surprised that anyone knew the words to sing along and stuff. It was cool to be apart of something I have been hearing about for the past couple of years. Closing in on the end of 2017, what have you been jamming out to in 2017?
I like this band called Protomartyr, they are not really a part of the punk scene. The Menzingers obviously. And then this band from Chicago, Kali Masi, their record called Wind Instrument is super good. That is my top three probably.
What is up for you/band in 2018?
We are going to play shows hopefully. I am going to try to write more songs.
|01/19/18||Champaign, IL||Cowboy Monkey|
|01/20/18||Hammond, IN||18th Street Brewery|