Toronto-based dreamy shoegazers Beliefs are about to release a single on Toronto boutique label Hand Drawn Dracula, and are getting ready to release their first full-length release since forming in 2010. Saskatoon native Jesse Upton Crowe along with Josh Korody make up the core of Beliefs. They share a love for 90s droners like The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine, and these influences are definitely evident in their fuzzed-out guitars and Upton Crowe’s sleepy, reverberated vocals.
CFCR Program Director Jay Allen caught up with Upton Crowe via email to find out what it’s like for a prairie kid making a go of it in Toronto, how the new album is coming along and why cassettes are the way of the future.
CFCR: You’re originally from Saskatoon. How long has it been since you moved to Toronto? Was it a ‘musical move’ originally or for other reasons?
Jesse Upton Crowe: I’ve been living in Toronto since I was 22, which is about five-and-a-half years now. Before coming to Toronto I was living in Vancouver for three years. I moved mainly to find a more populated city to further my hair styling career and to eventually find serious people to work on music with. While Vancouver was bigger than Saskatoon, I found it harder to find motivated people to work with musically at the time so I left for the even bigger Toronto. Within two weeks of living here I was trying out for bands and meeting musicians left right and center. It was very obvious right off the bat that Toronto was an intensely musical city where no matter what style you wanted to play, there were people to play with and people waiting to watch you do it.
CFCR: Did you find Toronto easier or more difficult to crack into the music community than Saskatoon?
JUC: It’s hard to compare my experiences with in the music scene of both of these cities as I was at a very different point in my life living in Saskatoon. I’ve always found Saskatoon very, very supportive, but it felt like there was a bit of a glass ceiling. It’s not that bands in Saskatoon didn’t want to operate on a big scale, but it’s incredibly difficult to do so when the closest major cites are all more than five hours away. Within itself, everyone was always amazing and some of my absolute biggest influences are still making music in Saskatoon. If it weren’t for people like Chad Munson and Chris Laramee, I likely would have terrible music taste, but I personally find it easier to work in a central hub where people are always touring in and out of. I find the challenge of breaking into such a big scene invigorating and exciting.
CFCR: How did Beliefs get started? I read something about a chance meeting at a party, but did something click where you said ‘Let’s make a band’ or did it just sort of happen?
JUC: Josh Korody and I met at bassist Pat McCormack’s birthday party a couple of years ago. It’s true that something just clicked. Josh was new to the city and was looking for the right people to start a band who shared the same love for shoegaze and early 90s music as he did and I was coming off of the break up of my last dreampop band Heaven, so the pairing was natural. We started writing really quickly after that. The band has gone through a few ling up changes as well but everyone has left on good terms, people in Toronto just play in a million bands.
CFCR: You’ve gotten some pretty high-profile opening-slot opportunities (A Place To Bury Strangers, The Men, Disappears, Moon Duo, etc). Is that a product of living in a market like Toronto or is it tougher to get good gigs like those because there is more competition?
JUC: While there are more great gigs rolling through a city like Toronto, there is heavy competition. That being said, there are also so many great shows going on at once, that I think bands get paired accordingly. You have to work hard to have the right promoters see your band play and build trust and confidence with them in order to secure some of the more sought after spots.
CFCR: You have a new cassingle coming out on Hand Drawn Dracula. Is this your first foray into this new/old world of cassette-dom? Whose idea was that? More and more bands are releasing cassettes. Are they the way of the future?
JUC: The cassette has become a really accessible and affordable way for bands to put of a small run of something physical so that they aren’t sinking 1000s of dollars in 7-inch singles or falling solely into the digital world. They are something tangible, a keepsake, something for people to remember you by rather than just a download code.
CFCR: How is the full-length release coming along?
JUC: We actually just finished our first album. It’s a record that Josh and I wrote quickly and seamlessly through the first year of being a band. We recorded in three sessions at two different studios with Josh producing and engineering for the most part. It’s dear to us because it’s all of our first thoughts and ideas, in fact the first song I ever wrote on guitar is “Gallowsbird,” the last song on the record. The record will come out on Hand Drawn Dracula in Canada, No Pain In Pop in the UK and Manimal Vinyl in the US in early 2013. We are currently writing our second record now and are very excited.
CFCR: Do you have touring plans after the record is finished? Would you be keen to come through Saskatoon? Does a hometown show make you feel excited or anxious?
JUC: Touring plans are always up in the air until they are completely locked down. We’re looking at the earlier part of our year being pretty North America focused. We are hoping to head to Austin for South By South West in March and tour around the US then. Hopefully we get some cool Canadian dates after that. I’ve always wanted to come back and play Saskatoon. I’m really looking forward to visiting and playing for people who are really important to me. That said, Canada is a big, scary country to tour. We need to do it when the timing is right and likely under the wing of a bigger band so we can make the best of it and all keep our sanity on those long drives. I’m really looking forward to showing the boys in my band where I grew up and making them eat at Amigos. I’ll only come back if we can play with Golden Smoke.
CFCR: Anything you’d like to add?
JUC: Hi Mom.
You can check out one of the tracks from Beliefs’ upcoming Untitled single. The track, entitled “Violets” joins “Catch My Breath” on the cassette, and will be available very soon on Hand Drawn Dracula here (you can already download a digital copy of “Violets”):