12 April 2008

A recently found image from my soon to be forgotten con-ed past.

The patience of The Saints is finally paying off.

I walked into the band room upstairs at The Mod Club and right into a discussion between members of The Saint Alvia Cartel and The Reason. It was about money and the lack thereof. Proving that even while enjoying a decent level of success sometimes bands still have to worry about where the next meal is going to come from.

I was supposed to spend the day with TSAC, possibly as an unofficial seventh member. Tagging along as they went from one interview to the next. That’s how it played out in my mind. Rock star for a day, minus the fame and adoration of course. But unanswered calls to vocalist Ben Rispin’s misplaced cell phone changed the course of my day. So there I was, near show time enjoying the fruits of the room backstage, a semi-cold beer amidst discussion of a lifestyle I’ll never know.

After a few more minutes of road stories, the room slowly emptied as The Reason was soon due on stage. I spoke briefly to TSAC guitarist/vocalist Rob Pasalic, but not wanting to miss the action, Pasalic soon followed.

Keyboard player Brandon Bliss entered the room, smiling, but concerned that the band van was going to be towed from the lot across the street. After a quick introduction, he and guitarist/vocalist Greg Taylor were off to find a place to park that wouldn’t financially strain the band any further.

Eventually bassist Greg Fisher, Rispin, and drummer Matt Richmond filtered back into the room, and had a seat.

“It has been a huge fuckin’ week,” said Rispin with a hint of excitement. He’s is referring to the fact that over the previous seven days, they’ve been told of an Exclaim reader’s poll nod, a Juno nomination for rock album of the year, a Canadian Music Week award for best Punk/Hardcore act, and a Canadian Indie Music award.

The Juno nomination seemed to catch the band off guard. “We were invited to the press conference,” says Richmond. “But we were like ‘I wonder why?’”. “We kind of thought we were invited to get shamed,” laughs Rispin.

The news of the week definitely boosted morale within the TSAC camp. It’s evident in the energy of the moment, but Fisher was quick to give credit to the people that helped get them to where they are. “I think the Exclaim reader’s poll thing is as equally as fucking cool as the Juno, ‘cause that…“. “That’s people writing in,” Rispin quips. The guys in TSAC come from a long D.I.Y. history that relies on a solid fan base, and they have never forgotten that. Not even now.

During the short tour with The Reason , the guys were also informed that they would be playing in what is arguably the best music festival in North America, SXSW on March 15th, “We’re playing the Alternative Press “Bands You Need to Know” stage,” said Rispin. All of this comes on the heels of a freshly inked deal with Side One Dummy Records.

“It’s early 2008. We’ve got a worldwide deal, and a Juno nomination. All in all it’s been a pretty good fuckin’ year so far,” said Rispin. “So far, so good,” added Fisher.

As the guys talked about recent band developments, the early evening set time drew nearer. Richmond, is on his feet pacing the room, stretching and getting into the proper headspace. The muffled sound of The Reason permeates through the walls and the crowd reaction swells. Rispin changes into his “gig-fit”, basically a different t-shirt, and Fisher sits contemplating what’s ahead.

“It’s really tough at this point to say what’s going to happen in the immediate future. Long-term, definitely touring the states, and over seas. We just don’t have exact times and days,” said Fisher. "Side One Dummy has been talking about an April release for the record, but until that is finalized we don’t know.”

With only a few dates written in ink in the coming months, the guys have plenty of time to speculate where they will be down the road. It’s an exciting time to be a member of TSAC. But with all off the excitement there is a feeling that the guys want just a little stability. “You get nominated for all of these awards, but it’s always going to be a struggle,” said Rispin. “It’s an uphill battle until you can pay your rent and then some.”

It all sounds so tough but don’t cry for them just yet. These guys have been doing this a long time and to them, it’s worth it. “We do it because we love it,” said Fisher. “Not because we figure we’re going to make a million dollars or anything. Yeah we do make sacrifices and we struggle like, yeah we got a Juno nomination but you can’t put that on a plate and eat it.”

Intrests Include: Long walks in the (Belle)woods.

There are many lines that divide a music scene even within similar genres, but sometimes those lines intersect bringing bands together, as is the case with Toronto’s Bellewoods.

Chris White, Dylan Green (Raising the Fawn), Scott Remila (Raising the Fawn, Violet Archers), Paul Watling (ex-Diableros), Erik Anersen (Great Lake Swimmers), and Peter Garner (Lion) make up the band. With Rachel Shaw providing harmonies in the studio.

The project was born outside of the city a few years ago says Green.

“Chris and I knew each other from St. Catharines and had been interested in working together in some musical respect. The timing never really worked out until about 2 years ago when we started recording and working out the songs that would eventually become Bellewoods.”

Things progressed from there.

“Once we had more material, we were looking for people to play with us, and it took about a year to actually round up the right dudes for the job.”

The band has been steadily working on their live show, getting comfortable in their new setting. They’ve done a few laps of Ontario opening for bands such as
A Northern Chorus, Nordic Nomadic, The Coast, and Tusks. But they have done so at their own pace.

“Things are relatively lax, because business-wise, we don't really have any commitments like a manager, label, agent&#8230that sort of thing,” says Green.

Over the past few months Bellewoods has been focusing on their first record.

“We're recording with our friend Jamie Bunton of Ohbijou. He has a studio in the west end of Toronto,” says Green. “It's nice to work with friends because there's a lot less pressure...less nerves in the studio.”

There may be less pressure but it’s the speed they take an issue with.

“The recording is going a lot slower than we'd like it to mainly because we all have jobs or school to deal with on a day to day basis, so that leaves evenings and weekends to make music and it's very hard to try and co-ordinate 7 people's schedules in a timely manner,” says Green. “We're all excited about how it's sounding, and we're definitely close to finishing.

Things may have taken a while to get going, but the extra time taken is producing results. And the fact that the process is almost complete is creating some energy in the band.

"I think we're all getting a bit restless and eager. We've all reached a level where we are comfortable, and excited to be playing in a band together,” adds guitarist Paul Watling. “The songs are really coming together and the reality of having a finished album we're all pretty stoked on is not far off.”

The wait shouldn’t be too much longer as the album is slated to come out sometime this year says Green.

“We'd like to find a label to release it, but if nobody's biting, we'll do it ourselves.”

“Then they'll all come crying to us,” jokes Watling.

Bellewoods is a result of bands meeting through various connections. And when they set out to tour they will likely cross paths with many other bands from this city, forming new friendships. But before they do they’ll need to figure out transportation. Green politely quips.

“If you would like to donate a van to us, we would graciously accept.”