By Ziggy Merritt
For close to a decade the Vancouver-based outfit, the Belle Game has been in the business of change. 4 years separate their debut LP, 2013’s Ritual Tradition Habit, and their full-length follow-up, Fear/Nothing. Both albums strive toward the ultimate goal of pop perfection blending emotional honesty with potent hooks. With their latest, they inch closer to that goal even if that is not necessarily the overriding intention. Heading to Ortlieb’s on January 26th, I was able to receive a few candid responses from Belle Game’s lead vocalist, Andrea Lo on this latest album and the tour in its support since release in September of last year.
“Changes that were instigated by the creation of Fear/Nothing are still churning,” wrote Lo via email in reference to touring throughout the years and the album itself. “Emotional responsibility on a scale that goes beyond ourselves has definitely become more of a priority over the past year. From the day we began to write ‘Spirit’ to present day, the process continues to ask a lot of us (as it should), especially in challenging the honesty we have with ourselves and we’re finding that we are constantly stripping away at who we are beyond the behaviours and patterns we’ve accumulated in life, and how that aligns with how we show up in the world.”
The process of creating and then supporting an album constantly challenges Lo and the other members (Alex Andrew, Katrina Jones, and Adam Nanji) to pursue honesty in themselves, and in that pursuit they have seemingly found a refreshing desire to look beyond themselves as musicians in order to make a deeper connection with their listeners.
“Every day we write or get on stage we’re challenged with facing ourselves and holding space for others in a way that is transparent, honest, and unashamed,” she continues. “And that’s where we make sure we are going at all times because it’s deeply important for us to convey the same message to our audience.”
This unashamed honesty and transparency bleed into how they have come to define their sound. “Musical Catharsis,” wrote Lo simply. “A sound that defines the experience of allowing oneself to unravel to a point of extreme vulnerability and freedom.” This sheds the skin of dream pop and electropop labels that have been thrown around to pin them to one distinct subgenre of pop. These labels lack the insight into the process of conceiving and delivering an album to the public. Musical Catharsis instead implies an overwhelming sense of relief by pushing themselves through the pressures of change and exploration.
Naturally, there’s a throughline of emotional truth that continues into how some of the tracks came together with my attention tuned into the mid-album treat simply titled “Yuh.”
“This track was liberating to write,” wrote Lo. “It was one of our first steps in creating from a feeling as opposed to logic, and we loved experimenting with allowing for more space in a song. The song was a joint effort of everyone willing to be adventurous with the sounds they were creating and the desire to keep that sparseness that really birthed it. As musicians, there can be an unspoken pressure to feel as if you need to be playing all the time, so this was a great way of breaking out of the box.”
There have also been timely surprises that add a brief coda onto the time spent bringing this album to fruition. One such surprise is “Only One” which came out of the same sessions. “‘Only One’ was on the track listing during some discussions of how the album would play out,” explained Lo. “However, end of the day, we felt that the vibe was inconsistent. We knew that we wanted to release it eventually so it wasn’t an issue to not have it on the album.”
As it turns out this may be the first of a few surprises in store. “We’re hoping to release some b-sides throughout the year,” Lo revealed. “But live shows also present an opportunity where we can play extra material that’s not always recorded. We enjoy creating, so whenever we feel we hit upon something that inspires us in rehearsal we do our best to incorporate it into the set.”
On Friday, January 26th there’s a chance to hear some of these unrecorded treats for yourself when they head to Ortlieb’s with an opening set from Philadelphia’s own Cheeky. “We won’t have any time to explore the city,” writes Lo. “But we are really looking forward to playing the show, and connecting with the audience in ways that are cathartic, honest, and healing.”
(Photos by Lauren Ray)