For the second in a series of interviews where your favorite bands talk about their favorite games, music, and more, I am super excited to have Deanna Belos with me today. She is the driving force behind the Chicago-based punk band, Sincere Engineer. The first and only release thus far, Rhombithian, combines hard hitting and energetic punk rock tunes with Belos' uniquely raw, almost growling, vocals that mesh perfectly when layered together. And while the lyrics on their surface could be seen as apathetic and depressing, they actually appear to be more inspirational and ambitious when examined in the context of the songs, showing just how creative of a song writer Deanna really is. Being a college dropout, the words I heard her sing were familiar and somber, but also motivational. And after speaking with her, specifically about music, I can see where she found the influence she needed to be as talented as she is. And with that said, on with the interview.
I wanted to start off with what is typically my favorite topic to talk about, and that is video games. We briefly spoke before the interview and you mentioned that you're not a big gamer, but that you did certainly log some time on the Nintendo 64 as a kid. I'd love to know exactly what got you into the gaming that you did? Was it a sibling, friend, parent - pure boredom?
I got a Nintendo 64 from Santa in 1998. That was my introduction to gaming. I'm an only child so, no to the sibling option. I'm going with the Santa option!
Santa brought me all my consoles as a kid too! What were some games that you remember playing and enjoying?
I played a lot of Diddy Kong Racing, which I believe came with the system. And Star Fox. Speaking of 1998 and foxes, I also played Spy Fox on CD-ROM. And I need to mention that I spent a lot of time with The Sims. And then of course Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1-4, which were very important to me growing up. I can say that I don't think I'd be where I am today if those games didn't exist. It definitely played a role in my punk music discovery.
I definitely want to talk about Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, but now I'm curious about your play style when it came to The Sims. There's a variety of ways to play that game. Did you typically try and give your Sim the best life possible, or did you lock them into rooms until they withered away from starvation?
I used the
motherlode cheats. I wasn't too into killing them because then you'd have to go back and make a new one! I'm sure I tried it once or twice, though. Mostly kitchen fires and taking the ladder out of the pool. I liked the house building aspect part a lot. The buy mode music was the best! I used to spend way too much time making the Sims themselves too, though. I wanted everyone to be super hot. You know? As hot as a Sim could be, hah.
So just to confirm, you weren't too into killing your sims only because of the length of time it would take to start a new game - is that correct?
Haha, also for moral reasons!
Moral reasons. Sure. Also, elaborate a bit on the "buy mode" music. I don't even think I paid any attention to it.
Look up the buy music on YouTube. It's like upbeat and motivating department store instrumental music. It's catchy!
Did you have a favorite Sims game?
My favorite was Sims Vacation. I'd use the money cheat, build one panel of wall and put a phone on it and call the cab to go to the vacation resort, and that'd be the game for me, haha!
Time to talk Tony Hawk Pro Skater, because I was certainly all about those. Which of the THPS games was your favorite of the series?
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 was my favorite! I had cheat codes for that too -
watch_me_xplode. This interview is basically me telling you how much of a cheater I am, haha.
And as far as the influential soundtracks go - which did you enjoy the most?
I think both THPS 3 and 4 stick out the most to me in that department.
We all had our favorite skater. What skater were you?
I always picked Geoff Rowley, hah, but my favorite skater in real life is Rodney Mullen.
So you actually follow skateboarding, or at least did at one time?
I definitely did at one point. In middle school, for silent reading Fridays, I used to flip through skateboarding magazines. I was never super great or anything, but I was good enough to use it for transportation sometimes. I never learned how to do anything other than an ollie. And a handstand! Haha.
Handstand? While skating?
Lol! It's hard to explain. It's not that hard, honestly. You just start it on foot and get a slow running start.
Prior to the interview you had mentioned that Tony Hawk Pro Skater was actually an important aspect of your childhood. In what ways?
It was just important because it shaped how I dressed, who I hung out with, and the music I got into.
So what we now know is that without Tony Hawk Pro Skater, there would be no Sincere Engineer. That is 100% confirmed. Are there any video games that you are playing currently?
Haha! And no, not currently. I don't feel like I have enough free time for it, and if I did, I'd feel guilty about wasting it when I should be working on writing songs or something! I think my band mates are pretty big gamers. Nick, our bassist, brings his Switch with him when we go out of town. At Pouzza a few weeks ago we played Mario Party for like four hours in our hotel room, and a bunch on the flight home! It definitely takes some stress away from travelling and makes being away from home seem not so bad.
Who usually wins in Mario Party?
Nick almost always wins, hah.
Who is your favorite Mario Party character?
That is the only answer to that question. Now I'd like to talk a bit about television for a moment. What shows that are currently still in production are you watching, if any? And I guess it's okay if a particular one may have just ended a few weeks ago.
Honestly, none. And I'm assuming you mean Game of Thrones? I haven't seen that! I don't have much free time, but my favorites from the past are The Norm Show starring Norm MacDonald, Arrested Development, and lots of Nickelodeon stuff.
I can't believe I found someone else who hasn't seen Game of Thrones. I had to ask though because of an amazing post of yours I saw on your Instagram.
I was going to mention that I get told I look like that girl a lot!
You mentioned Nickelodeon shows. Which ones in particular?
Definitely Hey Arnold, All That, Doug, Rugrats, Rocket Power, Kenan & Kel. Later on some Drake & Josh, SpongeBob SquarePants - lots of that!
I will say that me being such a big SpongeBob fan, it was hard to miss his cameo in your "Corn Dog Sonnet No. 7" music video. Planned?
It was just on TV at the time! I lucked out.
What is your medium of TV? Like do you rely on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, sketchy Russian websites?
Mostly DVDs honestly, hah. I don't have my own Netflix account, so I really only watch that when I'm at my boyfriend's house. A lot of YouTube too.
I sound like an old lady. I can't keep up with you kids and the technology.
What are some of your DVD collections and/or boxsets?
I've got all the seasons of House. And Will & Grace. I got all of those for like, a total of $30 in the discount bin when Circuit City went out of business!
Switching over to music now, I've read you talk about The Lawrence Arms and how they were a huge influence on you, even giving you the idea for the name of your band if I'm not mistaken. How did you originally get introduced to their music. I don't recall them being in any THPS games, haha.
Well, I liked Alkaline Trio for a few years before The Lawrence Arms. I noticed Matt Skiba was in the photo booth strips on the cover of Ghost Stories. I bought it based on that. Then they squirreled into my favorite band spot shortly after.
It's clear that the Chicago punk scene had an impact on you, your music, and undoubtedly your life as a whole. Mind sharing a few other of your favorite Chicago or surrounding area bands that you grew up on?
For sure! I'm a big Chicago punk music nerd. And I like a lot of stuff from the 90s. Slapstick, Tuesday, Colossal, Tricky Dick, and Apocalypse Hoboken. Newer Chicago bands I like are Into It. Over It., Meat Wave, and Kali Masi.
What were your top albums of 2018?
The Sidekicks, "Happiness Hours", and Alkaline Trio's, "Is This Thing Cursed" were my top two!
Had a hunch you would mention Alkaline Trio. It was so good. And speaking of Matt and Alkaline Trio, how do you feel about him being a core member of Blink-182 now?
I think it's cool. I like that he's very active in both. I feel like Alkaline Trio fans can't complain, as they just put out a new record and toured. He's working hard and not neglecting either of them, ya know? And I've liked all the songs I've heard!
How do you typically consume your music these days? Seeing as you still watch DVDs, are you also still putting CDs in a six-disc CD changer in the trunk of your car?
Haha, no! No CDs in the car unless it's something someone burned for me and I want to check it out. I use Spotify pretty exclusively - the daily mixes if I don't have any specific thing in mind to listen to.
Do you do much listening on vinyl?
Not too into vinyl anymore. I used to collect records, but I kinda grew out of it. I'll maybe buy one if I'm seeing a band I like and want to support them and buy something from them. But they're heavy and a pain in the butt when you're moving, and I never listened to them anyway. I'd rather just listen digitally and not wear out the record, but then, what's the point of having them? They just looked cool on a shelf. Now they're all stored at my parents house hah. Plus they're kinda bad for the environment.
Where or how do you discover new music? Spotify, word of mouth, friends, just being involved in the music scene?
I'd say all of the above. Suggestions from friends is probably most common and most likely to grab me, though.
What is the most recent band or musician you only just discovered? Whether it be from years past or brand new?
Culture Abuse! Lots of my friends like them. I'm a bit late to the party hah.
Here we are - half way into 2019. Hard to believe. What musicians or releases from 2019 have had your full attention so far this year?
The new Ramona record! It just came out! Also our friends in Mover Shaker are going to be putting out a record later this year I believe, and I'm super excited for it! The new Pup record has caught my attention the most so far this year. The band Mush put out a really good record a few weeks ago as well. They sort of had me "help" with the artwork.
They had you "help"?
I honestly don't totally understand it. They just asked me to draw a mailbox on iMessage. The rest sort of explains itself... look it up! It's a screen shot of a text message. I'm a big fan of the drawing pad on iMessage. I make pin designs using it and I annoy the crap out of my friends with dumb drawings all the time.
Oh my God at that cover art. I can't believe they actually used it. Not that I'm saying your mailbox is nothing short of a van Gogh masterpiece, but wow.
Haha, thank you! Quick anecdote: that text message thread was between me and my friend Joe Klomes. He's in Mush, and also a band called Droughts. He did the artwork for my record. The cover photo was taken by my dad in 1998.
So punk rock is obviously your roots, and will most likely forever be an influence. That said, how have your musical tastes changed, or maybe the better word would be evolved, as you've grown older?
I'd say they've changed in that I listen closer to things now. It took recording my own record to learn to take in and appreciate stuff in the background more. It's stayed the same in that I'm a sucker for any sort of hook or catchy melody. That's almost all it takes for me to like something. And to note, I didn't grow up solely on punk! I worked in a dental office for many years starting when I was 14, so that sort of classic 70s-90s adult contemporary hits that were always playing sort of latched on to me. I also grew up on dad rock, because of my parents. The Eagles and the rest of those types of bands.
Any classics that give you a warm fuzzy feeling because you remember jamming to it with your parents?
Definitely Fleetwood Mac and Tom Petty! Dire Straits. Beatles. Rolling Stones. Bruce Springsteen. Tons of stuff!
Now typically towards the end, I like to do rapid-fire type questions. So here we go.
Favorite video game and console?
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4. And Nintendo 64 or PS2.
Favorite TV show?
The Norm Show.
Favorite band and favorite album?
The Lawrence Arms. And I can't pick a favorite record, but some are Broadways' "Broken Star" and Into It. Over It's "Proper".
Recommendations of all the things!
I guess I'll recommend Impractical Jokers, a show I watch a ton of and forgot to mention earlier. It's really dumb but I love it and it makes me laugh super hard. Some Chicago bands I'd suggest checking out would be Drilling For Blasting, Kali Masi, and Retirement Party.
Alright, now the last thing I'll bother you with is your own stuff! Do you have any music or side projects or tours coming up you'd like to mention?
I have a solo show coming up in Lemont, IL at Pollyanna Brewery. They let me collab with them on a beer and we came up with "Sincere Engin-beer: Fun Dipping." It's gonna be a sour. I'm super excited about it! I just stopped in there the other night to visit them. That's my only solo show coming up. Mostly just working on new songs for a second record! And doing some touring. Hitting the west coast with Heart Attack Man.
Sincere Engin-beer. I love it.
If you've slept on Sincere Engineer's "Rhombithian" album from 2017, then shame on you. I highly recommend giving it a spin. You can stream it on the usual major streaming outlets, as well as digitally purchase it on Bandcamp or the vinyl over on the Red Scare Industries store.
Also be sure to try and catch Deanna with her bandmates at their upcoming shows with Heart Attack Man.
Lastly, make sure to check out all her music videos as well as their Audiotree live session over on YouTube.