Sad Summer Fest is coming up quick. Taking over The Andrew J. Brady Music Center on Wednesday, July 19, headliners Taking Back Sunday are bringing a wide variety of Emo, Emo Adjacent, and Pop Punk bands to the stage in what I think is going to be one of the best shows of the summer.
One of the bands kicking things off as part of the opening rotation throughout the tour, Chicago’s Sincere Engineer is coming off successful runs with bands like The Menzingers and Hot Water Music, a trip to Europe, and the recent announcement of their new LP, Cheap Grills, out this September on Hopeless Records!
I had the opportunity to ask band founder and front person Deanna Belos about what they’ve been up to and what they’re excited about for the tour, among other things. Check out my interview with Deanna below…
For those in Cincinnati who may not know who Sincere Engineer is, can you introduce yourself and give a little background about who you are, where you’re from, and what Sincere Engineer is (as a solo project and a band)?
My name is Deanna and I am the singer/front person in the band Sincere Engineer! We’re a kinda pop/punk/indie band from Chicago! It started out as my solo acoustic project in 2015 and then morphed into a full band in 2017. We have 2 records out and one on the way that will be released in September called Cheap Grills!
First, I want to talk about the role TikTok played not just in your career over the past year or so, but also how it’s altering the landscape of independent music and the way listeners are finding new music in some pretty significant ways. It’s where I first saw/heard Sincere Engineer, and it’s where I’m catching a lot of really amazing suggestions for media to check out generally. Can you talk a little bit about your experience on the platform and how you’ve used it not just as a promotional tool, but also a way to connect with fans and other bands?
I enjoy TikTok as a user, in general. I try to limit my time on it because it’s pretty addictive! I have also found tons of cool bands and artists from it and I think that it’s a great way to get new people to see and hear your music. It’s definitely challenging and often frustrating to keep up with social media demands and also writing and playing music, touring, etc. But it has personally helped me connect with new friends and fans and people on the platform who review music or make playlists. Overall I enjoy it (not even for just music, I follow a lot of cooking and fitness accounts on there too!). I think it’s a helpful tool but it’s also important for the main focus to be on the music and the real life connections that go along with being in a band.
How do you feel about the role TikTok has played for independent musicians over the past couple years - especially as it relates to the pandemic and how musicians, bands, and other artists have had to navigate the pandemic? Where do you see it going, and what do you want to see happen there?
I think during the pandemic it was a great way to sort of keep moving forward and potentially grow during a time when everyone felt isolated and trapped. I think now that shows are back it’s still a tool for artists to get themselves known and their names out there but it’s obviously not the only thing involved in music. I know myself and many artists feel some amount of pressure to be active on TikTok and post regularly. Which can be a bummer when a lot (most?) of us would probably prefer to put that time into creating music. So I think finding a balance and again, focusing on the music, is the most important part of all of it!
One thing that’s been really great for me to see, as a fan, are the bands you’ve been able to tour with over the last year or so. The Menzingers, Hot Water Music, etc - two of my absolute favorites, and bands that have been around and doing what they do for a long time bringing out a young and upcoming band like Sincere Engineer and introducing you to audiences that, to me, make a lot of sense. What has that experience been like, especially as you’ve taken the band to Europe and have toured more extensively this year after having to figure out touring through the pandemic (which is still something everyone has to keep in the back of their mind even now)?
They’re some of my absolute favorites, too!
It’s been surreal sometimes! I never thought I’d get to play with all the bands that were the reason I started playing guitar and writing songs. The Menzingers took us out on our first ever European tour and it was a blast and they and their crew are the nicest people! Same with Hot Water in Canada! It’s been so much fun and we’ve been super fortunate to get to play these rad shows with bands we all grew up listening to!
Can you take a moment to talk about connecting and working with Storm Chasers LTD? Evan is a friend of mine, and Into It. Over It. a household name here, so I’ve been supporting the Patreon for a while now and always look forward to what they’re working on. It’s been really awesome to see them sharing footage of Sincere Engineer on tour and taking the time to give so much love and attention to what they’re doing and the bands they’re working with. What’s that experience been like?
I’ve known Evan for quite a few years now! And SE’s drummer Adam Beck is actually also in IIOI also! I’m sure you know… but for the sake of this interview.
When our last record came out he asked if I’d be down to have our record be a part of his vinyl subscription and I was of course super stoked to be a part of it. I’ve been a big IIOI fan since way before I knew Evan so it’s crazy we get to chat as friends now and work with SCLTD and their crew!
How do you see the way they’re operating (good, bad, genius, etc) - via Patreon monthly subscriptions, so essentially fan-funded - and what plans do you have for working with them on physical releases, if any?
I think it’s super cool! I’m not very familiar with how Patreon works unfortunately lol but it seems like a great thing that’s working for them and I think it’s really cool subscribers get a lot of cool and often exclusive physical releases! I know there’s a Discord component involved which is something that I’ve been getting more into the last few weeks and started getting a Sincere Engineer Discord server up and running (I know I’m late to the game!).
Just this week you announced the release of your third full-length, coming from Hopeless Records, Cheap Grills. Congrats! Super excited, and the lead single is great! Mine’s already been pre-ordered. Can you talk a little about putting this album together, and maybe what’s different about releasing this one versus Bless My Psyche, which came out in 2021?
Thank you so much for pre-ordering!
In my opinion this record is more like our first record Rhombithian than our last one. It’s more straightforward rock and has a little something for everyone, I think. There are parts that are heavier, darker, some parts are more twangy country, it’s like a little bit of everything in my mind. I’m and we’re all very excited about it! I feel like releasing this one has already been more fun simply because the pandemic happened during our last record roll out and it really felt like it sort of slowed everything down and drew everything out. We worked with the legendary producer Mike Sapone on this one which was an honor and it was so much fun to make!
With Sad Summer Fest, you’re going to end up in front of a much different crowd than with bands like The Menzingers and Hot Water Music. Since Sincere Engineer seems to be able to straddle the line between melodic punk rock and various flavors of emo, how are you feeling about being part of the lineup and what are you looking forward to most with this tour?
Totally! I’m a big fan of both genres so I think that’s why the songs tend to have some overlap and it’s nice we get to play with bands from both! I agree that it’ll be a different crowd but I’m excited and hope everyone digs us! We’ll be playing some new songs which I’m excited about! And I’m just in general excited to get out and play music with my bandmates, it seems like Sad Summer Fest is going to be like a big rock n roll summer camp! Lol I’m envisioning lots of sunscreen!
What’s next for Sincere Engineer? Is there anything else you want to talk about or mention?
We’ve got some dates of Sad Summer Fest coming up in July, August 12th we have a headlining show in Columbus with Heart & Lung at the Rumba Cafe, Lollapalooza in Chicago and Four Chord Festival in Pittsburgh both in August, and then Austin City Limits in October.
We’re definitely gonna try to get some more shows in the books before the end of the year! We’ll have another single or two out and then the Cheap Grills record release on September 22nd!
Super excited for this year and excited to play more shows and make lots of friends!
Thank you so much!
My thanks to Deanna for taking the time to chat and for such thoughtful answers. If you’re checking out Sad Summer Fest, be sure to get there early to catch Sincere Engineer kicking the whole thing off.