“At night, 6th street kind of feels like the Apocalypse, like there are no rules, anything can happen. It’s madness.” Katrina Jones is musing about her inaugural trip to SXSW. Katrina is the pianist, backing-vocalist, and one-fifth of Vancouver’s The Belle Game, an indie pop outfit that manages to make the epic and melancholy somehow quirky. I’m chatting with Katrina on an “off day,” in-between the band’s two scheduled appearances. “It’s extremely overwhelming,” is the first thing she tells me. But she also admits that there are quite a few perks and highlights that have accompanied their trip to Austin as well: “We have a lot of band friends from all throughout Canada and it’s a free way to see all of your friends and see their shows. Even with the festivals in Canada, they’re not generally a big enough draw to bring all of these bands together.” I’m also quite happy to hear that Katrina’s musical highlight thus far has been Philthy’s recently-profiled Blue Hawaii: “They’re just so energetic live. It’s just so refreshing. I mean, I knew Raphaelle from Braids and I was expecting it to be a little more serious, but she just has so much fun onstage.”
The Belle Game are currently promoting their debut LP, Ritual Tradition Habit, which is in stores on April 16th, courtesy of Boompa and Bella Union. The band had previously released two EPs (2009’s Inventing Letters and 2011’s Sleep to Grow) and, while each of them received critical praise (The Georgia Straight even included them on their list of the “Best Bands of Vancouver.”), those early recording didn’t necessarily meet the band’s ultimate goals. “We like to categorize them as ‘trials,’” Katrina tells me, going on to explain, “We were all still getting our degrees, so we were all separated between cities at the time.” However, after college Katrina and lead vocalist/lead guitarist Adam Nanji relocated from Montreal to Vancouver to be with the rest of the group, which completely changed their writing process. Of Ritual Tradition Habit, Katrina tells me, “This record is pretty different. It’s a lot more dark, atmospheric, and with noise elements. It’s more honest, more developed…” She says that the album is far more reflective of the band’s mindset than previous releases: “We’re most inspired by our surroundings, our lives. There’s a lot more personal stuff on this record.”
Last week the band premiered the video for “Wait up for You,” the first single off of Ritual Tradition Habit. The music video was shot entirely on 16mm and is definitely the coolest I’ve seen all year. The narrative revolves around a small-town cult and plays out like a cross between Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon and Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures… except conceptualized as a 1970s midnight movie… It’s quite brilliant. Katrina and her bandmates are quite proud of the outcome: “We really love films. It’s so incredible what they can do, and it’s something that is often lost in many digital music videos. Making videos is just a great outlet for expressing yourself and they can be very significant in how people perceive the music.” The video was directed by Kheaven Lewandowski and shot on a farm about 45-minutes outside of Vancouver. Apparently the band enjoyed the process of making the video as much as the finished product. Katrina tells me that they’re hoping to release another two videos this year, utilizing the same director and team.
For those of you currently in Austin, The Belle Game will be performing this Saturday, March 16th, at 5pm at Friends Bar as part of the Canada House Showcase. However, for everyone else, the band does have touring in the works. “We will be touring Canada, doing festivals this summer and some album release shows around Vancouver when the album drops and we’re hoping to do a fall North American tour,” says Katrina. For those wondering what can be expected of The Belle Game live, Katrina she me, “It’s a lot more fun than the record might lead you to believe. We bring a lot of energy and let it all hang out onstage. If on the record it sounds a little more reserved, we try to really bring the energy out live.”