- by Steve Long
Virtually coming out of nowhere, Deanna Belos blasted out of the Chicago music scene just a couple of years ago and has been making quite the name for herself ever since. Using the name Sincere Engineer, Deanna after spending over a decade going to shows and writing songs on her guitar, she released an album in 2017 titled Rhombithian on the Red Scare Industries label. More recently, she recorded a live session with AudioTree Live. I recently got a chance to drag her away from her burgeoning schedule to chat with her about her music, growing up in Chicago and life in general.
PRT: I read in another interview that the name Sincere Engineer comes from something Brendan Kelly said. Can you elaborate on that? Why Sincere Engineer over anything else?
Deanna: It's sorta hard to explain lol but he was like between thoughts and said it, I believe in reference to something about Neil engineering a record or something. It was so long ago. Maybe 2007 or 2008. But I liked the rhyme and it always stuck with me. I made it all my screen names...so it kinda just made sense to use it.
PRT: I’m going to jump out there and assume that you are a big fan of Brendan’s. Did you listen to a lot of his work growing up?
Deanna: I am, and I did! He's my hero! lol
When I was in middle school I stumbled upon The Lawrence Arms and immediately loved his voice and style of singing, so I sought out more of it and dove into the catalogs or anything I could find of all the bands he's been in. I spent a lot of my time in 7th grade alone in a dark basement with the Broadways records lol
PRT: With the large amount of great music to come out of the Chicago area, was it exciting or intimidating to be a musician in that town?
Deanna: Both! I'm generally intimidated by pretty much all things lol but it's also been fun and exciting to get opportunities to play at different venues in Chicago, especially ones I frequented when I was younger.
PRT: How old were you when you first started playing guitar? Who taught you?
Deanna: I think I was 11. I took lessons for a few years. But I think I was able to gain more from just practicing on my own. Alone in that dark basement I mentioned earlier.
PRT: Let’s talk about your debut album, Rhombithian (2017). Where did that name come from?
Deanna: Lol it's kinda dumb and weird. I was explaining to my friend that I'm constantly driving between four different cities on a map of the Chicagoland area and surrounding suburbs, between work, friends, my parents’ house. And I was drunk and said it's like a rhombus. And then proclaimed that I am the Rhombithian. It just kinda stuck...I wrote it down and looked it up on Google later and saw that there were no results, because it's a made-up word. Figured it would be cool to name the record that because if someone searched for it, only things about the record would come up.
PRT: When writing this album, and writing songs in general, where you get your inspiration, lyrically? Are the songs well thought out ahead of time or do they just come to you?
Deanna: I always write down lines as they pop into my head. Sometimes that can spark an entire song, other times I'll work on something and pull from the archive if I find something that fits. This is kinda a lame answer, but I get my inspiration from ~life~ of course! :)
PRT: Does the current political landscape ever motivate you lyrically?
Deanna: Not so much. I personally and generally try to use music (listening and making) as an escape from the problems and sadness in the world.
PRT: How did you get involved with Red Scare?
Deanna: I've been friends with Toby for quite a while now. I'd always see him at shows and such and he was always nice to me and remembered me and always said hello. At some point along the way I wrote some songs and he found out about them somehow. He gave me my first show. A year or two later I was ready to make a record and he showed interest in hearing it and working with me.
PRT: How did you get hooked up with Matt Jordan (producer) to record this record?
Deanna: Very early on I played a show at Fireside Bowl in Chicago. As I was leaving, this dude came up to me and told me he recorded bands and told me he wanted to work with me. I thought nothing of it, didn't know him or anything, but I was polite and said thanks and took his card. Then a friend was like "do you know who that was!?" and I said no. He told me about Matt's portfolio and urged me to reach out to him. I wrote a bunch of songs and told him, and we worked together on the record for the next year and now I know his name is Matt and he's one of my best friends.
PRT: If you could put a one-night only show together of just Chicago-based artists, what would that lineup look like?
Deanna: Oooh. Hmm. This is not going to be too surprising to anyone. Alkaline Trio, Lawrence Arms, Into It. Over It., Apocalypse Hoboken, Colossal, Meat Wave, Beach Bunny, Kali Masi...too many good ones...I'd need this to be a festival. :)
PRT: Who are some of your favorite bands to play with and are there any artists out there that you haven’t gotten to play with but would like to?
Deanna: We've played with Kali Masi a few times, and they are great! I toured with The Lawrence Arms earlier this year. Got to know them very well and it was a dream to watch my favorite band like, 17 times in a row. There's tons of bands we haven't played with but would love to! I don't even know where to start listing. Any we haven't played with before. I always like making new friends lol
PRT: What’s in store for you in 2019?
Deanna: Hoping to get the full band to most parts of the US this coming year. Working on new songs. Hopefully enough to put out another record, soonish! :)