Sincere Engineer keeps building with new music and Sad Summer, Lolla sets
Deanna Belos' projected career path had her studying to be a dentist. Instead, the Orland Park-native artist is kicking people's teeth in (sonically, of course) with her pull-no-punches rock band Sincere Engineer.
This weekend, the foursome -- including Highland Park drummer Adam Beck and Crystal Lake natives Nick Arvanitis on bass and guitarist Kyle Geib -- stopped back home in Chicago for the Sad Summer Festival two weeks ago. And this weekend, Sincere Engineer takes the stage at Lollapalooza.
And that's on the tails of their second European tour back in May and two previous Riot Fest appearances. It's safe to say this band is doing the Chicago music scene proud.
Looking at the trajectory of Belos and Sincere Engineer, the phrase "meant to be" comes to mind. As a young fan, she said she idolized classic Chicago rock and punk acts like The Lawrence Arms, Smoking Popes and especially Alkaline Trio.
"That's my favorite band. I wouldn't probably be doing this if they weren't a band," she said. "When I was younger, my mom would take me to see these bands, and I was the only 11-year-old kid at these shows."
Fast forward a bit to see Belos, now 30, having fulfilled dreams that youngster hadn't even considered: Her first tour was solo with The Lawrence Arms; earlier this month she joined the Popes for their song and video cover of Human League's "Don't You Want Me"; and last year Sincere Engineer opened for Alkaline Trio at the Metro.
Belos still projects the exuberance of that young kid seeing Chicago punk shows, but she said she hadn't considered songwriting more than just an escape she'd huddle into when classwork would get hard. Her friend Toby Jeg (of Red Scare Industries) gets the credit for nudging her into the spotlight when he offered an opening slot for Brendan Kelly of The Lawrence Arms.
"I had never played a show in my life," she said. "I was terrified. But Toby told me at the time, you get to open for your hero, but don't be too nervous because you're only getting like 20 minutes and probably only your friends will be there because it's going to start at six o'clock, so just have fun with it. ... That was true. The only people that came at six o'clock on a Friday were my friends. And that's all I needed."
"He said 'I'm gonna give you all my best friends who all have played in bands forever. They love music, and they're amazing,'" she said, referring to Beck, who drums in Chicago rock band Into It. Over It, and Geib and Arvanitis, who at the time were playing together in the punk band Dog & Wolf.
"The full band was kind of created in a lab," she joked. "We started playing shows as a full band the day that record came out."
And they haven't looked back. This year, between tours both national and international, Sincere Engineer has been leaving a trail of singles and videos teasing to a new album, "Cheap Grills," due out in September from Hopeless Records. The collection plays out like pages from a journal -- deeply confessional, but with fun vibes and packed with details that help Belos tell colorful tales. She name-drops the suburbs and parts of Chicago as she reintroduces herself to old haunts, now with a more mature sense of perspective.
Belos said a lot of the inspiration for some of the newer songs she wrote for the album seems to have come from helping her parents clean out their old house.
"I just kind of put it together in my own head, like going through room to room, the fireplace, the California king, the library," she said. "I feel like subconsciously taking the time to clean up past memories where you spent 20 years of your life kind of showed through more than I expected."
On the upcoming release, Belos and the band dive deep into questions about the past and the future with a raw intensity borne through Sincere Engineer's punk/emo revival bent, but one already released single, "Fireplace," is pure, giddy catharsis as she relates darkly comic and terrible things happening to an imagined someone who ... wasn't very nice.
"I'm a pretty goofy person, but I've kept music pretty serious. That was my chance to write the most ridiculous things," she said, laughing. "But I was like, I owe it to myself. I love being goofy. And I'm gonna have my moment to do that."
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Sad Summer Festival
When: 2 p.m. Friday, July 21
Where: Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, 1300 S. Linn White Drive, Chicago; sadsummerfest.com
When: Noon Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 3-6
Where: Grant Park, 331 E. Randolph St., Chicago; lollapalooza.com
Tickets: Single-day passes are $135-$550, with two- and four-day options also available.
• Sincere Engineer plays from 1:15-2:15 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4, on the Bud Light Stage and a sold-out aftershow at Thalia Hall that evening.