Fast Forward: Calgary pop-punk legends Belvedere make a statement with new album Hindsight Is the Sixth Sense

These days it’s all about looking forward to when.

When we can, when we will, when we are.

Steve Rawles, for example, is looking forward to when he can tour again, fronting longtime local melodic punk legends Belvedere, buzzsawing and bulldozing across continents, around the world as they’ve done for the past two-and-a-half decades.

That will, hopefully, be very, very soon (reminder: get your fucking vaccines).

Luckily in late May, there was another something more certain he could focus on, the release of the band’s superlative new full-length Hindsight Is the Sixth Sense, something Rawles says was, “A nice little light in a sea of darkness.”

Fans certainly saw it the same way, an opportunity to hear something fresh and what they’ve come to expect from the Canpunk stalwarts.

That’s not to say there wasn’t a little trepidation on Rawles’ part in getting it out there, some doubts dimming things ever-so slightly before release date.

As the singer says: “There was a lot to prove with this one … We wanted to prove that we could still do it and do it at a level that people expected.”

There were a couple of factors making that not the slam-dunk surety that surrounded the release of Belvedere’s last album and first in 12 years, 2016’s Revenge of the Fifth, of which Rawles said at the time: “I don’t feel I have to prove anything. I’m really thankful that we have the fans we do and that we have them in a lot of different places. We just hope that they’ll enjoy this record.”

Why might they not?

The biggest change is that Sixth Sense is the first record not to feature founding members, Scott Marshall and Jay Sinclair  — the pair being replaced by new guitarist Dan Wollach and bassist Ryan Mumby, who join Rawles and drummer Casey Lewis to make up the rejuvenated crew.

Their additions more than make up for the subtractions.

“The two strong things about both of these guys is that not only are they good people, they’re good players (and) they’re also songwriters,” Rawles says. “We weren’t just looking for guys to play old material, we were looking for people to collaborate and move forward with the band.”

That opportunity came with the COVID cancellation of the 90 to 100 shows they had booked for last year.

And Lewis sending Rawles some song ideas in the off time and lull. Those ideas turned into songs turned into something more, others added to the mix over the next six to nine months, them working in small groups whenever they could, at Lewis’s local Echo Base Studio, piecing things together when possible.

The finished product is an actual album — 13 songs of pummel and pop and poetry, coming together to make a pretty superb flag plant and propulsion moving forward while still acknowledging and paying tribute to such an amazing past.

“It feels really cohesive to me,” Rawles says.

Also adding to the newness of things on Sixth Sense are the trio of guest stars, who step in, add a little colour to the proceedings.

They include: Roger Lima from Less Than Jake on the tune Comrade; Rody Walker, vocalist from Protest the Hero; and Dylan Toews, from Edmonton act Wolfrik.

The first two guests were artists Belvedere have encountered and toured with over the years; the latter from an Edmonton band Rawles manages and books shows for.

“All three are very good singers, and they know their shit and are able to jump in and record when asked,” he says.

And the singing is a huge part of the new album, Rawles continuing down the lyrical path he set out on as a young skatepunk, turned onto the music and the culture by socially conscious acts such as Bad Religion and Propagandhi.

“I would say our lyrics have always been relatively socially conscious,” he says, “but I think just sitting around this last year, really watching the big wealth gap and the way that people are struggling, for me in my life, I feel like it was a record that I needed to make and lyrics that I had to say — I didn’t want to pull any punches.”

He points to the album highlight Good Grief Retreat.

“I’ve really had an issue with how the system is set up to pray on people in general, and I think the words probably come out the most clear on that song. That’s a theme throughout the album, but I think it came across the easiest on that one — that one wrote itself pretty quick.”

As fresh as it sounds, the new record still relies heavily, musically, upon the blueprint Belvedere followed from Day One in their quarter-century career.

So while it is new, while it has a freshness to it, it’s still in keeping with the band’s history, will deliver the goods for those fans who’ve been with them over the decades, while still appealing to those who are just getting a taste for the first time of the pop-punk from the ’90s heyday. 

“I think there certainly is a lot of nostalgia for this type of music. When you go to Europe and you see parents bringing their kids to shows, there’s this whole other dynamic now where there is a younger audience that’s coming up and appreciating, maybe, what their parents and older brothers and uncles and stuff listened to in the ’80s and ’90s,” he says of the pop-punk or skate-punk that thrived at the time.

“ ‘Is it out of place?’ I feel like, at least in our journey, this record feels like it’s pushing our band forward, and I think it fits in nicely with what we’ve done before.”

Belvedere’s new album Hindsight Is the Sixth Sense is available now.