- Winterruption Music Series: Coastal Jazz and 100.5 The Peak present a full weekend (Feb 24-26) of music as part of Winterruption Arts Festival at Granville Island. Artists include: Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, Aidan Knight, Acres of Lions, The Belle Game, Aeroplane Trio, Celso Machado, Jasper Sloan Yip and Bill Coon's Latin Trio.
IT'S taken them a few years of cross-country commuting but The Belle Game are finally getting around to settling down and making music as a full-time band.
Three members (Adam Nanji, Andrea Lo and Alex Andrew) actually grew up on the North Shore. "I've known Alex since kindergarten and Andrea since the eighth grade," says Nanji. "Alex and I went to Westcot elementary school. He went to West Van High and Andrea and I went to Sentinel secondary school."
Post-secondary schools spread them out across Canada but music always kept them connected. "I was going to school back east and I came back to Vancouver for the summer and some friends asked me if I wanted to play a show with them because they knew I played a bit of music," says Nanji. "I asked Andrea and Alex the day before the show if they wouldn't mind assisting with some piano and percussion. We played the show and it was really really bad but we just had fun being friends and playing music. It kind of went from being friends again to being a full-time band because it was a good way for us to hang out and then it got more and more serious. It got less about hanging out and more and more about writing new songs and stuff like that."
For the first few years of their existence The Belle Game performed as a four-piece unit with the addition of Katrina Jones. This version of the band released a five-song EP, Inventing Letters, in January 2010 with the track, "Tiny Fires" receiving national exposure on CBC Radio.
The opening track "Shoulders & Turns" was put into heavy rotation on Vancouver's Shore 104.3 FM and the band won the "Fan Favourite Award" when they competed in the radio station's Sounds of Summer Song Search with an acoustic version of "Tiny Fires."
In August 2010, The Belle Game filled in their sound with two new permanent members Ian Cook (on bass) and Rob Chursinoff (formerly with Tegan and Sara, on drums).
"We started recording new songs as a six-piece very soon after we met each other," says Nanji. "There were a lot of growing pains. We were hoping to get a full-length album out really soon but we were learning how to write music with six people which is so different from four and it definitely changed the sound of the band and even the way the band works."
Free of post-secondary commitments the band reconvened in Vancouver officially as a six-piece in May 2011 and got down to work. The first order of business was entering the Peak Performance Project last summer.
"It was really good for us," says Nanji. "We'd spent so much time apart and only got to play at certain times. It allowed us to catch up with the music community in Vancouver. You do this week-long retreat - it was sort of like a year of being in a band condensed into a few months. It really did help us get to know each other better as musicians.
They competed with 19 other finalists in the Peak Performance Project over the summer months. A band camp featured workshops and classes with music industry professionals such as CBC Radio 3 personality Grant Lawrence and Killbeat Music's Ken Beattie.
"We were a little nervous," admits Nanji. "Usually when you get a group of musicians together in a context of anything competitive it can be a pretty unfriendly environment but everyone was so nice. Everyone was there to help each other. People played in each other's bands and got to know each other and bands would split up to sit with other bands at breakfast. It was really great for us to enter the Peak and have 20 other bands that were like-minded and wanted to build a community. It made us feel very at home in Vancouver really fast."
Since last summer The Belle Game have been busy touring and finishing up their debut album which they hope to release by September at the latest.
"It's going really well," says Nanji. "The whole album has taken a long time to make but we're in the final stages now and the songs are coming out like we always hoped that they would sound. As a six-piece live we try to have a lot of energy we're all good friends and we try to make sure the audience is having as much fun as we are. It's always been a goal to capture that performance and energy and the human aspect of the music and I think that John Raham has always been good about getting that across. He's worked with the Be Good Tanya's and Frazey Ford and you can tell he's in his element in the studio and that puts us at ease as well."
Nanji, Lo and Jones write most of the songs but everybody gets involved at some point in shaping the material. "It's funny because it's hard to bring in a song and then have five or six people get their hands on it without changing the original intention of the song but so far it's always worked out. The Belle Game has always been greater than the sum of its parts. I think that's kind of our strength in the band is how all of our differences wind up making something new."