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DS Band Spotlight: Meet Sweetie, Chicago’s Local Lipstick-Punk Band

Sweetie is a Chicago-based lipstick-punk band with a femme fatale ferocity and a French influence. Voted a Top 5 Punk Band in the Chicago Reader two years in a row, Sweetie has found a niche in playing shows in the punk scene and drag shows alike, including venues such as the Metro, Green Mill, The […]

Meet Sweetie.

Joe

Bass

Birdy Vee

Guitar and vocals

Ryan

Drums

Sweetie is a Chicago-based lipstick-punk band with a femme fatale ferocity and a French influence. Voted a Top 5 Punk Band in the Chicago Reader two years in a row, Sweetie has found a niche in playing shows in the punk scene and drag shows alike, including venues such as the Metro, Green Mill, The Egyptian Theatre, Reggie’s, Cobra Lounge, Last Rites and Liar’s Club.

Dying Scene is thrilled to interview this local band and talk about drag queens, the queer community, new music releases and some hard-hitting questions that you do not want to miss.


What do you love most about being in Sweetie?

Joe: Honestly, I enjoy the spectacle of our live show. The band is always pushing ourselves to perform our very best and engage with our audience. So many rock songs are pretty simple 3 or 4-chord progressions, but it’s all about the raw power that you play those chords. And raw power is something that Sweetie brings to the table in spades!

Ryan: All the fantastic folks! Making friends with all these incredible bands, venues, and not to mention Birdy and Joe has been an absolute pleasure.

Birdy: I love the wide variety of opportunities to express myself creatively. Writing music is one of my favorite creative outlets, and it is an even bigger high when you take that song you wrote and perform it with your bandmates for the first time. The feeling of that tiny idea turning into such a big sound gives me goosebumps! Also, I ADORE performing. I really love being on stage and interacting with the crowd.

I also love finding new and creative ways for Sweetie to perform. We often perform in spaces that can be considered atypical for a punk band. We’re the house band for the Rocky Horror Picture Show in Dekalb and have performed at countless drag shows. I really like to find ways to take the idea of the typical punk show and elevate it: collaborating with a different variety of artists and performers and giving it that variety show feel.

I also love the connections I have made with people in the scene! I have made some really wonderful friendships with other musicians and performers in the scene, many of whom have been so supportive in so many ways. Sweetie would not exist today without the care and support of these people. AND I LOVE connecting with new people at our shows. I am a huge people-person and love to meet new folks.


How would you describe the music you typically create?

B: If Edith Piaf was reborn as a punk musician, that would be Sweetie. Our music is hyper-emotive, almost to a fault, and is often about love and longing through a female lens, with nods to subculture, queer culture, and the underworld nightlife. All just completely smeared in red lipstick.


Ryan, you were a music major with a heavy background in jazz music…did you ever picture you’d be playing in a glam lipstick punk band?

R: Well, I knew some type of rock band was inevitable, as that’s what came first in my life. I’ve been a jazz guy since high school, and I think that’s really influenced the way I play all styles of music in terms of style, phrasing, improvisation, etc.; so as far as the punk aspect goes, I see the jazz background as an asset to my playing. As far as the “glam lipstick” aspect goes, that’s a new one for me but I’m diggin’ it!



Birdy, you spearheaded the amazing local music fest Hands Off Our Fest (H.O.O.F.), can you tell me more about it, and will we expect it to come back in 2024?

B: Hands Off Our Fest is a music festival celebrating the women, femmes, and thems of the Chicago punk scene, featuring a drag show consisting of some of the area’s finest drag queens, kings, and things. I created this festival to help the women, femmes, thems, and queer folks in the local punk scene to bond with one another, network, and to create space. I have often felt stifled and uncomfortable as a woman in the punk scene, and the feeling can be very isolating. Also, there are so many local femme and queer acts locally that so often get overlooked and replaced with these cis-male fronted bands. I wanted to create a fest to celebrate these amazing talents and voices, while also just having as much fun as possible. The festival was such a success and every time I bump into a fellow HOOF performer when out and about, it’s always such a treat! I’ve definitely made many new friends as a result, and I ABSOLUTELY want to keep this festival going in the years to come. You can DEFINITELY expect HOOF to return in 2024.


Joe, you use an electric bass for your other bands but an upright bass for Sweetie. Any reason why?

J: One of the most important things that I have learned as a hired-gun/studio musician is that you should always serve the song. While there is definitely a level of flash to showing up to a rock gig with an instrument almost matching the size of the drum set, my intention is not to draw away from the songs and compliment them the best I can. I originally joined the group as a “fill in” for a few gigs for the band. When I was sent over demos and videos to learn the songs for these upcoming shows, Birdy was playing a 335/semi-hollow style guitar. This sound instantly brought me back to the classic rockabilly and Elvis records that I loved as a kid, while still being punk rock!

Of course, I showed up to the first band rehearsal/audition with all the songs learned on the electric bass, but I asked about what Birdy thought about me playing upright the next time we got together. I’m pretty sure that her response was, “I’ve never thought about how that would sound, but sure”. I fully believe that she was thinking that I was planning this only for the upcoming show to make it a large surprise spectacle, not that I was dead serious about taking the bass role on this instrument. I also don’t think this instrumental change took too much convincing after hearing it in application and has absolutely shaped some of our own Sweetie sound (even if Birdy changed over to her Flying V guitar).


At your show at The Metro with The Lawrence Arms, you brought out a drag performer (who was fantastic!) and I’ve noticed Sweetie does a lot of stuff related with drag performers. Any reason why?

B: That was my drag mother, Sindy Vicious! Since really early on, Sweetie has been collaborating with drag performers as often as we can. It all started out when we had a residency at a queer comedy variety show called T-Time at the Comedy Shrine (Rest in Peace Comedy Shrine). This was run by Penelope Torres and was a quarterly variety show that featured queer stand-up comedy, drag performances, and music by Sweetie, the resident band for this event. At our very first show, we met drag performer Sindy Vicious, who later approached me with an idea for a music video for our song ‘Devil Girl’. Her and I immediately began working together and this formed a creative collaboration and friendship that has persisted ever since. I am actually in the Haus of Vicious now (a Haus being a drag family in the community) and Vicious is where the Vee in Birdy Vee originates! She directed and edited the video for Devil Girl, Mamma, as well as the music video for our new single, Showgirl. The video also features drag performer and my dear pal, Kai Valentine. I love performing and collaborating with the drag community and hope to continue to do so in the years to come!



You are about to release a new single! What’s the inspiration behind the song?

B: The new single is called ‘Showgirl’, and there is so much inspiration behind this song. Firstly, the title is a nod to the movie Showgirls (1995) which is one of my favorite cult films of all time (after the Rocky Horror Picture Show, of course). At the time that I wrote the song, I was starting to feel the isolation and frustration that can come with being a performer. You are putting your whole heart and all of your energy into this thing, pouring your guts out on stage, and then when it’s all over, what’s left? The song also parallels a relationship that is in the same vein- something that you are pouring your heart into and from which you are getting very little back. But in the song, there’s also that tone of resilience, with a focus on women in the music industry. The stress that women in the music industry are under, and well as the constant criticism that they face can be shattering. The statement of ‘this will not break me’, which a lot of times is easier said than done, helps the song end on a high note. Ultimately, ‘Showgirl’ makes it through and comes out stronger in the end.

When can we expect the next album?

B: The new album is called La Vie en Rouge (which means Life in Red), which is a reference to Edith Piaf’s ‘La Vie en Rose’. The song La Vie en Rose is about being in love and seeing ‘life in pink’. The idea of La Vie en Rouge takes that idea but intensifies it. When you’re seeing life in red, there is passion, there is rage, there is fire. That is what I’m trying to channel in this album. Also, Sweetie’s most recognizable color is red, so the album title is a nod to that as well. We are so proud of this album and it is projected to come out in June 2024.


Now for the hard-hitting questions…would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?

J: While I would ideally not like to cause any harm to these proposed majestical creatures. My gut instinct would be to choose the 100 duck-sized horses to see if we may be able to reach some sort of diplomatic resolution without violence. But on the other hand, a horse-sized duck head would look pretty sweet mounted over a fireplace mantle…

R: Horse-sized duck is out of the question. I’m already afraid of geese and they’re not much larger than ducks. On the other hand, what’s a duck-sized horse gonna do? Kick me? Okay.

B: Do I get some sort of weapon? I’m pretty sure I could fight off 100 duck-sized horses with a broom or a hammer or something. But one horse-sized duck? They’ve got all those little teeth and they can fly and hunt you down… But then the 100 duck-horses could kick you to death with their little hooves. If I get a weapon, I’ll choose the little duck-sized horses.

Lastly, if you went on a national tour, how many pairs of pants would you bring with you?

J: My serious answer would probably be 3 to have a solid rotation, but I would be an advocate for shorts (weather dependent) to require less fabric to dirty up and for a higher level of comfort.

R: We don’t believe in that sort of thing.

B: No.


Anything else you want us to know?

B: Women, femmes, thems, and queer folks in the punk and alternative communities need to take up more space in our scene. Keep punk rock queer.



Check out the gallery below for more live photos of Sweetie and be on the look out for their new song release and album!


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DS Interview: Getting precise with Dan Precision (Dan Wleklinski)

Dan Wleklinski, aka “Dan Precision,” is one of the Chicago area punk scene’s top-level multi-hyphenates. As a musician, Wleklinksi was a founding member of 88 Fingers Louie; Rise Against; Soulscape; Break the Silence, and now The Iron Spiders.  He is also a prolific record producer. I recently spent a few hours documenting his production work, […]


Dan Wleklinski, aka “Dan Precision,” is one of the Chicago area punk scene’s top-level multi-hyphenates. As a musician, Wleklinksi was a founding member of 88 Fingers Louie; Rise Against; Soulscape; Break the Silence, and now The Iron Spiders.  He is also a prolific record producer. I recently spent a few hours documenting his production work, on the upcoming Bumsy and the Moochers record, at The Bombshelter Recording Studio. He founded the studio in the basement of his suburban childhood home in 1999. Later, in a wide-ranging interview, in which we discussed his work as a musician and as a producer, he recalled some of his wildest experiences, his love of road trips on his motorcycle, and more.


MerGold (Dying Scene)How did you get into music to start with? 

Dan Wleklinksi:  My parents had a very slight musical background, and my dad started to teach me some basic piano playing when I was around 5 years old. I started taking actual piano lessons at the age of 10, but I really wanted to play guitar. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t have enough money to buy a guitar for me and said that I couldn’t take guitar lessons. I told them that I would quit piano out of spite if I couldn’t take guitar lessons, and being the little a**hole kid that I was, I quit piano a few days later. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t done that because I would have been a much better and learned musician at this age. Luckily I started learning guitar at the age of 13.


Were there any shows or events you find particularly memorable?  Good or bad? 

The memorable events and shows are beyond count…both good and bad…like having 13 cop cars called on us in 2004 [in Fresno, CA when a member of Break The Silence] after we threatened a venue owner for not paying up. We were on tour with A Wilhelm Scream and Much the Same. Or in 1999, [with 88 Fingers Louie], almost fighting some Germans in Hamburg for accusing us of trashing their van. The dudes in At The Drive-In were going to back us up if that fight ever happened, but we got out of that one.

One of my favorite times was the weekend in 2014 [again, with 88 Fingers Louie] where we played Rock Fest in Montebello, Canada. There were so many cool bands that we shared the stage with, including Blink-182, Primus, Motley Crue, Megadeth, Danzig, Weezer, Cypress Hill, and so many more. Most of the bands stayed in the same 5-story hotel on the site of the festival, so we got to hang out and talk with so many cool musicians. We also had a view of several stages from our hotel rooms, so if we didn’t feel like going down, we could watch the bands from the comfort of our own rooms.


Favorite venues and events in Chicago; the same question for other locations?

I have played quite a few great venues in Chicago, including the Fireside Bowl, Bottom Lounge, The Metro, Livewire, House of Blues, and The Vic, but I’ve always loved playing Reggies.

There are many events that have been a blast to play, including Riot Fest in Chicago (we also played the Denver dates), Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas (and we played the New Jersey version as well), both Groezrock and Brakrock in Belgium, Music 4 Cancer and Rockfest in Canada, Rebellion Fest in the United Kingdom, and Punk Rock Holiday in Slovenia.


How do you decide which projects, bands, or musicians with whom to work?

As a musician, I really enjoy working with other players who share the same long-term vision and talent. I’ve been lucky to have started bands such as 88 Fingers Louie, Rise Against, Break the Silence, Soulscape, and now The Iron Spiders. At this point in my life, if I were going to consider being in a professional band, they would need to be a touring band. One of the most difficult things to deal with is the fact that I have the freedom to tour while several bands I’ve been a part of have lost that ability over time.


How did you then get into producing records? What was your first record?

My first real band, 88 Fingers Louie, recorded multiple times starting in 1993 with the esteemed producer, Mass Giorgini, at his studio, Sonic Iguana in Lafayette, Indiana. We recorded a bunch of EPs and 2 full albums there, including “Behind Bars” and “Back on the Streets.” During the “Back on the Streets” sessions, Mass commented that I had a very good ear for music and asked if I wanted to learn how to be an audio engineer. I agreed. I started by comping vocal tracks on “Back on the Streets” so that was technically the first record I ever worked on.

I opened my studio, The Bombshelter Recording Studio, in 1999, and the first band I recorded was The Poonanies. The singer, Tony, went on to form Chicago’s very own, Shot Baker.


How do you decide which musicians to work with?  Are there parameters for which you will turn down bands or projects?

Typically, bands ask to work with me from word-of-mouth of past clients, or seeing my name in the credits of albums I’ve recorded. I feel that with the rise in streaming over the last decade, the latter has been increasingly difficult to achieve visibility. I believe Spotify recently has started showing recording/producing/mixing credits if you click on the release, but the bands still need to input that information.

Most bands are great with sharing the recording credits to streaming platforms, and I feel it’s in their best interest to do so. Not only could it possibly open up other avenues of listeners, but it also helps the engineers and producers get their names out to other musicians who might like their production. 

I don’t really turn down bands or projects. I’ve worked with bands who were 13 and 14 years old who were eager to learn. I’ve also worked with seasoned musicians in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s…and everything in between.

I have suggested bands to possibly go to a different producer if I feel we wouldn’t be a good fit. For example, I feel that bands and producers need to take time in the studio to make their recording the best it can be. If a band wants to record 10 songs in 2 days, I let them know that I don’t work that quickly as I believe the process and the quality suffers. 


How collaborative is the process? Do you want the bands to come in with specific ideas, or do you take the lead?

The recording process can be very collaborative, and that’s one of my favorite parts in producing bands. I enjoy when bands have specific ideas and together, we can combine all of our musical experience and hone each song. However, there are many times when the band would like me to take the lead, and I am happy to do so.

That can be a little more difficult when I work with a band for the first time, but luckily, I have a lot of repeat clients, and each subsequent time, the collaboration becomes easier and more fruitful. It really is a beautiful thing to be creative with other musicians who may have different musical styles and backgrounds.


Have you worked on some musician’s debut albums? As in the musician has never been in a studio? What is that experience like?

Yes, I’ve worked with a few bands’ with it being their first time in the studio. Typically, those are teenaged bands looking to cut their first EP. I’ve also worked with guest musicians who are singing backing vocals or playing an accompanying part on an established band’s recording. Sometimes they are young…like a band member’s son or daughter. Other times they are talented mothers and fathers of the band currently in the studio. Either way, it’s always an enjoyable experience as they leave having learned something. I think I’m a bit like my father, who was a great teacher. It’s an awesome feeling to have bands return and to see the progress they have achieved since their last recording with me.


Related to being a producer, what are the best parts of owning your own studio? Are there challenges you were not fully aware of before owning your own studio?

As you may have gathered from my earlier answers, I love being in the studio, working with musicians, and also mixing and mastering on my own…basically, I love the audio portion of running the business. One of the more difficult parts for me is the advertising aspect. While I’m proud of the work I do, and I enjoy promoting bands’ releases, I don’t really like “talking myself up.” When I first started, I think I was lucky because people heard about the Bombshelter through the bands I was in. Over the years, word-of-mouth from happy clients has helped me continue to do what I love…for 25 years! I’m still slightly shocked that the month of September 2024 will be the 25th anniversary of The Bombshelter Recording Studio. “Thank you” to all of my past and especially return clients who have helped me do what I love for so long!


 Last year you left the studio and the stages for a really cool reason. You embarked on a solo motorcycle road trip across part of the country, and brought your friends and fans with you via photos and video. How and when did you start riding?  What does riding do for you?

Although I started riding 30 years ago, my first solo motorcycle tour was in 2022.  Riding is usually very relaxing for me, and I believe the joy I experience on longer tours are an extension of my time touring with bands. There are so many memorable moments I’ve experienced the last few years, like riding the “Million Dollar Highway” in Colorado and through the “Needles Eye Tunnel” in South Dakota.


What was the journey like? Were there any particularly memorable moments good or bad? Any hair-raising moments? 

I ask that last question recalling some of my own hair-raising moments riding in vans through Southeast Asia, and buses when I lived in Guatemala. Some of those steeply curved mountainsides were pretty scary. I can’t imagine how nerve-wracking it might be on a motorcycle. 

I try not to think back too much on the “bad” or “hair-raising” moments like when animals jump in front of you, or trying to stay awake during the last hour of your Saddlesore 1000 (traveling 1000 miles in under 24 hours).  However, I will always remember last year’s 10-hour ride from Fort Collins to Montrose, Colorado over Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park. It was both hair-raising and memorable to cross the highest point of 12,183 feet in 34 degree (1 degree Celsius) weather with snow on the sides of the road. Luckily the roads were mostly clear of snow and ice due to the warmth of the rising sun.

One of the more difficult things when touring in a band is having the time to enjoy the cities, environments, and scenery along the way. I get to enjoy all of those things while on my motorcycle trips. It is a goal of mine to combine both touring in a band while riding a motorcycle. The late Neil Peart wrote about his time doing that exact thing on several Rush tours, and it sounds heavenly to me!


Wleklinski is one of the most genuine, humble, and all-around nicest people I’ve met, not just in the punk scene, but anywhere.  And of course, he has one of the best heads of hair in this scene as well.  His long silver mane makes for some amazing on-stage images as he rocks it all over the place.  

Those of us photographers who have had the pleasure to shoot him in concert will rue the day he ever decides to cut it off.  However, that’s one move I don’t see Wleklinski making. 

I do look forward to the future moves he makes in music, in record producing, as well as documenting further two-wheel adventures.

Thanks Dan, safe travels on your next road trip, and cheers!


Road trip images courtesy of Dan Wleklinski. All other photography by MGold for Dying Scene.

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DS Interview: Hanging Out With Deanna Belos/Sincere Engineer

Deanna Belos’ nom de plume et scène is Sincere Engineer, but sincere is also a great way to describe the human behind the guitar and voice. I recently did a photo shoot with the multi-hyphenate Midwesterner (singer, songwriter, guitar player and fun provider) as we rode Chicago’s Red and Green Lines, and took over parts […]

Deanna Belos’ nom de plume et scène is Sincere Engineer, but sincere is also a great way to describe the human behind the guitar and voice.

I recently did a photo shoot with the multi-hyphenate Midwesterner (singer, songwriter, guitar player and fun provider) as we rode Chicago’s Red and Green Lines, and took over parts of some CTA train platforms post-Riot Fest. This happened just days before Sincere Engineer embarked on a European tour. We later followed up with an interview in which she describes, among other things, the experience of being on stage, her creative process, and fun. That last word serves as a sort of mission statement for the Chicago native.


Deanna Belos starting playing the guitar at age 12. Her foray into music was due to the work of those who stood out to her when she was just a kid. She tells me,

The bands I watched while I was growing up inspired me a lot.”

Belos soon discovered her favorite band, the Lawrence Arms, by way of Alkaline Trio, which she also loves. Belos is proudly from the Windy City and this is reflected through her affection for the hometown punk scene and the musicians borne out of it. So many of those who inspired her have become good friends, including the lead singers of the aforementioned bands.


The year 2022 saw Sincere Engineer promoted to one of the Riot Fest main stages. She looks as comfortable on it as she does on smaller stages in smaller venues. Her band, composed of guitarist Kyle Geib, bass player Nick Arvanitis, and Adam Beck on drums, also seems right at home on the expansive stage.

I asked her how conscious she is of the crowd and her surroundings as she performs. Belos tells me,

“I’m usually amped by the time we get on stage. But leading up to it I’m always nervous and pacing.”

Her strategy for relieving that case of nervousness?

“I always try to look at the crowd and make sure everyone’s having fun…” adding, “but I always try to look straight ahead and focus on playing.”

There was no doubt the Riot Fest crowd was having fun as evidenced by how many partook in a Corndog Circle Pit [Video by Pray AFK]. This particular circle pit was an homage to the opening track, “Corn Dog Sonnet No. 7” off of Sincere Engineer’s debut album Rhombithian. Belos joyfully relates her reaction when she noticed it happening,

“I was able to see it from the stage, yes! It was super cool. I almost teared up at it. A fan started a Facebook event to coordinate the corn dog pit and it kinda took off from there.”

“Corn Dog Sonnet No. 7” is an infectious tune but it also showcases her signature “Raw, Lonely Punk.” I am not quoting Belos there but rather a certain late legendary, comedian whose visage is inked on her leg.

It was in 2017, after Belos replied to a user called @braverygravy “Lol, maybe @NormMacDonald will listen to it.” The one-time Saturday Night Live cast member and comedy icon tweeted back: “I have. What’s not to love. Raw, Lonely Punk.”

To this day, Belos uses a screenshot of that interaction as her Facebook cover image.

It’s not hard to see why her songs and especially “Corn Dog Sonnet No. 7” hits so many, famous or not, in the heart so strongly, and somewhat painfully:

“What am I supposed to do now?
What am I supposed to do now?
When you’re still not around
And you’re all I think about


When it comes to writing songs, it’s a melding of creative methods which works best for Belos.

“I continually write lyrics just in a document, but typically I’ll play guitar and just riff til something comes to me. If nothing comes to me I’ll use some previously written lyrics and try to puzzle them together to make a song.”

Belos’ humor is often in the form of self-deprecation, and she seems about as humble as any musician I’ve met. When pressed to list some of the qualities which help make her a great musician, this is about as boastful as she gets:

I think I can write a relatable song and that helps!


As to other parts of the life of a working professional musician, Belos returns to the same three-letter word so important to her.

“Favorite [part] is watching people have fun at our shows.”

With every favorite of that life, there are challenges as well.

“Hardest…touring probably. It’s fun and rewarding but it’s a hard endurance test haha.”


When it comes to Chicago venues at the top of her list, she has two.

Metro is my favorite venue to play in Chicago! And Empty Bottle is my favorite to see a show at.”


Belos is grateful for the experiences she has had as Sincere Engineer.

“We have been so fortunate to get to play with some of our favorite bands. Playing Metro with Alkaline Trio was surreal. Riot Fest too. Hometown shows are always the most fun.”

But she is also keenly aware that not all shows are equally great. She maintains a pretty positive outlook even after such shows.

“I try not to beat myself up too much about it, but make sure to try harder next time.”


Belos, asked which musicians inspire her, returns again to two of her long-time faves with whom she is now friends.

Brendan Kelly [Lawrence Arms, The Falcon] for his songwriting and stage banter. Matt Skiba for his song writing and being cool.”


While it seems, from her current success and increasing stardom as Sincere Engineer, that it must have been a foregone conclusion Belos would become a professional musician. However, she once considered going into the medical field. “Overbite” from Rhombithian describes how she disabused herself of that notion.

“I wanna give up
I wanna give up
I don’t wanna try no more
I wanna stop all these pathetic attempts and saving this shipwreck
Swim right out the door
Before it sinks with a fraction of what’s left of my dignity
I swept so many failed tests under carpets
Deep down I knew this is not what I wanted (not what I wanted)”

Sincere Engineer’s fan base is growing exponentially and no doubt many members of it are glad Belos abandoned attempts to place the initials D.D.S. after her name.


There is one part her life Belos did felt harder to abandon.

Per Belos,

“I was an animal care technician for laboratory animals. It was a tough decision and I’m still getting used to it. It still makes me nervous!”


Returning to the subject of the tour from which Sincere Engineer just returned, Belos happily indicates, it was a success and tells me

“The tour went really well! It was super fun to visit and play in a bunch of new places.”

Belos continues,

“It started in Ireland and ended in Germany. There were stops in England, Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria along the way.”

Such a whirlwind tour left little time for anything more than playing a set at one venue and traveling to the next city or town to perform there. She informs me,

“We did get a little time to sightsee. Not a ton. We went to the Guinness Factory in Ireland, saw the Berlin Wall stuff in Germany. The rest was mostly just doing stuff around the venues we played at.”


On this particular tour, someone especially close to Belos’ heart stepped in to help her out when one of the band members sadly had to stay back in the States. Per Belos,

“My drummer Adam [Beck] couldn’t do the tour because of work. It was nice having Jeremy [Hansen, her long-time boyfriend] there and made me feel less homesick, and he’s such a great drummer and it was an honor to play with him. He played in the band Tricky Dick in the ’90’s.”

Belos was not the only member of the band thankful Hansen could help out. Kyle Geib describes him this way,

Jeremy was such a great candidate to step in on the European tour! We all love Jeremy.”

For Hansen, it was a blast as well. He tells me,

“It was lovely! Lots of fun. Shows were good. Hangs were good. Got to do some sightseeing. Doing it together was special.”

That’s the thing about Sincere Engineer. While it may be described as a solo project, Belos’ love and admiration for her friends, who double as her band members, is obvious, as is their love for her. This all adds up to…you guessed it…fun.


Belos now has a little breathing room to just kick back and relax at home. After an exciting and seemingly exhausting year, hopefully Belos will be able to enjoy the holidays with family and friends. Once 2023 hits though, she will be back onstage. First up, headlining at Bottom Lounge on January 14. Belos reports there are a couple of other events already inked on her 2023 calendar.

“And we’re doing Slam Dunk in the UK again and SBAM festival in Austria next May/June!”

Should be fun.

In what little time off from Sincere Engineer-related activities, Deanna Belos lists her favorite activities as “Bike riding, kayaking, plants.”


Please see below for images from my recent photoshoot with Deanna Belos, on September 23, 2022, and from her set at Riot Fest on September 16, 2022 in Chicago IL.

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DS News: J Navarro and the Traitors announce new album “All of Us or None”, premiere lead single “One Hand”

Suicide Machines frontman Jay Navarro’s two-tone ska side project J Navarro and the Traitors have signed to Bad Time Records for the release of their new album All of Us or None. Check out the lead single “One Hand” below. All of Us or None is set to release on May 19th. Pre-order the LP […]

Suicide Machines frontman Jay Navarro’s two-tone ska side project J Navarro and the Traitors have signed to Bad Time Records for the release of their new album All of Us or None. Check out the lead single “One Hand” below.

All of Us or None is set to release on May 19th. Pre-order the LP here and catch the band on tour this summer with Omnigone and Stop The Presses; tour dates are below.

Tour dates:

Jun 09 @ Hawthorne Lounge – Portland, OR (no Omnigone)
Jun 10 @ Funhouse – Seattle, WA (no Omnigone)
Jun 12 @ The Starlet Room (Harlow’s) – Sacramento, CA
Jun 13 @ Bottom of The Hill – San Francisco, CA
Jun 14 @ The Parish Room (House of Blues) – Anaheim, CA
Jun 15 @ Knitting Factory – North Hollywood, CA
Jun 16 @ Soda Bar – San Diego, CA (no Omnigone)
Jun 17 @ Moustache Bar – Tijuana, MX (no Omnigone, no Stop The Presses)

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DS Photo Gallery: Catbite / We Are The Union / Kill Lincoln / J. Navarro & The Traitors (Bottom Lounge, Chicago, IL 7/7/23)

Dying Scene was at one of the final stops of the 2023 Bad Time Records Tour in Chicago at the Bottom Lounge, and boy was it a ska party for the ages! This show featured We Are The Union, Kill Lincoln, Catbite and J. Navarro & The Traitors…plus an epic ska-riffic on stage dance party […]

Dying Scene was at one of the final stops of the 2023 Bad Time Records Tour in Chicago at the Bottom Lounge, and boy was it a ska party for the ages! This show featured We Are The Union, Kill Lincoln, Catbite and J. Navarro & The Traitors…plus an epic ska-riffic on stage dance party to conclude the night.


Another sweet treat on this tour is the forthcoming documentary This Is New Tone that followed the entire Bad Time Records Tour. Here is the synopsis of the film:


“’THIS IS NEW TONE’ will be a concert film and documentary centered around the 2023 Bad Time Records Tour, featuring We Are The Union, Catbite, Kill Lincoln, BAD OPERATION, Omnigone, J. Navarro & The Traitors, and more.  Much in the spirit of the film “Dance Craze”, the film will primarily center on multi-camera live performances from throughout the tour, but will also document the the bands and crew as they embark on this full-US venture.  Featuring interviews from current band members, scene veterans, new fans, and ska legends, the film will also attempt to examine the current state of the modern ska punk scene, how it fits into the broader arc of ska’s history, and try to discover if the perceived “resurgence” is accurate or inflated. With many of the Bad Time Records bands rapidly growing, now is the perfect time to document the trajectory of the bands and the impact of the community.

The modern ska scene has never been captured in this way, and one of the main goals of the film is to make the live show experience accessible to those who are not able to attend the tour or shows in general.  We will attempt to make the film as immersive as possible, to show the full scope of the high energy live experience and community aspect that one can find at one of these shows, while also giving a better picture of what the bands are like as people on and off stage.  Bad Time Records is a completely DIY effort, and we aim to show that anyone can build up their own scene or collective and accomplish something significant without the support of major labels or corporations.

In the process of making the film, we will have a camera and sound crew documenting all 22 dates of the 2023 Bad Time Records tour.  Hours of interview footage has already been captured, and the majority of the remaining filming will take place during the tour in March, June, and July of 2023.  We are currently aiming for a December 2023 release of the film.”

A Kickstarter for the film has been launched and features tons of cool rewards. Make note to see this film when it releases!


Opening for the night was J. Navarro & The Traitors, featuring J. Navarro from the Suicide Machines and Ken Haas of Reverend Guitars. They recently released a new album All of Us or None and will be playing at The Supernova International Ska Festival in Fort Monroe, VA on September 16th, 2023 (the entire festival runs from September 15-17th).


Kill Lincoln brought their infectious energy next, including their own hype-man that danced the entire night.


We Are The Union released Ordinary Life on June 4th, 2021. Their song “Boys Will Be Girls” is incredibly catchy.


Closing out the night was the infamous Catbite. They recently released a cover with Brian Fallon from The Gaslight Anthem of “Yes It’s True” by The Slackers. You can listen here! Also consider buying the vinyl from Bad Time Records; all proceeds support Play On Philly, an organization the helps underserved youth in Philadelphia get music education.


Did you miss out on the Bad Time Records Tour? Not to worry- you can catch these artists back on the road soon (including Catbite touring with Anti-Flag and Bouncing Souls!!). Check out the rest of the photos below!


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DS Show Gallery: Mustard Plug’s 21st Annual Holiday Spectacular w/ Flatfoot 56, J. Navarro & The Traitors and Bumsy & the Moochers – Bottom Lounge, Chicago 12/28/23

Mustard Plug stopped in Chicago last month for their 21st Annual Holiday Spectacular, featuring some of our favorite ska bands and Celtic punk rockers Flatfoot 56. Check out the full gallery for each band! Bumsy and the Moochers J. Navarro & the Traitors Flatfoot 56 Mustard Plug

Mustard Plug stopped in Chicago last month for their 21st Annual Holiday Spectacular, featuring some of our favorite ska bands and Celtic punk rockers Flatfoot 56.


Check out the full gallery for each band!


Bumsy and the Moochers


J. Navarro & the Traitors


Flatfoot 56


Mustard Plug

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DS Show Gallery: The Dream Machine Tour! Featuring Jigsaw Youth and Des Rocs in Chicago (Bottom Lounge, 4/26/24)

Chicago got a double-dose of New York bands Jigsaw Youth and Des Rocs who teamed up for a spring North American tour after the release of Des Rocs’ Dream Machine in August 2023 with Sumerian Records. Jigsaw Youth are no strangers to Dying Scene (check out the photos from when they played with Destroy Boys […]

Chicago got a double-dose of New York bands Jigsaw Youth and Des Rocs who teamed up for a spring North American tour after the release of Des Rocs’ Dream Machine in August 2023 with Sumerian Records.


Jigsaw Youth are no strangers to Dying Scene (check out the photos from when they played with Destroy Boys and Pinkshift!) and manage to kick-ass every time they play in Chicago.


After the release of The War Inside Me EP last year, Jigsaw Youth bestowed upon us two new singles: Sit On It and Love Sick.


As of this writing, Jigsaw Youth is currently scheduled for Elsewhere Fest in Wichita, KS on June 22nd, Louder Than Life in Louisville, KY on September 26th and Aftershock Festival in Sacramento, CA on October 11th.

More dates are coming soon, so you better follow Jigsaw Youth and Dying Scene to hear all about it!


Closing out the night with his new brand of rock n’ roll and edgy punk rock Elvis vibes, Des Rocs, aka Danny Rocco, has quickly climbed the charts and becoming known for his unforgettable electrifying performances.

His shows are literal art, from beginning to end, that will have you sweating and dancing to every beat. The amount of energy he brings to the room is no joke!


Des Rocs’ sophomore album Dream Machine is fierce and emotive and certainly worth the time to listen to. You can pick it up via Sumerian Records here! In addition to a few festival dates, Des Rocs recently announced a EU/UK tour happening this fall. Don’t miss it!


Check out photos from both the bands below!



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DS Show Review & Gallery: Sincere Engineer, Fluorescents, Droughts, and Rodeo Boys (Chicago: 01.14.2023)

Sincere Engineer headlined a sold-out show at Bottom Lounge on Saturday, January 14, 2023. Supporting her on the bill were Fluorescents, Droughts, and Rodeo Boys. It was an electrifying night of music from the top of the bill to the bottom. This show was a milestone for Sincere Engineer, as Deanna Belos revealed to me: […]

Sincere Engineer headlined a sold-out show at Bottom Lounge on Saturday, January 14, 2023. Supporting her on the bill were Fluorescents, Droughts, and Rodeo Boys. It was an electrifying night of music from the top of the bill to the bottom.


This show was a milestone for Sincere Engineer, as Deanna Belos revealed to me:

“It was our first sold-out headliner that wasn’t a record release show. We actually haven’t played too many headliners here [Chicago]. I think a total of four. And two were record releases.”

Though it was sold out because of Belos aka Sincere Engineer, she still seemed taken aback that so many people showed up specifically for her. Throughout her performance, Belos kept repeating “this is crazy,” with what appeared to be a slightly nervous smile on her face. That humility, evident on stage and off, is surely another reason so many have become fans of her and why the merchandise line stretched so far across the venue floor. Belos, manning her own table, took a moment to interact with each person who approached.

This night was likely a standout not just for Belos as she was not the only one to feel the very warm embrace from the crowd. Whilst setting their gear up on stage, Adam Beck, Kyle Geib, and Nick Arvanitis surely could hear the fans shouting out their love for them. Some audience members could be heard loudly requesting the names of the trio.  

Belos’ first song of the set seemed to address the restive feelings right before taking the stage. From Bottle Lightning Twice

I got a brown paper bag

I’m breathing in and out in the back, you see?

And all the people are staring at me

Pull into the station it’s a fever dream

The crowd goes wild while I’m in the ring

Big open spaces, little train car seat

A lightweight tapped out, it seems

But I’ll be okay when I feel the electricity.

Belos’ voice, tinged with a bit of gravel, soared over the crowd. Beck’s muscular drumming in conjunction with Arvanitis’ powerful bass playing combined for a forceful rhythm section. Geib’s potent guitar playing and that of Belos’ completed the very tight quartet.

 The band also drove through “Let You Down,” “1K Rats,” “Corn Dog Sonnet No. 7,” and “Dragged Across The Finish Line.”

On this chilly night, Belos lamented, in “Out of Reach,”

I watch the weather on tv.

I watch the green on the screen cover up this stupid fuckin’ city.

And now it’s like you won’t believe.

All the things I want and need

Just seems so fuckin’ out of reach for me.


It was special evening for Belos in another way as her parents were in the audience and her mentioning them prompted cheers from the crowd. Days later, Belos excitedly told me, “It was nice having them there!! They’ve only been to a few of our shows!”

Sincere Engineer was also celebrated in another way. Bottom Lounge added the very popular corn dogs to its menu. However, Belos is not likely to be ordering one for herself. Reminder as to how the convenience food became an important part of her first big hit, Belos told me,

And it was like a time when I moved out of my parents’ house and went grocery shopping on my own for the first time. I bought a box of frozen corn dogs, and they were horrible and sat in the back of the freezer for years lol.”

Following the show, Belos again confirmed her dislike of corn dogs. This was met with raised eyebrows and exclamations of surprise from fellow musicians on the bill, and from fans waiting to meet her. It also prompted a lively discussion of how to make corn dogs more palatable (pour syrup on them was one suggestion) or possible alternative snack-on-a-stick options (Pancake on a stick!). I must also add that while I am a fan of both dogs and corn, I too am not a corn dog fan.

For those lucky enough to score tickets to the show, it left them hungry for more. Belos is in the process of ensuring the fans get it, informing me that,

Up next is recording LP3 in February, Europe tour in May! That’s it’s so far, both have been announced already!!

Sincere Engineer has also been added as a special guest opener for the July 15-22 dates on this year’s Sad Summer Fest.




Chicago’s own Fluorescents came on as bright and animated as its name suggests. This was also, thus far, the biggest crowd, for which the group comprised of Bobby Guidi, Tyler Milka, Sasquel Roby Exum, and Alex Klump, has performed.

The band lit up the stage as they zoomed through “Locked Away,” “Vibe,” “Mood,” “T.A.S.T.,” and “Funeral.”

Fluorescents have cited the pop-punk of the early-aughts as a primary influence, along with the 2010’s easy-core trend. Joining ferocious performances with terrific songs, Fluorescents will surely find itself playing for ever-growing crowds.


Droughts are also from Chicago. They consist of Joe Klomes, Nick Spiese, Will Seals, and Will C. Klomes, the latter of whom expressed his apprehensiveness at speaking in front of crowds due not knowing what to say. But he did better than I suspect he thought he did. The group jammed through “Stay Behind” “Lose Light,” “Cutouts,” “Marionette,” and “Welcome Back.” It was a strong set and hopefully the band will grace more stages this year, at home and elsewhere.


Self-described in its Facebook profile as a “Just a queer as hell four piece rippin’ grunge tunes from Lansing, MI,” Rodeo Boys lit the fuse for a blasting cap of an evening. Tiff Hannay, Cody Lee, Taylor Dody, and Dandy Waltz were clearly having a great time with their music, their fans and each other. The lively and playful set included “Dog Leg,” Be Your Man,” “Pump 6,” “Queen Anne’s Lace,” and “Tidal Wave.” In the month prior to playing at the April 2023 Stoop Fest in its hometown, the band will be heading to a fest in a state famous for rodeos. Rodeo Boys will be featured in the Don Giovanni Records Showcase at SXSW in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2023.


Please see below for more photos from this show!


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DS Show Review & Gallery: Smoking Popes and Off With Their Heads, Limbeck, and The Color Fred (Chicago, 11/12/2022)

Smoking Popes and Off With Their Heads drew a sizable and enthusiastic hometown area crowd at The Bottom Lounge for the Midwest Simmerfest on November 12, 2022. It was a weekend jam-packed with shows and mini-fests at nearly every, if not every, punk rock venue in the city of Chicago and probably quite a few […]

Smoking Popes and Off With Their Heads drew a sizable and enthusiastic hometown area crowd at The Bottom Lounge for the Midwest Simmerfest on November 12, 2022. It was a weekend jam-packed with shows and mini-fests at nearly every, if not every, punk rock venue in the city of Chicago and probably quite a few in the suburbs.


Smoking Popes, comprised of the brothers Caterer: Josh, Matt and Eli, along with Mike Felumlee, headlined the show with a reliably robust performance. The band jammed through a set list that included, “Simmer Down,” “Midnight Moon,” “No More Smiles,” “Rubella,” “Megan,” “Need You Around,” and “I Know You Love Me.” Picking a show for this Saturday night entertainment might have understandably been hard for more than a few in the local punk community. However, it appeared those at the Bottom Lounge were quite satisfied with their choice.


Off With Their Heads, made up of Ryan Young, Kevin Rotter, and Kyle Manning, played with intensity during the night’s penultimate set. The trio tore through an angsty set list leaving some in the crowd looking emotionally exhausted, in the very best way.


Limbeck is a group out of Laguna Niguel, CA. The band – Robb MacLean, Patrick Carrie, Justin Entsminger, and Jon Phillip – gave a boisterous performance as it ran through a set list including, “Honk + Wave,” “Home (Is Where the Van Is),” “Kooks,” “Everyone’s in the Parking Lot,” and “In Ohio on Some Steps.” This crowd gave the guys from the Golden State a very warm welcome.


The Color Fred, made up of Fred Mascherino, Stephen Angello, Keith Gibbons, and Monte Holt kicked off the festivities. The West Chester, PA, group elicited smiles from the crowd as its members marveled with delight at the fog machine. I don’t know if fog machines have been a regular part of their shows or not but I would hazard a guess they might be in the future. And though the band members were, at times, obscured by the fog, the music easily cut through to the attendees’ ears during a very fun set.


More photos below!