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 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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