Repairing a broken music scene

Vancouver buzz band the Belle Game talk about the “no fun city” misnomer, and how their scene has rebooted itself.

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The Belle Game
Pop noir quintet the Belle Game hail from Canada’s West Coast metropolis, Vancouver. In recent years, the city’s music and nightlife scenes have developed a bad reputation following a series of venue closures, encroaching gentrification and the enforcement of ridiculous bylaws (the latter is of course something Montreal’s scene can relate to). The 2010 documentary No Fun City highlighted these issues and the ways in which venue managers, promoters and artists have persisted. But the name “no fun city” has stuck to Vancouver like discarded toilet paper to a shoe.

Ahead of their show at Divan Orange this week, I asked Belle Game singer Andrea Lo about how the Vancouver scene is bouncing back (and what they learned from a fortnight in Banff with Broken Social Scene alumni).

Lorraine Carpenter: Does the current scene have a sound, or a particularly prominent style?
Andrea Lo: Vancouver’s quite a big mixed bag right now. The music scene is just starting to grow, so everyone’s kind of experimenting, and you’ve got everything and anything. I feel lots of the time people peg the West Coast as having a specific type of style, but in Vancouver, everyone’s just starting out, right? So, A) that makes it a really cool place to be, and B) there’s kinship in the sense that everyone’s just supporting everyone more so.

LC: Is it still “no fun city”?
AL: Not at all. It’s rapidly changing. Bars close a little earlier, the concerts aren’t as frequent as over in Toronto or Montreal. But Vancouver’s a gorgeous place to live, and we’re just beginning to nurture and build all these scenes, and then following that we’re gonna start building sub-scenes, so it’s just a matter of growing up with the place, you know. In a way it almost offers a benefit for upcoming bands because everyone’s supporting everyone at this point. You don’t have eight different shows happening within the same neighbourhood and then 20 other shows happening throughout the city at the same time. So people are still really appreciative whenever there’s live music. So, yeah, I don’t think it’s no fun [laughs].

LC: I understand that the band is just back from a crash course in indie rocking at the Banff Centre. How was that?
AL: It was really incredible actually. I was going in not really knowing what to expect and just came out absolutely overwhelmed with how cool of an experience it was. We had the opportunity to work alongside Kevin Drew and Charles Spearin from Broken Social Scene, Shawn Everett, who’s also worked with Weezer, and Graham Lessard, who’s the resident in-house engineer there. Some really great minds. We went to work on songs for our next album and also to rehearse for our upcoming tour. But I feel that we broke through a couple of the moulds that we hold ourselves in in the sense that we tend to be a fairly structured band when it comes to writing. With Kevin mentoring us and with Shawn opening us up to new sounds and new ideas, we were willing to let go a little bit more and allow the creative process to just happen. It definitely gave us more than we thought we would get out of it, so that was pretty cool. ■

The Belle Game play with Bear Mountain at Divan Orange (4234 St-Laurent) on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 9:30 p.m., $12

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