By Jazz MonroeCreating the perfect outlet for your musical inclinations depends as much on circumstance as skill. Thankfully, upon making the jump to Toronto from the Canadian wilderness (well, St Catharines, ON and Saskatoon, SK), studio engineer Josh Korody and part-time hairdresser Jesse Crowe finally kicked their shoegaze dreams into reality. Beliefs' self-titled debut record (which you can listen to here) is as searching and multi-paced as a cool, diamond-speckled river flowing through humid climes. While the album was self-recorded a year ago, the band recently enjoyed their first North American tour; half those dates were booked by Jesse the old-fashioned way — calling venues, liaising with promoters and rooting out local bands. We caught up with Josh and Jesse at SXSW, pondering the opportunities for up-and-comers in marginalized musical towns and winding up with a sort of guidebook for Canada's music hubs. We also discussed furniture and hairdressing, because of course we did.
Jesse, tell me about musical life in Saskatchewan. Jesse Crowe: I went to a fine art school growing up, and my stepdad's a music teacher, so music was always the most important thing for my family. I formed a shitty, non-genre-specific punk band at school when I was 14, and I've been singing or playing in bands ever since. There was a really good music scene in Saskatoon. I mean, everyone was really well supported — good bands and bad. You were just congratulated for the fact that you'd put the effort in to start something.
Does it boost confidence, being in that kind of scene? Crowe: It's good to start in a small space. Maybe if I'd tried to start a band that shitty in New York I'd have just been squashed like crazy, because it's not cool enough.
Would you be in a slightly more cool (and perhaps insufferable) band had you been exposed to a more competitive environment? Crowe: Yeah, totally. I'd be in something just brutally awful by this point. I would've surpassed cool into new age, or Enya or something. But really, although you're always going to be a subject of your environment a little bit, what I like is what I like. It was always going to be shoegaze.
And you moved briefly to Vancouver before Toronto? Crowe: Yeah. I like to be busy. Vancouver was really expensive, and you had to work really hard to make anything happen — but nothing seemed to happen. Whereas Toronto, you can work a normal amount at your normal job, and still have a lot of time to do your own projects. As long as you can work within your own struggle, Toronto's really good. People around you will grow together with you.
What would you say to a Saskatoon musician with aspirations to broaden out? Crowe: You know, I have music mentors in Saskatoon that make music far beyond most of what I've heard in other places. I would say you don't have to move — you can stay in a small city if you really like your community, and there's probably a huge benefit to that. But go on tour. Put yourself out there, because otherwise you're gonna get stuck, you're gonna get frustrated, and nothing's gonna come of it.
Josh, you started in St. Catharines. Josh Korody: Yeah. St. Catharines is mostly catholic, pretty clean, a pretty safe small town for the most part. There wasn't a lot of diversity thrown my way as a kid. Around high school and college I started to feel a little stagnant, but then I found our local music scene. The one benefit of being in this little community in Niagara is it has its own little music scene. By my early 20s I was trying to play outside the city, but for the most part everyone was in school, and that was their main priority. Or they were settling down: full-time job, getting married, buying houses. It definitely felt like once you hit your mid-20s you either had to leave or pick something you're gonna work at. I wasn't ready for that at all, so as soon as I moved to Toronto it all clicked. I met Jesse and we started this band, and I met a bunch of people and eventually built this recording studio with another producer [Candle Studios, co-run with Leon Taheny, which you can read about here]. But I'm kinda glad that I got to grow up in a small town. We created this little scene that you had to try hard to break out of.
How did the two of you meet? Korody: I met this guy, [former Beliefs bassist] Pat McCormack through a couple of people I recorded. After he came to see my Niagara band, Elk, play in Toronto, we bonded over some music and he invited me to this birthday party. But his parties — Pat doesn't drink or anything — he makes it really fun, he usually will cook for you. So that party was a pancake party, and he just made you these amazing pancakes — any kind of pancake you wanted. I met Jesse at that party, just a couple of months after arriving in the city. [He trails off...] Jesse's doing jumping jack's behind me. She's trying to distract me. But yeah, I think Jesse came up to me and just started talking. Crowe: I was like, "Woah, who's that cool guy? Never seen THAT cool guy before."