GENRE IS DEAD! Interview With Drew Riekman Of Blessed

GID: Well, you guys did a great job with the song and I think it stands with the rest of the songs. This time you all recorded in Montreal, but you’re from Abottsford, a small Bible Belt community. What’s it like out there?

DR: I’m sure there are people operating here somehow that feel like they’re flourishing. Depending on your interpretation and goals of what defines creative success, you can possibly achieve that here. But up until recently, Abbotsford didn’t even have a venue for bands to play shows in. Even then, what’s currently being built and set aside for the music community, isn’t necessarily interested in having anything experimental or avant-garde welcomed through its doors as far as I’m aware. But not having a proper small space available can be hard to reconcile with sometimes.

Even at that point, you have to wonder if the demographic exists here and we just don’t have a proper space available, or if the demographic just doesn’t exist in our town. Alternatively, you have to acknowledge the countless people who have done amazing work out of their houses, workspaces and have continued to try and showcase art from all corners and people. We’ve managed over time to bring incredible bands we adore through Abbotsford, at house shows, basements, and churches – anywhere that had space we could put people and a P.A in.

GID: Sounds like you guys worked hard to carve a path for yourselves in Abottsford. And with the constant touring, writing, and recording you’ve done, you got your footing in music. Now, your debut album is out. Looking back, how has the journey been to get to this point?

DR: I think the fortunate part of our evolution is that it’s developed naturally and deliberately. Everything has happened at what feels like an appropriate pace. We don’t feel an intense pressure to release things quickly. Generally, we take our time to make sure whatever we’re presenting publicly is what we’ll stand behind for as long as we can imagine.

Touring is also part and parcel of being from a smaller city in Canada. It isn’t merely work or a piece of the puzzle, but a means of seeing places that when you were a teenager in a band, you couldn’t fathom ever playing. It would be dishonest to say there wasn’t a lot of mysticism around playing places like New York when the band first started. We try to not let that feeling diminish as much as possible. We’re very fortunate to be doing what we’re currently able to, in no small part to the community that’s helped and bolstered us.

GID: What were some of the expectations you had about playing big cities outside of Canada that didn’t live up to the reality?

DR: I don’t know that there’s any facet that didn’t live up. When you reside in a town that has zero vegan option restaurants, hardly any support for fringe or outsider art, and an overwhelming religious population that segregates itself from anything it deems below it, the bar to exceed it is quite low. The bigger cities have provided a lot of insight into the spaces we could be participating in, but at the same time give you a frame of reference for how much we’ve been able to accomplish despite all the shortcomings of our community.

GID: Blessed is currently touring North America. What have you been looking forward to this time around?

DR: There are a lot of bands at this point around North America that we consider good friends and all who make exciting music that we’re fortunate enough to play alongside. We have nearly a year of touring under our belts since Sound came out on Buzz Records last April and we can’t wait to see some familiar faces and be playing live again.

GID: How does being on the road now differ from when Blessed first started touring? 

DR: As far as touring now, I would say the only fundamental difference is booking has become easier. The circle of friends expands and we find more bands we love and have common interests within every city. There are more people to look forward to seeing as your social circle grows in every city.

Salt is out now. Pick up a copy here. Blessed is currently on their North American tour. Check out all their dates here.

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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, The Crypt 1331, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Reality-Comics. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Marilyn Manson, and Green Day.

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