If there is any question as to what a Handsome Sandwich is, singer for the band Tea Emlaw has no problem clarifying.
“A Handsome Sandwich is two parts rye bread, one part cold cuts, three parts cheese because extra cheese is the best, four parts sub sauce, and five parts love. And don't you dare forget that pickle.”
One gets the feeling that this wasn’t the first time Emlaw described the band in this way.
Band guitarist Mitch Sirie in clearly in cahoots with Emlaw on the food themed description.
“A sandwich is never not a good idea,” he laughs.
“There are so many ways to make a sandwich. Like a sandwich, each one of us brings a unique musical ingredient to the band. All five of us have a very specific sub-genre of music that we like and we each bring that to the table, from punk to jazz to indie rock. We've incorporated all our individual tastes to create something that we really love. We are a well constructed sandwich made with ingredients you may have never had together before.”
In addition to Emlaw and Sirie, Handsome Sandwich is rounded out by Jesse Cook on guitar, Rafael Medina on bass, and Johnathan Belanger on drums.
Four fifths of the band were born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, with Medina being the exception.
“I am from Cali, Colombia,” says Rafael Medina.
“I moved here about two years ago and met John, Mitch, and Jesse last summer.”
Medina’s first live appearance with the band was at last year’s Northern Vibe Festival.
“We will be playing there again this coming summer,” says Medina.
The band was formed in 2015 by Belanger and Cook under the tongue and cheek moniker, Sleigher (a humorous nod to thrash band Slayer).
It was originally intended to be as a Christmas acoustic act.
“We moved in together shortly after, launching Handsome Sandwich as a cover band, with a couple of originals,” says Belanger, noting that at that time no one sang in the band.
“We then met Tea [Emlaw] at an acoustic show. We loved her voice and asked if she'd like to come sing a song with us. Mitch was the fourth member in the band, replacing former bassist James White. Mitch and I have been musical brothers for over fifteen years.”
Belanger and Sirie previously played together in metal band The Bear Hunters.
“[In the beginning], I knew Mitch played some bass and we were in a pinch, so I asked if he wanted to be a part of this. Once we met Rafael, he took over on bass and we moved Mitch to guitar. The rest, as we say, is history.”
Handsome Sandwich has recently completed their debut album, Deconstructed, which will be released on May 6.
The album was engineered by Dustin Goodall at Unsalted Audio, produced by Bill Priddle, mixed by Jordon Zadorozny (producer and singer for indie rock band Blinker the Star), and mastered at João Carvalho Mastering.
“Dustin was a gem, an absolute gem,” says Emlaw.
“He had a lot of great insight and let us be super creative. He provided a bunch of constructive criticism which ultimately enhanced the album.”
The band’s new music video is for the song, Bitter (video above).
“Bitter was not our first choice single,” clarifies Sirie.
“We decided to give our first choice song to a professional videographer. Their schedule didn't line up with the date we wanted to release our first song. So we chose our second choice song to shoot a video for as well.”
“The Bitter video was a do it ourselves project,” says Belanger.
“We sat around the table and chose a date. We set up in a rushed manner at Bellevue Park and shot it on our phones. We played the song twice, front-to-back while filming. We laughed and walked around the big blue chair on Topsail Island. Then we went to Fort Creek for some additional footage. It was a brisk day to say the least, but we were had fun doing it.”
Although the track’s main riff was written by guitarist Jesse Cook, the band worked together to complete it.
“Bitter was the turning point where we really established a sound for ourselves as a band,” says Emlaw.
“Plus Bitter is only one letter away from butter, which also belongs on a sandwich.”
The reaction to the groups video has been positive.
Less than a week old, the video has racked up 1,500 views organically without any promotion.
“The feedback has been all positive and surprising everyone has really welcomed it,” says Emlaw.
“I'm very proud of our band. It sounds like our fans are hungry for more.”
Handsome Sandwich’s second music video is currently in the works.
“We have selected the song Better Off which is a fan and band favourite,” says Belanger.
“It should be coming out in mid-March and we have plans to release third in April, if all goes to plan.”
Find out more about Handsome Sandwich on their various social media platforms which can be found here.