Friday, January 04, 2008

IA Exclusive: Bellman Barker

So, I had every intention of reviving the 12 Bands feature for this past holiday season. Due to my schedule, it never did happen. However, I did line up the bands and over time, the features will see the light of day. Up first is DC's Bellman Barker. They recorded a brand new demo exclusively for IA. Before we debut it, I sat down with the boys and had a little chat. After you read it, check out the song. Since it is such a departure for them, please comment with your feedback. They are interested to hear it.


I guess we will start at the beginning. How did Bellman Barker come to be?

Thomas: Bellman Barker began as a ragtag outfit of idyllic dreamers born of 21st century networks, adding and shedding members like a dirty snake. Today's BB has hardened into a popular song cult that vexes and pleases in equal measure.

Where did the name come from?

Aaron: From this book about circuses.
Thomas: It was born from the relationship between a rube and his pitchman

I had the pleasure of having you on the bill for 2 events that I put together this year. I must admit that you really surprised me live. Based on the 3 or 4 songs that I had heard of yours, I was expecting a pretty simple sunshine pop band. To my surprise, you are pretty raw live. I'll never forget Aaron breaking a string on the opening song of your set at our anniversary show in August. I feel that your EP does not truly reflect your live show, would you agree with that?

Aaron: Yeah, that string was a pain, right? But the show was great. We weren't really a band yet when we recorded the EP. Nor did we have much recording experience, but we did it by ourselves just the same. We're working much more together now. Plus, live, you know, why would you even play live unless you're going to play the songs the way you feel them? It was tough to know that on the first EP. But live, it's impossible to just stand there and play-- and those songs have a lot in them, a lot of us. You know? They better.
Thomas: Playing live is completely different from recording. Recording is tedious and calculating and never sounds like you want it to. It's like winding up the bungee cord and checking all the gear 500 times, while playing live is like jumping out of the hot air balloon.

You added a fifth member this year. How has that affected your sound?

Steve: Amazingly!
Aaron: Well, he talks a lot. That's the most of it. But really, Steve brings a lot of the live show together. We're not really a guitar-rock band, so having the keys and the synths is a big part of the show. Plus, we're all writing now. It sounds more like everyone.
Thomas: The giant squid grew another tentacle. Now we sink more ships.

You seem to be constantly evolving as a band. Your early songs were simple pop songs. Now you have started to write songs with loops, samples and multi-part harmonies. What led you in that direction?

Aaron: A lot of that was Tom. I think mostly about pop melodies and making it all fit together and he brought in these other ideas and we're working them all together. Writing simple pop songs is great, but we learn things and want to use them.
Thomas: Really, it's just the arrangements that have changed. Which I think is kind of secondary. It can be due to technology or fashion or whatever is happening. It's really the sense of melody, song construction and lyrics that are important and I hope we're slavishly pointing towards the same quality on those points.

The song that you recorded for us, has clarinet. How did that come about?

Aaron: That's Tom again. It was an old song and we decided that the main rhythm might sound better on something besides guitar, and there you go.
Thomas: It was a decision based on available technology.

You have become known for crazy stage antics. One thing that you do is incorporate random tongue in cheek covers into your sets. What are some of your favorites to play?

Aaron: Hmm, really? Crazy stage antics? Haha. We're still trying to get Steve to do a keyboard hand-stand. Ha. Like I was saying before, it's hard to play the songs without reliving everything that went into making them. It all comes out. As for covers, top 40 country is hard to beat.
Thomas: Britney's "Toxic", Wilson Pickett's "Land of 1000 Dances", The Velvettes' "He Was Really Sayin' Something."
John: The entire 4th of July country show that we did.
Steve: The July 4th set at Wonderland and Britney Spears' "Toxic."

I know that you love being a part of DC's indie scene. Who are some of your favorite local artists?

Thomas: Greenland, Len Bias and Le Loup. I've also have heard some interesting recordings from Stamen and Pistils, though I haven't caught a live show. On the other hand, I saw a great live show from Fever.
John: Georgie James, Len Bias, Greenland, MDR, and most recently Jukebox the Ghost. Every month, the list grows longer! These are exciting times for DC
Aaron: Greenland and Len Bias.
Mike: Georgie James, Greenland and Mikal Evans.
Steve: Greenland, Len Bias, The Hall Monitors, Jukebox the Ghost, Middle Distance Runner and Tereu Tereu.

What were your favorite albums of the year?

Steve : Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Mike: Robert Plant / Alison Krauss – Raising Sand
Aaron: Jens Lekman's Night Falls Over Kortedala
John: Radiohead's In Rainbows
Thomas : Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

For a band that was pretty much unknown heading into 2007, it was a hell of a year for you guys. What were the highlights?

Aaron: Obviously self-releasing our own EP was huge. Playing the IA anniversary show was huge too -- we got a lot of exposure and played with some amazing bands, including Le Loup who are off now doing great things. We played our first tour this fall and we are set for a mainstage Black Cat show in January. It's really been amazing.
Thomas: Getting in the van and going from town to town playing shows. Hey, guys, let's do that again real soon!
John: The fall tour (one of the best times in my life), the BYT Re-launch and anytime spent in the van.
Steve: THE VAN, THE VAN! Spending quality time with John's iPhone(my favorite member of BB). The BYT Re-launch, Philly and Pittsburgh.

What are your plans for 2008?

Aaron: Record! We have so many new songs and we are trying to get the time together to put them down. Then, you know, bigger shows, more shows, etc.
Thomas: Put our ideas inside a computer. Seriously, these demos - of which "Two Bees" is the first - are pretty much the first priority, since we've got a pretty long list of songs to put down.
John: Recording a full-length, tour, get filthy rich and famous, see our faces all over PerezHilton, drug addiction, rehab, jail stints, flashing our genitals to the paparazzi while getting in our cars, etc.
Steve: Maybe buy a badger. Make some macaroni pictures.

What are your long term goals for '08 and beyond?

Aaron: Just keep writing and playing. If we do that, it will get bigger on it's own.
Thomas: Put the songs down on computer. Play shows. Collaborate with more local artists. Write more songs. Play shows. Put those songs down on computer. Do a crazy tour and have a lot of fun. Play shows. Record an LP with someone we respect in a nice-sounding room. Write more songs. What more could anyone ask for?
Steve: Mostly the macaroni pictures.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add?

BB: Nothing at the moment - FULL STOP. Thanks for having us!

Thanks for taking the time to do this.

Upcoming Live Dates:
1/26/08: Black Cat, Washington, DC w/ Jukebox The Ghost & Pash
2/23/08: Mojo 13, Wilmington, DE

Without further ado, here is the premiere of Bellman Barker's new demo track, "Two Bees." Enjoy!

Two Bees



Anonymous Anonymous said...

cool song! i like the bouncy beginning and middle parts. but the ending part starting around 3 minutes in is the best - especially the vocals and drumming! nice work.


Friday, January 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Friday, January 04, 2008  
Blogger Steve Chab said...

i saw you in pittsburgh, and i bought a cd. i loved the live show. i'd like to hear a cd with that raw, "fuck shit up" sound.

if ur ever up here again, i'd love to open for you.

much respect,
steve chab

Friday, January 04, 2008  

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