Wild Belle: Falling in love with Afrobeat was very expensive
Photo courtesy of the artist
As of recently, Chicago siblings Elliot and Natalie Bergman have made music as Wild Belle, and contrary to all of the misguided White Stripes comparisons, these two are hardly just another half-exerted indie-rock duo capitalizing on aesthetics. Drawing rich influence from Afrobeat and reggae, they've captured an interesting island-pop aesthetic on their aptly titled debut on Columbia, Isles.
Ahead of their Friday performance at the Triple Rock, Gimme Noise talked with half of the magic, Elliot Bergman, about his familial connection to the Talking Heads and his wallet-draining introduction to the music he now plays.
Gimme Noise: What was the forethought to Wild Belle's inception? Did you seek out to start a new band with your sister? Did you have any idea it would gain such traction?
Elliot Bergman: No, not really at all. We were just kind of messing around in the studio, honestly. We didn't even have a band name or anything. We were making these songs in the studio and didn't really know what we were doing. Eventually after we liked what was coming out of it, we were planning to put out a record on our own label. Then, obviously, things took their own course. But I guess now it's nice that the record is actually getting around somewhat.
At what point of "messing around" did you really decide to push the project forward?
It really came out through experimenting with our old Afrobeat band (Nomo). Initially we decided to get together and release a single, so we put a 12-inch single out and that was the first official thing that we did. Then we started playing shows and travelling around and it all just happened naturally from there. That's how we built an audience, you know, putting thousands of miles on the van, practically making laps around the country.
Can you articulate the roots of your interest in Afrobeat and jazz fusion? Obviously these influences don't go unnoticed within Wild Belle material.
Well, when I was in college I worked at a record store called Encore Recordings, an amazing store where it's just all touring musicians who work there. It was staffed by all of these crazy musicians who were also crazy record collectors and they'd be passing things to me all of the time. That was basically my music education, to go through all of the music that was passed to me there. You didn't really make much money working there but you came out with an amazing vinyl collection. So that was sort of what pushed me into afrobeat. That's how I fell in love with those sounds. It was music that was very eye- and ear-opening for m,e and so I was able to explore.
That kind of education is priceless.
[laughs] Actually it was very expensive.
Are there any drawbacks to pursuing a music career with an immediate family member?
We get along great and our family is really close and so there's not a lot of barriers. We have to work pretty intimately and honestly. There aren't any filters and so we have to use pretty direct communication. But we have a history of making music and art together so there is a strong, shared vocabulary. When we collaborate there's not a lot of room for outside input because we know what we want. I don't know. I don't really know what the drawbacks are. You know, there are certain things that go along with spending a lot of time with your family, but it's worked out so far.
You guys have established a relationship with Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz of the Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club. I read that Tina imparted some wisdom onto you guys by expressing that the MOST important thing is that you love your sound. Do you love your sound?
I think that we spent a lot of time... where did you read that? I remember talking about that but I can't remember where it showed up
I believe it was Interview Magazine...
Well I can look it up too. Yes, though. Tina and Chris both have become a sort of rock 'n' roll aunt and uncle to us both. They try to get to our shows and we've ended up recording with them, which was really amazing. I think that Tina was talking about trying to figure out how to love your sound. We've been really considerate about our sound and trying to find one that's engaging to us, a sound that, yeah, we love. It's something you reach I think, and we're still figuring certain aspects out. That's a really big part of what we try to do on road, and luckily, that's where we're gonna be for a while.
Wild Belle play at Triple Rock on Friday, September 13, with Saint Rich. 8 p.m. Tickets $13/$15 at the door.
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