- May 2016 -
HAVE A BEER WITH FORMER BELLE
Interview Location: Corridor Brewery + Provisions // 3446 N. Southport, Chicago, IL
Drinks of Choice: She Kills Monsters (Farmhouse), Wizard Fight (Lactose IPA) and Writers Write (East Coast IPA)
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: What are your drinks of choice when you’re at home?
Kyle from Former Belle: My go-to is usually an IPA or a pale ale. Usually a Philadelphia Pale Ale by Yards is my go-to concert beer.
Josh from Former Belle: When I drink, which is rare, I usually do Jack Daniels. Neat.
Bruno from Former Belle: I drink a lot of Guinness. A whole lot of Guinness. A lot. I have a drink in Philly that they do at my watering hole. I’ll drink my Guinness until about half-way down and then they’ll just give me the car bomb to go with it.
Kristen: You guys got tattoos earlier today at Animal Farm Tattoo. Tell me what you got. What’s the meaning behind it?
Bruno: I was looking around for artwork and branding for this new release. I reached out to a buddy of mine that plays in another band I’m in. He’s a designer, so when I threw out the idea of artwork, I mentioned a logo of some sort to use on stickers, shirts, etc. He sent me back this perfect, hand-created logo with a simple leaf. It felt really right in some weird way, since the new EP is simple and to the point. The logo represents the music. As weird as it sounds, it’s just a leaf.
Tim: Yeah, he showed us the design and we all loved it. Three weeks later, I had a dream that we all got the leaf tattoos. And the next thing you know, we did it.
Bruno: Dreams do come true!
Kyle: You can join our gang if you want.
Kristen: Done. I’ll be a walking billboard for Former Belle. Is that the craziest thing you guys have done together as a band?
Kyle: I think every next day of our travels has been the next craziest thing we’ve done in a way. We’ve never traveled this extensively together with this group. Up to New York might have been the farthest we’ve gone together.
Kristen: And I’m guessing you’re in a van….
Tim: Actually, no…
Kyle: The band we’re touring with, The Lawsuits, are our labelmates, also on Randm Records. Either they volunteered or our manager recommended that they take the gear with them – since we’re sharing most of it – but all of our musical instruments are in their van.
Tim: So we’re driving around in my Jeep Patriot.
Kristen: How is that?
Kristen: Yeah, I can only imagine.
Bruno: None of the drives have been crazy. They’ve all been pretty doable. It’s really only bad when you’re riding bitch and you’re drunk. For some reason you just get sweaty. I don’t know if anyone else has….
Tim: Do we make you nervous?
Bruno: I don’t know what it is. Something about being in the middle center in the back makes you sweaty.
Kristen: And if you’re hungover, I’m sure that doesn’t help the situation. What do you guys do in the Jeep?
Bruno: Oh, can you turn the recorder off for a second?
Kyle: So the situation in the car is that the driver and the copilot are the rock. So whoever is sitting copilot is in charge of music, making sure the turns on the GPS are right and assessing the needs of everyone in the van: “Hey, can you plug my phone in?” or “Hey, can you get me that water?”
Kristen: It sounds like a very high-pressure job.
Tim: And then everyone in the back pretty much just fucks around.
Bruno: I just discovered face swap, so I’ve been swapping my face on all of our Snapchats.
Tim: This is backseat activity. In no way would we allow this to happen in the front seat.
Bruno: I’m not allowed to sit in the front that often.
Kristen: I’m not good at Snapchat. Are a lot of bands on it?
Tim: Yeah, it’s a new way to reach out to people basically.
Josh: We thought about starting one for Former Belle.
Kristen: Okay, aside from Snapchat, what else are you guys doing in the van? What about music? Do disagreements ever happen?
Tim: There aren’t many disagreements. Instead what happens is that one person will just get picked on for about 20 minutes.
Josh: Yeah, we were leaving around 9:30 or 10 the other morning. We were heading out from the hotel and the first thing I do is put on Ja Rule. People didn’t like that.
Kyle: Ja Rule is timeless.
Bruno: He Ja Rules.
Carolyn [tour manager]: Are you guys going to mention the theme song?
Bruno: Oh yeah. So, we kind of have a theme song. You may not know her; she’s not really big yet…Her name is Rihanna.
Tim: I don’t know. I don’t think you’re saying it right. I think it’s “Ry-hanna”
Bruno: Well, she’s got this song called “Work”
Tim: That gets played at least once on every ride.
Kristen: Let’s play a game. It’s what I like to call, “Who in the band is most likely to….?” So, for instance, who in the band is the most likely to be at the jukebox or selecting songs?
Tim: Probably Josh on that one.
Kristen: How about out on the dance floor, even if there’s no one out there?
Josh: Probably me and Bruno. My go-to dance move is the floppy fish.
Bruno: I learned this new one from my friend’s girlfriend. It’s called “the seaweed.” You just let your whole body go really loose.
Kristen: How about who would take all the shots or drink all the drinks?
Tim: That might be a tie between Bruno and I.
Bruno: Yeah, we usually don’t let one go unattended.
Kyle: I had to back down last night from a tie-breaking flip cup game between the two bands pre-show at Daytrotter.
Tim: We have an ongoing road challenge with The Lawsuits, the band we’re touring with. They’re pretty pissed we beat them.
Kristen: What’s the new Daytrotter venue there like?Kyle: Beautiful. Incredible.
Bruno: The sound is amazing.
Kyle: They built the place with the goal of avoiding all the negative things they’ve heard about other venues. They’re all audio nerds and they get what goes on behind the scenes to make it a good listening experience. They’ve pretty much nailed it so far.
Kristen: I’m planning to make a trip out there and check it out. Let’s talk about your recent EP, “Foreign Bed.” I noticed that a lot of the songs have introvert tendencies to them. Would you say you’re an introvert?
Bruno: Yeah, definitely, but I’m an outgoing introvert. I hide it really well. There is definitely an underlying theme of introversion in everything I put out as Former Belle. There’s also a weird part of my life where that’s all I really did [stay in], and that’s really where Former Belle started. I always find it sort of creeps into the themes of songs, or in this case, the overall concept for the EP.
Kristen: Is it fair to say then that creating music was a result of your introversion?
Bruno: I think they go hand in hand. Yeah, I mean a lot of the early music came from being pretty introverted. A lot of the very first Former Belle songs were shaped around or finished during that time in my life, so it has always been an underlying thing in the music.
Kristen: And when did these guys join you?
Bruno: Well, it has been a rotating cast of people for a few years now. I started Former Belle because I was collecting songs I had been working on since college. I had a different band at the time, but once I graduated, it was like, “What am I supposed to do?” I kind of just started recording the songs for real, and I gathered people to help play the songs live. Over the years it has just been friends helping out. At one point, people had to leave for various reasons and no one could really be a part of the band, so I took the thing on as my own little baby and moved to Boston. I spent a bunch of time writing there. I didn’t really know anyone, so I think the whole introvert theme also lends itself to that – moving somewhere where you don’t know anyone. After that, I continued doing it as a solo project and started bringing people back into the music.
Tim: This line-up has been about two years.
Kristen: Were you guys involved in the making of the EP then?
Tim: Not really. This EP just went back to Bruno at the very start.
Bruno: It went back to just being me for multiple reasons – not intentionally or because I didn’t want these guys to be a part of anything. I took a year off from the Former Belle project to tour with the other band I play with. We had some days off in hotels, I was working on stuff, and then I wrote this song that just brought everything together. I really enjoyed what it felt like to write really stripped down and take everything back to the start where it was just me writing songs behind the scenes. It only happened that way because I was away from these guys for probably a solid year. I eventually found a handful of my original, bedroom-recorded demos and I really liked how they sounded naked, by themselves. Between writing on the road and being by myself a lot and old songs, it sort of just became an EP.
Kristen: Do you feel the songs transforming now that you’ve got a full band behind you?
Bruno: Yeah, it’s really cool to be playing with a full band. There are times where a skinny kid with a drum kit at a bar just isn’t going to work. And there’s sometimes where it is going to work – I hope. There’s so much with a band that you just can’t do by yourself, of course, so having these guys is a blessing. We try and stay true to the vibe and the style of the EP and all the songs we’ve written up until now, but a full band basically gives us more versatility and the ability to do different things that I can’t do alone.
Kristen: There’s a song on the EP titled “I Woke Up In Chicago.” Did you actually wake up in Chicago and write that song?
Bruno: I did. Yeah, and that’s kind of the song that sparked the EP as a whole, which is why it’s a really important song to me. I was on a long tour with my other band CRUISR. We had a few days off in Chicago last year around Halloween. The other guys flew in their girlfriends, and my girlfriend at the time wasn’t able to make it, so I had a top-floor downtown hotel room by myself. I didn’t even know what to do with myself….
Kristen: So you took a bath, naturally?
Bruno: Yes, I took a four-hour shower, four times in the course of two days. But yeah, the next morning, I woke up so dazed. I was just sitting in the hotel room in my pajamas. I looked out the window and it was the right mood. It was gloomy, it was rainy, people were walking and I was watching them, and I started writing a song. It made sense and the whole EP eventually stemmed from that.
Kristen: When you’re working on new material – or even just in the van – who are you listening to?
Bruno: Whenever I’m working on new stuff, I listen to a bunch of Bright Eyes. I also love The Good Life. I think Tim Kasher is an incredible writer. I was just playing that for these guys in the car on the way here. Every time I hear The Good Life’s albums I think to myself, I want to sound like this. This is amazing. So I think a twist between those. I’m also a huge Elliott Smith fan, and some hints of Nick Drake were on this EP that maybe weren’t on some of the older stuff. But there was also a point where I was heavy into Bombay Bicycle Club, so it’s a pretty wide range of influences for me.
Kristen: What about you guys? Who are you listening to?
Tim: I kind of always grew up listening to classic rock and soul. Over the past year, though, I’d say I’m really enjoying the bands we’ve been playing shows with. There are so many quality local bands. For example, the band we’re on tour with now – The Lawsuits – they’re awesome live. There’s also Hemming, which I’ve been really into. I try to dive into the local scene quite a bit.
Josh: I definitely agree with Tim. I listen to a lot of bands that come out of Philly. I really enjoy R&B, but I’m also a huge fan of musicians like Chet Faker and James Vincent McMorrow.
Kristen: Do you guys have any reality TV shows that you’re super into?
Kyle: I watch the news. That’s pretty real.
Josh: That’s a dad comment.
Kristen: Is Kyle the most dad-like in the group?
Kristen: I kind of got that vibe.
Kyle: Is it the beard?
Kristen: I think it’s the zip-up sweater. And the fact that you just referenced the news.
Bruno: Can we ask you a question?
Kristen: Of course.
Bruno: So, he’s the dad. What are the rest of us in your opinion?
Kristen: Okay. Kyle is the dad. Carolyn is the babysitter. Tim, you would probably be the oldest. Bruno would be the youngest because he seems like a rebel. And Josh, I could see you being the middle child. You seem like you could play either side.
Kyle: And he’s super needy.
Bruno: In terms of behavior, that’s pretty accurate.
Kyle: I’m way too organized to be a musician. You have to have a dad in the band.
Tim: He keeps us on time for things.
Josh: Kyle’s “dadness” definitely helps us out a lot. He’s organized; he keeps us punctual, which is good. Are you ready to adopt me Kyle?
Kyle: See what I mean? Super needy.
Kristen: What’s the least rock-‘n’-roll thing you’ve done in the past week?
Tim: I will gladly go first on this one. I get made fun of every night when I get my face wipes out on tour. My neighbor went with me to CVS to help me pick them out.
Kristen: Maybe that should be your goal for the rest of this tour: Do something totally un-rock-‘n’-roll this week.
Bruno: I’ve checked us out of every hotel so far this week. I’ve even given the key back.
Kyle: Are we going to do the most rock-‘n’-roll now?
Kristen: For sure.
Tim: This one’s kind of a group effort. Bruno and I pushed a mattress out of a window last week.
Kyle: …Sober at 9:15 a.m.
Tim: Kyle was loading the car up and we were trying to make him laugh outside. We heard a knock on the door like, “Housekeeping!”
Bruno: It’s like when you think of Kiss, “Look how many TVs I’ve destroyed!” We thought it would be funny to have our own version of that. Except it was a fake rock-‘n’-roll moment.
Tim: We didn’t actually let it fall out.
Kyle: We laughed and took some photos.
Bruno: …With the selfie stick.
Kyle: That’s definitely going to drive the tour. It’s going to be like, “Was that pre-selfie stick or post-selfie stick?”
Tim: It’s actually a “Picture Pole.” We could only afford the knock-off brand.