Tuesday 17 October 2017

Belly - Interview (Tanya Donelly)

After a series of triumphant comeback shows in Europe and the US in 2016, Belly recently announced that they would be releasing their long-awaited third album, and their first since 1995's King, in April 2018 via Pledge Music. We spoke to Tanya Donelly about the recording process, the comeback to date and she revealed some exciting news about UK dates for the summer of 2018.

You've just launched a Pledge campaign for a brand new Belly album next year.  You'd talked about new tracks and possibly an EP when you toured last year, what made you take the plunge and go for a full album?

We had such a blast on the tour, and were psyched with the handful of songs that we’d written together for that purpose, and decided that it made sense to continue writing and to release a full album. And the way we're writing now, in full collaboration, is really fun and satisfying.

Have you been writing together as a band in the studio or has one of you been bringing ideas in for you to work with as a group?

It’s been varied. It starts with one of us sending a riff or a verse or chorus or song skeleton, then Tom pieces the parts together and we go back and forth until we set a structure. The lyrics all came to me at different times through the process, and Gail also wrote some words for music that she brought in, and her words totally steered where I went with those. And there was one that came together in the studio, in the 11th hour, and it’s one of my favorites.

Also, Chris is a big part of how these songs develop. He’s a song-focused drummer, and that absolutely shapes them. Tom continues to develop the songs in his home studio after we finish up a studio session, and moves things forward again. We could easily keep changing and adding to this stuff forever, so at some point we’re going to have to stop ourselves (Paul Kolderie will help us stop).

How have the recording sessions been working.  I guess back in the nineties it'd be an intense period in the studio with time limits, has having families and other commitments changed the way you've approached this?

Absolutely. We break up the actually recording sessions into four day chunks, and then add what we can at home. Some have kids, and some run businesses, and all have jobs, so we work around all of that.

You played two new songs on the 2016 tour (working titles Comet and Punish?).  Will those two be on the album and are they representative of the sound of the rest of the songs or will there be a diverse range of styles on it as there was for example on Star?

Comet and Punish are both on the album, but it’s hard to say what represents this album as a stand-alone. It’s a very diverse bunch of songs, and very different than Star and King.

A lot of bands that were successful in that 1990-95 time frame have come back and made some of, if not the best records of their career. Does the band feel any pressure to emulate Star and King or is this about doing it because it's fun again after twenty years?

This is about fun and freedom from past constraints, and making music again with people who are like-minded and share the same musical shorthand.  I love writing with these people because everyone brings such different things to the songs, but we all have the same basic sensibilities and a new and strong respect for each other.

Are there plans afoot to take the record on the road in 2018, and do those plans include coming back to the UK?

We are coming back to the UK, and can’t wait! The shows are in June and will be announced this week. US shows to follow in Summer ’18.

What made you choose Pledge Music as the means of distributing this album?

We wanted the freedom to record and release this album exactly as we wanted and on our own terms, and Pledge Music gives artists that opportunity . We have been operating 100% DIY so far, and this platform lets us continue to work that way.

What have the highlights been so far since you got back together in 2016.  Any particular shows, moments or encounters that have stuck in your mind?

This is going to sound Pollyanna-ish, but the truth is that the entire tour was kind of magical. The energy between us onstage, and between us and the audiences, was joyful and fun and funny. Every night was like a celebration, and the people who came to see us are very much to thank for that.

On a personal note, Gail’s force-of-nature strength and unstoppable inner and outer beauty while touring between treatments is something that will inspire me (and Tom and Chris) forever. Wonder Woman.

Were you surprised by the response to the shows and to the Pledge campaign so far?

We were (happily) surprised and continue to be. And back to the subject of gratitude, it’s been very moving to find so much support is still out there. It’s why we’re making an album, why we’re touring again, and why we’re still going.

You've revealed that you're going to release a cover of Hush-a-bye Mountain to the Pledgers, maintaining a tradition of covering well-known songs not normally associated with rock and roll bands.  What made you choose to cover this and when can we expect it?

Hushabye should be appearing on the Pledge site within the week. It does seem to be a tradition of ours to cover vaguely creepy children’s songs, this idea was Tom’s. We also wanted to do a song that had room for harmonies ~ something we’re into right now.

Belly's Pledge Music page can be found here.  The album is released on April 6.

UK dates have been announced for June 2018.

09 Portsmouth Wedgwood Rooms 10 Bristol SWX 11 Cardiff Glee Club 12 Manchester Ritz 13 Leeds Beckett 14 Whitley Bay Playhouse 16 Glasgow 02 ABC 17 Sheffield Leadmill 18 Nottingham Rescue Rooms 19 Brighton Concorde 20 London Shepherd's Bush Empire

Belly's official website can be found here and they are on Twitter and Facebook.

Tanya Donelly is on Twitter.

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