The great city of New York is a place where anything can happen, where chance turns to opportunity and a glance could turn into something platonic or even intimate. In the winter of 2012, Amelia Bushell and Thomas Servidone each decided to go to an open-mic event in Brooklyn, sharing their songs with like-minded others and looking for advice or even a chance of meeting a producer or talent scout. What they found instead was an instant chemistry with each other and similar love for music that enchanted and challenged people. From that chance encounter, Belle Mare was formed.
In the spring of 2013, about four months from when they first set eyes on one another, they released the terrific The Boat of the Fragile Mind, an eight-track EP of haunting, emotionally-charged, dream-folk songs. Joined by Tara Rook (keys/vocals), Gary Atturio (bass), and Rob Walbourne (drums), Belle Mare quietly and subtly mesmerize throughout the album and at times put chills down your spine. The EP affected us in so many unknown ways that it was added to our 2013 Year-End Playlist, which featured tracks from our favourite albums of that year.
Two years later, Belle Mare have returned. On Monday, they released “Cicada”, which is the lead track from their much anticipated new album. The new single sees the band evolve, moving away from the minimalist approach of their debut EP to one that is more ethereal, more atmospheric, and more starkly haunting. It’s a brilliant, bone-chilling track that starts off with the beauty of their past efforts but ends in a cascade of minimalist percussion and guitars. The single has only increased our anticipation of Belle Mare’s debut LP.
Amelia and Thomas were also kind enough to give us some hints about their latest project, which you can read in the Q&A below. And as you’re reading it, you can purchase “Cicada” on Bandcamp and pick up The Boat of the Fragile Mind on their Bandcamp page or iTunes, Amazon, and eMusic.
We have spent a lot of time with each other and have had so many good times and shit shows together… It’s a tough thing trying to grind it out in New York, but it can also be so rewarding and it has been great going through that process with your good friends.
Q&A with Amelia Bushell & Thomas Servidone
1. We know how you two, Amelia and Thomas, met, but how did Tara, Gary, and Rob join the band?
Hmmm, lets see… Tara was the first one to hop on board. We were playing this acoustic showcase at Muchmore’s, and Tara was also performing. She came up to us after our set and asked if she could play keys for us. She came over for a quick rehearsal, but instead of really playing anything we just talked a lot about Brian Eno. It was just a really natural fit. She’s an amazing musician, songwriter and just a lovely energy to have around.
Rob had replied to our Craigslist ad and it was really funny because he replied twice. The first time, we didn’t respond, and then he sent another email and apologized for his boring first reply (it wasn’t even boring, we just did not have the time to get back to him), so we invited him over to run the set. When he showed up, we immediately started drinking and didn’t really even play anything for a while. When we finally got to playing, he busted out a bottle of steak seasoning for a shaker, and we were sold! 🙂 Rob is the man!!!
Gary was the last one to join, and we had actually replied to one of his Craigslist ads. He was just finishing up playing with Savoir Adore, so we caught him at the right time. He’s such a solid player and person.
And we have to mention Ben Baptie, our producer, in here, too. He’s not technically a member of this band, but he is at its heart. We all think the world of Ben – he’s been a champion of us from the get go, and it’s a real honor to know him.
2. There is a noticeable difference in the sound of “Cicada”, one that is more dreamy, ethereal as oppose to the minimalist approach of The Boat of the Fragile Mind. What was the motivation and/or inspiration behind the change?
Well, it’s certainly a bit of a sea change going from recording an album in your bedroom to recording at Electric Lady. “Cicada” is actually the first song we did there, and it was truly one of the best weekends I think we’ve had. We were all so excited – it was all so new and a place that had resources that we did not have any access to in the past. Also, having a rhythm section was something that we didn’t have when recording our EP, so the sound is more filled out and dynamic. But it’s interesting to listen back to our first acoustic demo of the song, it’s much more like the Boat EP, so I think the studio process definitely had a huge effect in crafting our change in sound. Ultimately we just wanted to do something different while staying true to the minimalism of anything we had done previously.
3. I understand you’re working on a new album. What can fans expect – something along the lines of “Cicada”, akin to Fragile Mind, or something completely different?
Yes, we are still in the works on what we intend to release as a full-length album. It’s been a really interesting process in that our sessions between songs are so spaced out, always happening months apart from each other. While we’ve been very conscious of having a cohesive sound throughout each song, every track sort of inhabits its own world and carries its own vibe and style. It’s been fun approaching each song from a new angle each time and incorporating different influences. Narratively, the lyrics are akin to our EP as is the fundamental songwriting, but the end results are much different. This album will be much more like “Cicada”, but at the same time it isn’t a great barometer of what the album will be as a whole.
But it’s interesting to listen back to our first acoustic demo of (“Cicada”), it’s much more like the Boat EP... Ultimately we just wanted to do something different while staying true to the minimalism of anything we had done previously.
4. In the more than 2.5 years you’ve been together, what have you learned about yourselves as individuals? As a music collective?
Ha, oh god, what haven’t we learned?! 🙂 We have spent a lot of time with each other and have had so many good times and shit shows together. Also, we’ve seen each other in the low times and been there to support each other. As a whole, we’re all pretty sensitive people, so playing music together was easy right from the start. It’s a tough thing trying to grind it out in New York, but it can also be so rewarding and it has been great going through that process with your good friends.
5. When you have finished the composition of a song, who acts as your “sounding board” (i.e., the judges, the taste-testers)?
Our process works in stages for sure. Before we even show our band a demo, we scrutinize each strong pretty heavily between each other. If it makes it past that point, we’ll send it to Ben and our band. They’ll all weigh in and then we’ll go in and record the track, usually spending no more than one day per song. They come together pretty fast in the studio. We all have the same sensibilities, so it’s easy to all move in the same direction once we get going on something. Our good friends and family have definitely heard our tracks beforehand as they get finished and those are the opinions that we hold dear.
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