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Interview: Behind The Scenes With Wild Belle

Alex Cull spoke to Wild Belle about their forthcoming album, playing at David Lynch’s club, and flirting with the fashion world. Check out an exclusive behind the scenes film shot in Jamaica, where the brother-sister duo shot their video for ‘Keep You‘, at the bottom of the page. 

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming album Isles?  What might we expect, and what might surprise us?
We kicked things off with our single ‘Keep You’. We released a 12” single of the song on our own label, Sandhill Sound, and that was the song that introduced Wild Belle to listeners. That song definitely leans toward the island side of our sound, but there are also some songs that pull a bit more from the blues and a bit of a darker place. I think that the record tries to cover the spectrum of light to dark; there’s a lot of sunshine in a couple of tunes, and there are some dark corners of the record that deal with regret and loss – lots of joy and hope, but not without some pain.

Your music is infused with reggae influences. Is it just the sound that draws you to that genre, or do you guys also like the political nature of a lot of big reggae artists?
When you fall in love with music, I don’t think you can separate out all of the elements and pinpoint what it is that you love. There’s a sound, style, spirituality and political element that factors into so much great music – it’s the world that those combined elements create that you want to be a part of, that’s what draws you in. When you see Bob Marley holding hands with Michael Manley and Edward Seaga, leaders of opposing parties, at his One Love Peace Concert, you can’t help but realize that some musicians really do have tremendous power.

What was going to Jamaica like to film the music video for ‘Keep You’?  Did anything there surprise you?
We were so fortunate to get to spend a few days in Kingston filming with director Melina Matsoukas. Everybody that worked on the video had such an amazing warmth and generosity – it was really a wonderful experience. This was our first time working with Melina, and she is an incredible director. She was basically yelling at the top of her lungs, dancing and jumping around, hanging off the back of trucks and mopeds, all to get the shot she was looking for. Everybody had to be on top of their game to keep up with her.

You guys also have jazz influences that show up in your songs.  Do you use any elements of jazz or reggae for your live shows?
We bring in elements of so many different things into the live show. There are elements of jazz and improvisation, but at the core, we’re playing rock and roll music.

Are there any genres you’d like to explore that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
We’re always learning; you have to be a student of music for life. There’s always something new to discover, and especially when we travel so much we are always finding new things. I got to spend some time last year playing Bubu music with Janka Nabay. He’s the Bubu king from Sierra Leone. Bubu is super fast dance music and it’s hard to keep up.

How do you keep your live shows fun and exciting?  Do you do anything particularly different from night to night?
We try to have moment in the set where there is room for improvisation and variation, but we also get a great feeling from playing the same songs together night after night. The tighter the band gets, the better it feels. The audience is different every night, and so the feeling in the room changes drastically based on the vibe in the room.

You had the chance to play at Silencio. What was that experience like?
Silencio is a great place, and the people who run it are incredibly welcoming – we had a great show there. They are focused on bringing together the different elements of the arts, and have created a place that showcase how film, music, visual art, and food are all interrelated. Those places are rare. I was a part of a place in Brooklyn called Zebulon, and in a different way, Zebulon was a home for musicians and artists that were walking the line between different mediums and different genres. Zebulon just closed last week, and we’re all mourning the loss of the place.

You guys have played for parties at London Fashion Week and are generally kind of popular in the fashion world.  Are you into fashion yourselves?
We have some great friends that are very into that world, and our sister Elise Bergman is a fashion designer. We haven’t really sought out that sort of thing, but we try to let things evolve naturally. The more we work with other people, the more we realize how important it is to work with people you know and trust.

Has your brother/sister relationship affected or been affected by your collaboration as musicians?
Of course! We see eye to eye on so many things, and that makes for a pretty efficient collaboration. There are so many things that we don’t even have to talk about, because there’s already a shared vocabulary of musical ideas, sounds, colours and textures.

Finally, if you could do a live show anywhere with any performer, where and who with would you play?
I’m a huge fan of Sun Ra, and I’d love to sit in with his Arkestra. I’d play minimoog and saxophone and try to learn more about why space is the place.

Check out the video of Wild Belle behind the scenes of their ‘Keep You’ video shoot, filmed in Jamaica.

-Alex Cull

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