NoiseTrade One-on-One

Interview with Belly

All prayers and petitions to the ’90s alt-rock gods have been heard and Belly’s back! On the heels of last year’s exciting reunion tour, the Boston by way of Rhode Island foursome is deep in the process of prepping a brand new album for release next year. For our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One, we took the opportunity to chat with all four members to get the lowdown on getting the band back together, what it’s like to be back in the studio, their thoughts on soundtracks and covers, and more!

You can find out more about Belly’s forthcoming album via their PledgeMusic campaign here:

NoiseTrade: After a two-decades-plus hiatus, what prompted last year’s reunion tour and this year’s decision to start recording songs for a new Belly album?

Tom Gorman: Chris was really the initial instigator. He’d bring it up every now and then over the years. The final year of Belly 1.0 wasn’t really very pleasant, for a number of reasons, so I didn’t really think we’d ever do something again. But then Gail and I separately did songs with Tanya for her last Swan Song Series, and somehow things went from “No, probably not…” to “Well, maybe…” to “Yes, we’re doing this….” in a matter of a week or two. And once we got together and started rehearsing it all just made sense.

None of us are prone to dwelling in the past much, creatively-speaking, and I think we all get just as much of a thrill, maybe more, with the writing process as we do being on stage. So we figured, let’s make it interesting and do some new songs. They just started coming together very naturally. We’re all really pretty excited about the songs that make up the new record. I think we’ve managed to take what was great about Star and King and add the past 20 years of our collective experience and maturity to create some great stuff.

NT: Has the experience of playing together again – both on stage and in the studio – been marked by the old “getting back on a bike” comfortableness or has there been a learning curve to getting everything going again?

Gail Greenwood: I would say it was absolutely like getting back on the bike again. There is a certain level of comfort playing with the only four people in the world that have your same surreal and hilarious tour experiences. Finding you still share the same sensibilities and sense of humor makes it so easy. As far as working on new songs in the studio, I am so blown away by the most amazing music being brought in by everyone. The excitement of working on these new songs together is a real joy.

NT: Thinking of everything that goes into touring and recording, what are some of the biggest differences (and any similarities) between your mid-‘90s major label experience and your current chapter as a DIY indie band?

Chris Gorman: The experience we had back in the day was truly incredible, and much of it still seems very unreal. Without taking away from Belly’s early days, I have to say it has been a uniquely rewarding endeavor this time around. The nature of the band and our working relationship has evolved in a way I really wouldn’t have imagined. It’s been a pretty steep learning curve. Obviously the industry is completely different but fortunately for us the last 20 years have provided us with decent life experience and provided us with diverse skill sets, so we could evolve fairly quickly. Tanya has learned to be very self-sufficient in her solo career which makes her a great leader with this stripped down approach and definitely gives us an edge. We are all individually and collectively engaged in the daily decisions and planning – from travel to production – and fortunately we have found ourselves enjoying those tasks. Each of us weigh in on almost everything and we work very hard to make sure we are all in agreement about the choices we make.

From recording to design to photography to management, we are wearing all the hats. We are determined to outsource only the tasks we really, really can’t do. As corny as it sounds, we’ve all matured as artists. So the songwriting is much more collaborative and decisive. Technology has granted us the ability to invest a greater degree of attention into pre-production and the writing process and it allows us a greater personal control over the end result. I’m still pretty amazed that we have been able to bust this record out in such a short period of time.

NT: What drove the decision to work Paul Q. Kolderie (Radiohead, Pixies, The Go-Go’s, Dinosaur Jr.) as producer on your new songs and what has been the most rewarding part of getting back in the studio?

Tanya Donelly: Paul is an old friend and shares a history with us. More importantly, in the studio we share the same basic musical sensibilities. He and Tom are co-producing and engineering this new album and they have a strong and easy working relationship. The shorthand that comes from understanding someone musically is very important, and it saves a ton of time and confusion. Also, PQK is very good company and we love him.

NT: Belly has always had such an incredible taste in cover songs (“Trust In Me,” “Hot Burrito #2,” “It’s Not Unusual,” “Are You Experienced?”). First, are there any cover songs that you played during your original run that never got recorded? Second, are you working on any new cover songs for live shows or possible recordings now?

Tom Gorman: None of us have big mental catalogs of cover tunes we can pull out. We’re not going to be the ones around the campfire leading the sing-along! But when we decide to do a cover, we’re pretty good at making the song our own. I’m proud of our choices and executions cover-wise. They’ve all been a lot of fun to do.

There aren’t any long-lost covers we did back then. What we recorded and played is all out there. However, we did just record a version of “Hushabye Mountain” from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that we’ll be initially releasing exclusively through Pledge Music in the next week or two.

NT: Finally, during your initial run as a band, Belly appeared on some really cool ‘90s soundtracks (With Honors, Mallrats, Tank Girl, Twister). Are there any movies from the last five years or so that you would’ve loved to be on the soundtrack?

Tanya Donelly: Wonder Woman and Moonrise Kingdom.

When writer Will Hodge (@will_hodge) isn’t crashing his bike down the stairs, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack