CMJ 2009 Interview: Bellflur

Written By:

Gareth Jones

21st October 2009
At 11:45 GMT

4 comment(s)

Some musicians consider their music to be art, Bellflur are one of those very collectives that not only think it but actually take every aspect of making music to an artistic level. From peculiar promotional shots, to intriguing album artwork, it's all beautiful and that's without even mentioning the actual music they create. 

Bellflur will most certainly be one of the highlights from the plethora of excellent bands playing this years CMJ and after talking with Carlos from the band, we're only more excited to see what this four piece has in store for us. 

SG: Can you describe to our readers what exactly your music and history encompasses? Such as how you all met and what sound you try to achieve with your music.   

Carlos: Well, this band has been around since the early 2000's. There have been several different line-ups which has brought many different tastes/styles to the ideas we write. In the beginning we were all friends or friends of friends that we played music with. During this time the scope of what everyone listened to was very different and although it was fantastic to listen to music and be playing styles you possibly never would have on your own, it did make things somewhat more difficult to end up with something everyone was happy with. The group we have now is a solid core of players and a pretty consistent group of friends who contribute who have different tastes in music for sure, but who all head towards a similar end point with each piece. 

The group we have now all met through ads looking for players, which is somewhat strange for me as its the first time I used postings to find players and ended up finding three great musicians. I had low hopes for searching that way initially, but each new member made me a little more confident when posting again.      

I think what we go for is something a reviewer once wrote, making sad things/ideas sound somewhat pretty. Just as simple as that I would guess. I like sad songs but without relying on anguished singing styles and minor chords to get the point across. I like simple melodies layered on top of one another and having the vocals get lost in those melodies so that songs seem like a wash of colours rather than a diagram. They Might Be Giants do this, but with a more skewed ratio of sad lyrics to happy music than we do. 

Ideally I would like to play music that people can sit in and around but not feel obligated to pay strict attention to. I really want to be a able to play a tour where people offer up their living rooms to us for a night of dinner for friends with us as their musical guests after the main course. This has been tricky to book. But I am not giving up on it yet. If anyone out there wants entertainment for dinner guests please write to Carlos at bellflur@bellflur.com. I promise to answer emails and we promise to be polite dinner guests and will respect your dwellings.

SG: I've seen some rather peculiar promo images of the band in various animal masks, is there any reason for these costumes? Or just a random idea?

Carlos: Those photos came from an idea I had for artwork for our new EP. While living in an old farmhouse mansion in Potomac, Maryland there was an old upright piano in the backyard, near the horses which was left there for some sort of future use which never occurred. It had become the target of crossbows, paintballs guns, and birds. Everytime I would drive away at night my headlights would show a piano appear out of nowhere with deer around it. The idea for the animals being in the suits just sprung from that picture. I enjoy the idea of animals in suits using abandoned instruments to make spooky music during the night.

SG: By the looks of things, you're influenced by other creative realms such as art and film etc.... is this true? Do you have other hobbies besides music that you can tell us about?      

Carlos: I think we are influenced by everything we experience each day. I think living near a major metropolitan city is a large influence on what we do without direct of knowledge of the stimulus. Just watching the traffic on the beltway and thinking about everyone around you or getting on the metro and watching everyone go to work and come home.     

Apart from that though, I think films/music/and art in general play as important a role in what we do as with anyone else. We like films, I do to see one every other week, and I ravage my girlfriends Netflix account. I wanted to pursue painting and comic book illustration when I was younger but dropped out of that field before I started college. I find myself back in it now that I make artwork for our group and I have fun doing that. Other hobbies include construction....... pretty much that right now. We have been building an apartment complex and practice/show area in warehouse outside of DC and have just started prepping the building of a half pipe. I have always wanted to skate. At our last spot in Potomac we had a empty pool that we played show in and skateboarded in. Well, some of us skateboarded. Not me. Really am no good. And we had a paintball field, which was always a lot of fun.

SG: Have you ever been to NYC before? What can you tell us about your expectations or experiences with the city?      

Carlos: Yes, we have been to New York plenty of times. Tom grew up on Staten Island so we always have our own tour guide as well. It is always an adventure playing a show in New York, and always feels like you are fighting against a hundred bands on any given night for an audience. This is both daunting and part of what makes it fun. For anyone to bring people in and keep them there in NY they have to offer something interesting. Interesting can be any number of ideas, but people are not afraid to fold there arms and walk out during a number or musings between songs. Music is in no ways a competition, but it feels nice to offer something to an area so densely populated with music that they stick around for a bit.

SG: Have you ever played at CMJ or a similar festival? Is there anything in particular you enjoy about these sort of events, whether you're attending or performing?      

Carlos: We have never played CMJ or a festival like it before. We have wanted to play it for a while but hadn't found a spot. I have a fascination with the idea of it being an unusual sensory overload. The idea that all these clubs in New York have so many different types of music playing at once..... I mean, its like that everyday in New York, but it seems hungrier in an event such as this. I feel that all the bands involved are bringing their best performance they have and one after the other from the start of the festival to the finish it will be not only music being performed but maybe the most honest aspect of each band playing on stage. The idea is amazing that you can walk into some many clubs at once and not see anyone phoning in their performance, but artists trying to get across what they are creating as best they can. Live shows are fun to watch, but I feel that seeing a performance that means much more to the individuals is much more fulfilling. Both as a musician and someone who loves hearing music.

We, on the other hand, will be phoning it in like nobody's business. On an old rotary phone no less. One slow dial at a time. Cuz you gotta set yourself apart!

SG: Who will you be playing with at CMJ and what do you have planned for the evening? 

Carlos: We have different size line-ups for different shows depending on players schedules. One of our last shows in DC was at the Black Cat and we had to annex the DJ both or our horn section. Over the past couple years we have been a four-piece primarily, but that show was a nine-piece. This show will be a 6-piece with Tom, Patrick, Hunter, Barry, Dana and myself. That being said, we will have horns and strings for this set. Something we are trying to bring regularly as we like to write song with dense layers and its tough to pull that off live with 4 players.

SG: If you could only go and see one band during the week and no others, who would it be? 

Carlos: This is a tough question because I have a few friends whose bands are playing the festival. So I will choose not to pick between friends and say Múm, from Iceland. I saw them in DC years ago and thought that they were amazing. I have all of their albums. I believe that they have a different line-up now and I want to see what they are doing. Our drummer at the time thought that the drummer from Múm was one of the best he had seen live............. but check out a band called Deleted Scenes from DC. We have played many shows with them and they are worth spending time with.

SG: Is there anything that we should look out for from Bellflur in the near future? 

Carlos: Well, I think that we have some nice music coming out. We are just about to release a EP, Last Quarter of the 20th Century Blues, in November. Then we have a new full length album coming out in March, by the name of asleep.asleep.  After that we are going to be recording another little album which will be released on vinyl. I don't know when that will be coming out, but hopefully not too long from now. We just want to keep recording ideas and putting them out.

Bellflur - 'Grey Sparkle Finnish Pigs'

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