I encountered who could quite possibly my favourite Sydney band, Belles Will Ring way back in 2006 when they opened for Death Cab For Cutie. I walked in pumped to see Transatlanticism unfold before my ears and eyes, but was completely carried away by the beautiful sounds of psychedelia washing over me. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before – a gorgeous thing that seemed to restore my faith in the Sydney music scene. The way the chords and sounds just seemed to wash over the crowd, floating softly in small lush fragments on air.
Anyhoo, I got the opportunity to interview the lead singer Liam Judson about the writing process, and the songs they were looking to unleash with their new album (which they’re currently working on). As music editor of Vibewire, I banged it up here. Also accessible below..
RINGING BELLES OF PSYCHEDELIA
Belles Will Ring released an exquisite slowburn of retro psychedelic sounds to critical acclaim last year with their debut Mood Patterns. Liam Judson sat down to discuss the band’s upcoming show and writing for the new album.
Belles Will Ring entered the Sydney music scene like the proverbial slivers of sun on a dreary rain-drenched afternoon. At a time when the aural landscape felt saturated by electro beats and 80s disco revival, the Blue Mountains band offered some purer retrospect via simple melodies and refreshing though oddly seductive psychedelia. The fact that it’s barely been two years since the band started out is hard to fathom, especially considering the release of their debut LP within their first year of existence.
“Things happened for us really quickly, which was great, and that was one of the things that people would always point out,” says Liam Judson, lead singer and guitarist. “They’d say ‘oh Belles Will Ring, they’re so fresh, they’re so new, they’ve only been around for x amount of months or so’, and that kind of thing always sort of follows you around. But then you think, there’s absolutely nothing new about us anymore. We’re totally old, right now.”
There’s a self-deprecating quality to the band despite their serious pursuit of music. The bespectacled Liam in particular has a tendency to find things to keep his hands busy as we talk on a quiet night at The Annandale. The earnestness about the new record and the stuff that inspires the band is tangible in the way he talks and the much-loved sounds of Mood Patterns.
“A lot of people said it was really retro and all, and I understand that. There’s no hiding the fact that we’ve taken a lot of inspiration from a lot sounds over the late 60s,” he concedes. “But I like to think that [our music] is the sound of modern music.”
He appears adamant in making the distinction between old and new, as we start talking about new bands. “I sort of get freaked out by bands who do 60s bands really well,” he says, a sense of quiet observation in his tone. “They even do the suits and sort of mod haircuts, and everything is just so spot on, that it’s all kitsch, and you wonder how really relevant it is.”
When asked if there’s any pressure to live up to the first album and the prospect of suffering “second album syndrome”, Liam shakes his head.
“I’ve never felt the need to think, ‘oh how does this compare to Mood Patterns’. I haven’t even listened to Mood Patterns for a while,” he says. “And if I was freaked out about it, I would probably try to be infused from what I should do. If we like it, then there’s a good chance that a whole bunch of other people will like it, cuz you know, we’re not that weird.” He pauses. “I like to think we’re not, I know we are fairly strange people.”
With a new single looking to be released by the year’s end, Liam and fellow band mate Aidan Roberts have been holed up in the Mountains region for the past few months writing new songs. With recording being done in various rooms in his folks’ house, we can expect similar Belles’ compositions, more distinct highs and lows and “hopefully, it’s less ‘oh it’s a retro record’.”
“It’s not gonna freak people out, though it is a bit of a left turn,” Liam says of the new sound. “It’s probably a bit more varied in a sense that it’s different to Mood Patterns, it goes to more extremes. The first one has a kind of walking tempo to the whole thing, it was crusier, whereas this one is probably a bit more severe and it probably a bit softer too.”
The song-writing process doesn’t seem to have been entirely difficult, with old songs being brought out from the dusty memory banks pre-debut, and new ones being written moments before recording sessions. That said, Liam admits to having rather few recollections of the writing process.
“Who knows where the songs come from,” he says, fiddling with my tape recorder. “I don’t know where I write them, how I write them. They just end up there. I have no memory of writing them.” He takes a moment to consider the previous record. “I sort of remember writing Coldest Heart, sort of. It was in a particular room in my folks’ house in the mountains, and I thought that’s a great tune.”
With their live shows, audiences familiar with the original five-piece line up will notice the absence of one particular keyboardist, Jacqui Schlender. Liam says that just like any band, “we just had to split apart for several reasons – it’s not a big thing. That was Belles Will Ring then, this is Belles Will Ring now.” This definitely hasn’t affected live performances, as recent reviews have continually lauded. It’s all a case of keeping it “fresh” and new as they quietly permeate the live music scene.
“Some songs, we probably don’t play as much now because there were songs we playing a whole lot when you first start out, but the beauty of that is that when you stop playing it for like six months, and then you just think, ‘yeah let’s pull this out’, and it’s the freshest thing you could do.”
Belles Will Ring seem to have mastered the pleasing bridge between old and new, melding it to create the sound of a retro-futurist. Going by the success of their live shows and the melodies that seem to induce sporadic skipping through meadows, the band have definitely created an intriguing niche.
“What we’re always trying to do is to create music that just totally surrounds. We want the sound to be kind of dancing around you.”