Bell X1’s Upswing Never Ends
As my father is of Irish descent, I grew up hearing him sing one or two Irish tunes that stick with me to today. The lyrics - being as colorful as they were when I first heard them - probably comprise the reason these songs remain within my memories...not to mention my mother’s disgruntled reaction to my father’s frivolity.
In any event, since that point, I’ve never lost the taste for music arriving from 'The Emerald Isle' or colorful music, in general, which explains why Bell X1 is one of my favorite bands to-date. This band is limitless in creativity, meaningfulness, and passion.
Widely-regarded as one of Ireland’s greatest bands, whose newest body of work ARMS has the likes of vocalist Hozier marveling at their brilliance, ARMS is poised to surpass their 2013 critically acclaimed album Chop Chop, which became the trio’s third #1 album on the Irish Album Charts and their fourth consecutive album to be nominated for a Choice Music Prize for “Irish Album of the Year.” Songs The Upswing and Out Of Love are pure Irish gold, speaking to everyone and embodying all that has made Bell X1 the international sensation they have become.
There’s is a rainbow with no end in sight -- a phenomenon guitarist Dave Geraghty shares more about in the following interview:
What is the band's personal mantra?
Apart from the obvious desire to stay creatively fulfilled, with each new album, we strive to break the mold from the last and try something stylistically different. It has never been a contrived decision to do that. We just seem to instinctively react to what we've done before in this way.
Provide a bit of background on the Bell X1's history? How did you guys come together?
I had joined the ranks of ‘Juniper’ after meeting Damien Rice in 1994. When the rest of Juniper (Paul, Dom and Brian) returned from their Post-graduation summer of partying and menial jobbing in Upstate New York, we all took up residence in a draughty big country house. Damien decided to go his own way (with unfortunate timing as we were right on the cusp of recording an album). The remaining members regrouped, changed the name to Bell X1 and rose from the ashes like a Phoenix. We released our first album in 2000 through Island Records in London. We remained with them for the next two albums with subsequent releases being licensed from our own Belly Up label. ARMS is our seventh studio album.
For those who don't know you, describe your music to them.
It’s very hard to describe Bell X1’s music as we’re a mixed bag of tastes and whiffs. We’ve always tended to change things up from album to album. Even within the one album you’ll find a band that’s difficult to pigeon-hole. The predecessor to ARMS was a stripped-back album draped in Bernard Hermann style brass arrangements. With ARMS the dial swings to the other end of the spectrum with its brightly coloured blade-runner-esque palette.
Share what makes ARMS original.
I think it’s difficult for any band these days to re-invent the wheel or to be original. In the context of making an album, perhaps an original piece of art can be the sum of its parts. A diversity in the people involved and the many ideas swimming around between them. The one ideal, that we as consumers of art keep returning to, is the desire to find something that connects with us. Something we want to return to and/or share. I think originality lies in the ears of the beholder.
Explain "The Upswing", including the catalyst behind this song.
This song is about the special people in your life that lift you up and get you through the rough times. The imagery in the song that sets the scene of two friends/lovers sitting opposite each other in a remote diner. Sometimes it’s a simple eye contact or hands touching that, without words, tells someone that all will be fine because you have their back.
What have each of you discovered about yourself through this journey that you are on?
Wow….OK to return to that old adage….It’s not your job that defines you or the fame/glory that might come with it. In the real life here and now, what’s most important are people. Being surrounded by those who depend on you and on whom you depend. That’s the important struggle.
Who do you guys listen to? Include in this answer some little known bands or vocalists.
With each album we’ve produced, there has always been new music we were checking out. It has been this blend of influences that inspired and informed how we approached the album. An album is a snapshot of where we’re at as a band. With ARMS we were moved by the likes of Kendrick Lemar, Metronomy, Animal Collective, Jamie Woon, Bowie and the Bee Gees.
Briefly summarize the Irish influence upon your work.
With Irish music, the power of the story in a song has always been paramount. Irish traditional music relies heavily on a strong narrative and in some ways that has subconsciously soaked into what guides us as writers. There is a lot of good music coming out of Ireland these days. James Vincent McMorrow (we had the pleasure of touring with him on a recent US tour) is an example of mixing story-telling and song craft with contemporary production. Another artist that I think rocks is a young lady who goes by the name of 'Soak'. Here is another artist who seems to have struck a balance of timeless raw emotion in the scenes she sets with her songs.
Share a social cause or cause-based organization close to your heart.
I have recently been made aware of SumOfUs.org. It is non-profit, people powered organization. It stands up to corporations that compromise the equal rights of workers and civilians and aims to expose these companies that - through greed - carries on with no regard for the environment or those that depend on it.
When all is said and done, how do you want to be remembered?
I think it’s every artist’s dream to be remembered by the body of work that they produce during their tenure on this here planet. A project that lasts a lifetime with the final brush stroke being applied as the last breath is drawn. Either that or a plaque on a park bench with an inscription composed by someone who felt obliged to write something nice about me. Let's see how it pans out. :-)
No doubt, Bell X1’s newest release is appropriately named as you need both arms to wrap around this album and give a big squeeze. Expect it to become one of your favorites. And if you think the uniqueness of ARMS nine-song collection spans music alone, think again. The videos accompanying these tracks say it all.
Many thanks to Dave Geraghty and 37-MEDIA for making this interview possible