Apologies for the video. It appears that this is the only video available of, in my opinion, the best band for a very, very long time. I still listen in awe. It is rare to never tire of a record. This band have given me two. You must, and shall buy their albums. Today.
Album: Vessel States
Mountain*7 - for the person with nothing better to do
Album: October Language
Just for the record this interview was done back in 2006.
For anyone that might not know, Belong are a two-piece band from New Orleans that deal in warm psychoactive billows of sound. October Language, their debut album, is at once a layered exploration of chaos control (drones bleeding into the air, MBV guitars at their limits, crackling radio static) and a peaen to New Orleans- a celebration of diversity and decay. The album was actually recorded before Hurrican Katrina devestated the area, but, perhaps inevitably, a narrative has been mapped backwards onto the album, and as such the melancholy and brutality apparent take on new meanings. This interview was conducted over e-mail over the last few days and I'd like to thank Turk for his time and detailed answers. Thanks also to Todd at Carpark Records for putting us in touch.If you get the chance, check the record out. It contains multitudes.
poacher: What are you guys up to right now? What has happened since the release of October Language?
Belong: We are currently in the midst of finishing an EP, and after that we will continue work on our second album. Since the release of October Language we have been fortunate to tour America and Europe, and we have met some very interesting people through the spread of the music.
poacher: What drives your aesthetic? How do you sit down and 'plan' this kind of music, or does it come from improvising sessions?
Belong: Well, there is no set or defined parameters to the way we work. Each track has it's own circumstances. Some tracks may begin from us doodling around in the studio while others start from a definite idea that we want to try and see to it's fruition.
poacher: In relation to that, is there a sense that these songs could have gone in other directions? Is there a method of chaos to the way you work? I guess what I mean by this is that there is certain feeling of entropy to the pieces- they tend to disperse and are fluid at the edges. Is that a fair comment, or is there a rigidity to your method, a depth of control beneath the surface?
Belong: It is the control of the chaos that I feel we are most interested in... we like to create these really dense and chaotic pieces but then go in and meticulously edit and arrange it from there. So, we are not strictly interested in just chaos or control... it's both. With that said, I believe the tracks could have gone in different directions....and very often our initial ideas are transformed into something else entirely. For instance, "I'm Too Sleepy... Shall We Swim?" was initially to be a really dramatic long loud piece, but it morphed into the really quiet melancholy track it is now. We don't ever bind ourselves to our initial ideas...
poacher: There is a sense with this kind of music that it almost self-produces, is a form of found-sound, and is an organic entity in its own right. Aside from how this detracts from the obvious work you put into its creation how far do you follow this train of thought, is there any validity in Eno's idea of generative music?
Belong: I do believe there is validity to that, and I happen to be very fond of Eno's music and his ideas. I feel October Language does work in the ambient sense that Eno spoke of... I think it is an album that you can put on quietly and it can work as an organic hum in the background... but at the same time, you can play it really loud and it can totally fill the room working more in a "rock" sense. It was something that we set out to do and hopefully achieved - we wanted the album to be something that could be played real quietly which could be really wispy and easy to listen to... or you could play it really loud and get a more brutal experience from it.
poacher: Perhaps inevitably, a 'narrative' has been mapped backwards onto October Language so that it's come to stand as some sort of comment on Hurricane Katrina and the events of that time- how do you feel about this? Has it affected sales in any way?
Belong: I think the melancholic tone contained on parts of album combined with the "worn" sound of it all is the reason people have made a correlation. It's weird for us because we finished the album before the events of Katrina... but I don't think it's a bad thing that people can listen and be reminded... as far as it affecting sales, I don't think so... we are still poor... hah.
Damage caused by Hurricane Katrina
poacher: As a direct corollary to that, how much do you think place can affect sound? Is the geography and environment of Louisiana and New Orleans an influence on your sound?
Belong: If we lived elsewhere, our music would sound totally different. New Orleans has the biggest of influences on us. If you have never been, there is a beauty to New Orleans unlike anywhere else in the U.S. The city is old, and there is natural decay that has happened to it over time... we find much beauty in that natural decay, and we try as best we can to convey that in our music.
poacher: It'd be really good if you could tell us something about how Katrina affected life in New Orleans and how you responded to the treatment of the US Government. It'd also be great to know how the city has recovered and how the rebuilding process is coming along?
Belong: Well, the greater New Orleans area currently has about half the population it did before Katrina. While a lot of the historical areas of New Orleans were spared (uptown & downtown) other areas of the city were totally destroyed like the lower 9th ward, new orleans east and lakeview to name a few. The rebuilding process has been terribly slow, and I personally don't think the local government has decided yet on how to go about rebuilding the really bad areas. While it is quite surreal, life has moved on in the places that received minimal damage... uptown and downtown are pretty much back to normal with 98% of the population back and businesses have been up and running since the beginning of the year. People who were born and raised in New Orleans are very similar to people who were born and raised in New York... similar in that we absolutely adore our city and will do anything to see it back to its former greatness. New Orleans is not dead by any means...
As far as the reaction by the government after the storm, it was initially very shocking but in hindsight it is par the course. The U.S. has a long history of treating its poor like savages dating all the way back to colonial times... not much has changed in the last 400 years.
Damage caused by Hurricane Katrina
poacher: The music is genuinely emotionally affecting and in the wake of Katrina this is multiplied hugely- did you set out to make a record that plugged into certain emotions? What might have influenced this?
Belong: What's there is what comes natural to us... I don't think you'll ever hear anything overly happy or kitschy from us... it's not what we do.
poacher: In 'Tonio Kroger' Thomas Mann states that 'nobody but a beginner imagines that he who creates must feel': does music bypass this? Is there actually a strong link between music and emotion?
Belong: I think there is a strong link... I find that music easily elicits emotions in me... from excitement and happiness... to laziness and sadness. It is very nostalgic for me as well.
poacher: Despite the organic nature of the sound this music is obviously manipulated and distorted. Could you tell us something about the machines you use and the processes involved?
Belong: Obviously things are manipulated and we have a variety of process and machines that we employ. We use everything from a 4-track to a computer to achieve the sound we want. Hardware effects, pre-amps, stomp boxes, guitars, synths, software effects, plug-ins, etc... we don't limit ourselves to one aesthetic in the studio... we like the combination of old and new.
[Poacher: there is a video interview over at Gearwire where the band discuss their technology in more depth]
poacher: How do you transfer the sound to the live arena?
Belong: Since there is just two of us, it would be impossible to totally recreate the sound of the record live... even with five of us, it would be pretty impossible... Mike plays guitar though a ton of effects, and I use a midi controller and a laptop with synth and mellotron sounds which are heavily manipulated. We have a video projection that we made which is synced with our entire performance. For our next tour, we will actually tour as 3 piece... we want to try and be more of band for the live show.
poacher: You guys got any plans to tour the UK anytime soon? Will you let us know when you're coming over?
Belong: We just got back from a 5 week tour of Europe with Ariel Pink... you must have missed us ... [poacher: don't I feel like a prize prick! I always hear about these things too late!] We'll be back to promote our next record though... hopefully, we will back over there by fall of next year.
poacher: Any recommendations for us? What you listening to/watching/reading at the moment?
Belong Current Watching:
George Washington by David Gordon Green
Last Year In Marienbad - Alain Resnais
Badlands by Terrence Malick
Videodrome by David Cronenberg
Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 5
Belong Current Listening:
Junior Boys - So This Goodbye
Brightblack Morning Light - S/T
Bibio -Hand Cranked
The Normal - TVOD
Goblin - Profondo Rosso
Paavoharju - Yhä Hämärää
Skinny Puppy - Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse
Franz Schubert - PIANO TRIO IN E-FLAT, OP 100 (second movement)
Sonic Youth - Sister
Autechre - Chiastic Slide
Giorgio Moroder - Midnight Express
Belong Current Reading:
A People's History Of The United States - Howard Zinn
Anthem - Ayn Rand
The Gambler - Fyodor Dostoevsky
Slapstick - Kurt Vonnegut
Chapel of Extreme Experience: A Short History of Stroboscopic Light
and the Dream Machine - John Geiger
poacher: Once again Turk, thanks for everything and good luck in the future.
Album: Colorloss Record
Label: St. Ives
Turk from the most mighty Belong has been in touch to say that they've got a new ep out. It's called Colorloss Record and is something of a departure. I'll have more to say about it in the near future but safe to say it's a thing of understated beauty. They're a special band.
Anyhow now seems a good time to begin reposting some of the articles that got lost when the world ate our old site.... So next post is the Belong Interview from way back in October 2006. Great stuff.
The first day of The Green Man festival last year is like a balm in my mind - partly because it was so idyllic crashed out in the sun in the natural granite amphitheatre of the Brecon Beacons (and this was to be the only day when the weather was anything close to habitable); and partly because we saw so many great bands. I'm sure the two things are conflated somewhat, after all it's much easier to like a band when you're sundrunk and horizontal and not liver sick and clagged up to the pelvis in shit and mud. But...
That Fanfarlo were the first band on probably contributes to why I love this track so much and on hearing it yesterday it brought back so much of the slow haze of a grass-riding Friday afternoon that it's as much a feeling as a listening experience. That and the fact that it is, in essence, a gorgeous wee pop song. There is something in the way that Simon Aurell's languid vocal lies just behind the beat and the way in which the rest of the sound seems to hang from this like a gauze. It's genuinely warm. Enjoy.
Accompanying Track: Fanfarlo - Sand and Ice
There's more tracks available on their website and MySpace page - a new single came out yesterday too.
August 2007. I’m in the West Kootenay region of British Colombia, Canada. The Salmo River is barely a stone’s throw from me & a few thousand revellers, without holding me, keep me from falling. The sun, just above the mountains over yonder, suggests it’s early morning. I’m at the Shambhala Music Festival. It’s Sunday & Bassnectar is in full swing. Well, kind of.
Bassnectar is Lorin Ashton. And this is the first of his two sets at the festival. He’s playing at a real slow tempo. Soothing & gentle, it’s music for the mind. My body hurts, my calves are tight, I’ve perhaps been dancing for ten of the last twelve hours. Shambhala is entering its fourth & final day.
I had a copy of Underground Communication before flying from Gatwick to Vancouver. Bassnectar’s 2nd LP was released in 2007. It’s an eclectic electronic record. Compared with the contemporary underground sounds of London, England I’ve been exposed to it isn’t cutting edge. Nothing on the LP sounds innovative. All the sounds are borrowed and unfortunately diluted. But this remains a very good record, just never an exceptional one.
The last four tracks of the record reflect the sounds us revellers were enjoying this Sunday morning in August, ambient in both nature & form. The LP in the main however uses heavy bass (though not quite heavy enough) & hip-hop to provide a party soundtrack. Sadly, a fairly pretentious theme emerges that music can provide a positive force for political change (it can of course, but we don’t need to be told).
Album: Underground Communication
But on this Sunday morning Shambhala & Bassnectar felt like they were changing my world. All I could do was shuffle slowly, lifting my mass from one foot to the other. And there were a thousand or so like me. I was yearning for the drop, an avalanche of deep dirty disgusting bass. I was waiting patiently. The sun was now clear of the mountains & it was perhaps 20C. In a few hours it will be 30C. And now I see the faces all around me, and their smiles. Oh god the smiles. It was all so wonderful & I’ll never forget it. My new Canadian friend shouts in my ear, “This is the soundtrack of our lives” and my moment is complete.
Shambhala was a really good music festival. Which managed to cultivate the more desirable emotions & behaviour. And freedom. Feeling utterly free from the self & the ego. Just for a few days….ahhh. Bliss.
The set finishes. I see Ashton sign a few of his LP’s. I make my way to the Salmo & cool down in the icy mountain water.
It’s Sunday night & I’m in a clearing in a forest of trees. And I’m right at the front with perhaps a few thousand others. This is to be Bassnectar’s party set, except the bass isn’t working! Ha! But spirits are good. “Awesome”, as I have learned to say. But there are too many people for me. I stay long enough to feel the bass flow through my waters and leave to experience the naughtiness of a Canadian festival set in the most beautiful location. The smaller stages delight.
A further thought. I can’t recall which night this occurred. The power cut. The entire site was under a cloak of darkness. Complete darkness. And initially we laughed, but then we feared, and finally the wonderful relief when the power returned. To the power cut which left us in the dark & without sound for perhaps half an hour? To the power cut which allowed us to understand where we were & why. I thank you.
And thanks to Journeyman Vs Code. The DJ’s of Shambhala 2007. Least I think it was them I loved!
Accompanying Track: Bassnectar - Impossible and Overwhelming