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Belleruche - Clockwatching

Belleruche - Clockwatching

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Nov 04, 2010
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67 times
Why do we like this?
Belleruche is a UK-based trio composed of DJ Modest, Ricky Fabulous, and Kathy deBoer. The band started out independently releasing 7" vinyl recordings themselves, handprinting each sleeve in their apartments. Since then the trio has gotten steady acclaim for a particular brand of music they describe as "turntable soul." Drawing equally from jazz, old soul, electronica and more, Belleruche is truly a breath of fresh air to the jaded listener. Their latest opus, 270 Stories, is a collection of confident, smoky tunes that sound as though they would be  at home in a dusty jukebox in a London bar.

Indie Shuffle caught up with the trio to ask them a few questions on their history and their latest album, 270 Stories.

The new album, 270 Stories, sounds more relaxed and confident, as if you have really become comfortable in your own skin. How would you say you've evolved since the early days of Belleruche?

Ricky: Just having played together for the last 4 years has resulted in us being more open and receptive to each other's ideas and better at developing them.

Modest: We've certainly learned a lot about making records -- we've got a better kit now -- we can listen to more than 40 seconds of a song at a time on our new computer! We've never made a plan, so we're never really sure about what we are going to do next, but I think we are learning from our mistakes.

Kathrin: It's inevitable that after 4 years of working together, we are going to understand one another and build on what we have done previously"¦ maybe this album is an evolution from the last two in sound production and musical ideas.

You have made a name for yourselves through your live performances. How has your approach towards performing live evolved since you first started gigging? Do you make music with the live aspect in mind or is that something you figure out once you have to perform?

Modest: We are less drunk now. And we have better equipment.

Ricky. We are a lot more confident playing live, and in the studio we mess around with the same attitude that we take on stage.

Kathrin: Trial and error. We make music that we all enjoy playing. Since we started out making it all up as we went along, we have our roots in figuring out quickly what works and what doesn't.

You've famously described your sound as "turntable soul," even naming your first album after the term. What exactly do you mean by that term and how did you arrive at it?

Kathrin: We found that we fell between traditional genres and we tried to define a term that describes what we do as best we could; I think it's still the most accurate way of describing our music.

Modest: I think that was (and still is) the point. We find it very hard to define what we do, which is something we are quite proud of. We thought of the phrase to try and persuade others to think that way too.

Ricky: It's like walking into a record store and making a mixtape without looking at any of the sleeves.

What insight did you gain from releasing the 7"s through your own label when you were first starting out?

Modest: I think putting out (and investing your own cash in) a 7" record shows that you are serious about what you have made. Anyone can put out mp3s, but to release a 45 takes some work -- it forces you to work within the restrictions of the medium too. It's hard to release a 10-minute pro hip-hop record on a 4-minute piece of vinyl.

Kathrin: There is a lot to be said about self-releasing; to be involved at every step of the process from recording the music to distributing the 7"s in record shops around London is really interesting. We sat in Modest's flat screen-printing record sleeves, cutting and gluing them together... and at the end, we felt a real sense of achievement. It's a lot of work, but I think we all found it really rewarding.

Ricky: Releasing 7"s ourselves really makes you think about what you're making due to the money and time put into it. It also feels good that when it's finished, you know that's how the song will sound forever as there's no going back on it. Gives you a feeling of a finished product.

What current artists, musical or otherwise, do you draw inspiration from?

Modest: Buck 65 is someone I have been listening to a lot recently - his "20 years" releases have been amazing in parts, some really jaw dropping songs and ideas. I like a lot of the stuff coming out on Strange Famous Records and Bully Records, along with Rhymesaayers -- stuff like Sage Francis, Sixtoo, Atmosphere, and Brother Ali. They seem to push boundaries of what can be considered hip-hop music without losing focus of just making it good.

Ricky: There's some amazing music around at the moment. I love bands like The xx and Klaxons.

What is the creative process like? Does the music get fleshed out before lyrics are added or do themes in the words affect the creation of the music?

Modest: We always work on ideas together - it's never a case of "here's the song, now write the lyrics." We normally just kick around ideas over evenings in the studio until we give up on the bad bits.

Ricky: I think we tend to interpret songs differently. Often, something I think is quite positive the other two will think is quite down. This pushes songs in different directions, as a song can often sound one way even if the lyrics are pushing the other.

Kathrin: Each song is a bit different, even though we have worked together for some time now we are consistently doing things slightly differently.

Your own music has hints and references to a wide range of music, from electronic to blues to hip hop to jazz. What is it that you see as a common thread between all those different kinds of music?

Modest: I don't think it's easily definable, but you can hear the same thing in a 1929 blues recording that you hear in a brand new bit of electronic music from Berlin - if it has that indefinable "thing" that makes sense and connects to you, then it will be an influence, whatever it is.

Ricky: If the music's good, then it's just good. I think there's a certain type of music I like, but I couldn't define what that is. I just I know what it is when I hear it.

What musical goals have you yet to attain? What keeps you motivated to continue being innovative and creative?

Modest: I'd be really pleased to put together a regular club night where we could curate the music and try out new stuff with different musicians. It's something we've had in mind for some time, but it's very hard to get done when we are moving about so much. I'd really like to get a string section and 3 scratch DJs on stage for example - I get really excited when I see different line-ups in bands, and really bored when the same bass drums guitar and voice set up takes to the stage.

Ricky: I feel pretty lucky that Belleruche gives me a channel to try out ideas through the songs we write. There's so much amazing music I hear that really makes me want to write and try new ideas. I couldn't say what's left to attain, as there's so much yet to hear.

Kathrin: I'd love to be invited back to the Montreux Jazz Festival and play at the North Sea Jazz Festival.  I'd really like to just keep making whatever comes to us and hope that people like it enough to make it possible!

Do you have any solo aspirations or individual projects you are working on?

Modest: Apart from the 3 DJs and string section project, I'm just concentrating on trying to get some more mix cds done with weird records I've found around the world. We are always open to ideas though, so if anyone wants to collaborate on something odd, get in touch.

Ricky: No solo projects so to speak. I play traditional jazz, with me on guitar and my girlfriend on clarinet, every Thursday when we're both free. It's a really fun thing to do together, which is ultimately the good thing about music I guess.

Kathrin: What about Agent Muff and the Muff Tones? Ricky is going on about touring with them all the time! I think we might all be a bit too busy to contemplate it!
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