RENDEZVOUS: A Quick Catch Up The Uplifting Bell Ends
As the name might suggest, The Uplifting Bell Ends don’t take things too seriously. Their laidback garage-rock is full of groovy guitars, vintage warmth and good time vocals. We caught up with lead singer James French to chat about their current tour, band dynamics, and Brian Wilson.
As always, please press play below to enrich your reading experience.
You released your latest single ‘Listen’ late last year. Can you tell us a bit about the recording process for that track?
That song was pretty much recorded like all the other songs. Originally all we had was the chorus (which if you’ve heard the song you’d know isn’t that much) and the recorder bit. We then just chucked in a catchy riff and some seriously deep lyrics and we had a Bell End song. Never fails.
What is The Uplifting Bell Ends’ usual creative process like?
We record everything in Uncle Mark’s lounge room where we aren’t burdened by all the pressures of recording in a ‘proper’ studio or having ‘proper’ jobs. We generally start with the chords and then make it up as we go along. Which is probably why there are some pretty questionable songs of ours out there.
There’s a real vintage authenticity to your sound. How do you achieve that vibe and do you prefer listening to a lot of older artists?
The vibe is achieved by using a pretty cheap and outdated recording platform. We use a Roland VS1680. We use to have a Roland VS880 but it killed itself after Super Giant II. We’re a pretty superstitious bunch of people so we took that as an bad omen and decided to never make a song like ‘Super Giant Returns’ ever again. There have been a few close calls on Super Giant III but some of the Bell Ends are more vigilant than others and they put a stop to it before it caused any serious trouble. We also pretty much only listen to ‘Pet Sounds’ so it’s hard for us to imagine how else music is supposed to be sound. Our favourite Beach Boys is Brian.
What’s the dynamic of the band like - what’s everyone’s role?
Good question. Chet Tucker is pretty new to the group, replacing Lucas Taylor on drums, and he’s pretty quickly taken control over of the band. Second in command would be Josh Stone, followed by Jack Whittingham, then Luke Moroney, and then at the bottom is James French. It’s a dynamic that really works for us. If one of us has a problem we just consult a more superior member of the band and they deal with the problem as they see fit, whether that be taking the issue higher or implementing measures of their own within their level of authority. However, we understand that this dynamic isn’t perfect, and it occasionally does result in coup, but generally every new form of band leader we get in is no different to the one we just replaced.
You don’t seem to take yourselves too seriously. What’s The Uplifting Bell Ends philosophy on life?
We take ourselves very seriously. If we appear to be enjoying ourselves or forgetting how our songs go or not using a set list, it’s because we want to convey that imagine to the audience. Being a lazy and unimaginative band is all the rage at the moment, so we try our best to fit that mould.
You’re releasing a new album in a few months. What can people expect to hear on the new album?
People can expect to hear all about our love lives. Songs mostly of pain and loss. There is actually a five-and-a-half-minute song about butterflies and caterpillars. This album is going to put Sydney on the map. Despite our band’s dynamic sounding very totalitarian, we believe that outside of the band, The Uplifting Bell Ends are the people’s band. The music we make doesn’t belong to us as much as it belongs to the all the people of Sydney and the Illawarra Region.
What’s one of the weirdest instruments or recording techniques you used on the new album? If you don’t already know the Bell Ends you’d probably think that the double recorder is pretty weird. There is also a tin whistle on the closing song. Other than that it’s pretty standard Bell Ends.
You’ve been on the road the last couple of weeks. For those who haven’t seen you live yet - what do you want people to feel when they walk away from one of your shows?
We know what we DON’T want them to feel. We don’t want them to feel that they can approach us after the gig and FEEL that it’s ok to try and play one of the recorders or talk to us about King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. We don’t know King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and from the sound of the group’s name it’s probably not something we do want to know. Also, we’d really appreciate if people would stop yelling out old songs that we clearly have no intention of playing. We don’t use a keyboard anymore so we’re not likely going to be playing ‘Soup’ or ‘Milk’ or ‘Poison Moth Kingdom’. We used to play ‘Poison Moth Kingdom’ with a full brass section, so I guess you missed out.
Who are some local Aussie musicians that you’re listening to at the moment?
Like we said earlier in the interview, we really only listen to ‘Pet Sounds’ so we can’t really answer this question that well. All we can say is that Miles Myjavec is our favourite drummer and that The Friendly Friends are a good band.
Finally, you obviously have an ear for music. How do you go on the dance floor?
We don’t really dance. ‘Pet Sounds’ is more of a thinking record. I don’t think Brian Wilson ever really danced.
Catch The Uplifting Bell Ends live at the below:
Friday 8th February - Park House (Mona Vale) w/ Crocodylus + The Jim Mitchells
Friday 15th February - Marlborough Hotel (Newtown)