Bellows: Linear Abstraction & Christmas Sweaters

Editor’s Note: Since this interview, the members of Bellows changed their name to Someday River

This year, no one is more overcome with holiday spirit than Orlando experimental folk rock trio, Bellows. These sonic sculptors have been at it since 2010; and in 2013, Orlando Weekly named them Best Experimental Act. I sat down with Bellows’ lead architect Greyson Charnock to talk about Orlando music, Bellows’ progression, and Christmas cheer. Later, I was able to encroach on the band’s practice space with TVW Photographer, Karina Curto. Somehow, we ended up helping them out with their Christmas cards. Enjoy.

This Saturday, Bellows’ will be playing at Sweater Fest. Come see Orlando’s finest take over The Milk District.

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M: Within the band, do you do most of the songwriting? How does that work?

G: Some of [Bellows’] earlier material was stuff that I had written that we just pieced together and turned into this structural thing. But we’re moving more into like, I might just come up with a little idea and we all just jam on it together. Then we say, “that works, this doesn’t work.” [We] sort of separate it out into a song that’s more grooved-based. Instead of [songs] based solely on transitions, or solely on the vocals, which is something I did a lot in the past.

M: That’s what collaboration does, right?

G: Yeah. We got Sean [Boyle] on drums, and Pat [Dunn] on the bass. And they’ve really helped crystallize the band. We were a two-piece for a while, and I think there’s a lot of being deliberate as a two piece. The idea is so pure. But, now that we have a bassist, I could never go back.

M: You guys have been [playing] for like, five years… almost five?

G: Yeah, five years from our first show is in February.

M: Five years is a long time, especially for a local band.

G: I didn’t have any expectations, honestly. When I first started writing music [after] I moved to college; it took me years to grasp the idea that, “Okay, there’s a next step to this.” Before that, I had no intentions of ever playing for anybody. Even open mics, I never did [those] until Bellows. That was the first time that I ever played live.

M: Really? How did it go?

G: (laughs) It went alright. It takes a long time to get your footing in a community… now it sort of feels like I can just feel the culture building, and it’s kind of cool to be a part of it.

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M: You guys are playing sweater fest. Are people supposed to wear their sweaters to that?

G: Oh yeah!

M: Okay, okay. I have my own, but it drips glitter every time I move.

G: You leave a trail?

M: Yeah. So I feel like in a pit, everyone is going to have glitter on them and be like, “It was that [asshole].”

G: (laughs) I love it. Yeah, you got to bring a sweater and uh… Christmas vibes.

M: Now, you were talking about how you work at the UCF Art Gallery. How does that passion for visual art merge with music? How do those things collide?

G: I use one thing to fuel the other. A lot of the artwork I’ve been doing in the past couple years has been for the band. And my job at the gallery makes [Bellows] possible.

M: What more traditional artists are you into?

G: I’ll just start by saying I have a huge print in my living room that’s framed. It’s a drawing from Da Vinci. I looked it up and it was like a couple hundred bucks, but I got it for like $12 at a thrift store. But there’s something that my professors would say: your competition isn’t like, the people in this classroom. That’s your immediate competition, but your competition to push yourself is every artist that’s ever lived.

M: Wow. That’s a lot of pressure.

G: Yeah, I guess. But I can’t compare or anything like that, obviously. But I like to keep that drawing up as a reminder like, “that’s your competition.”

M: Do you do the same thing with music?

G: I compare recordings. I try not to get stuck on the style of the music… It doesn’t matter if it’s the same genre, but I try to hold myself to the same level as bands I respect. I don’t want to be like, “I would listen to this all day long, but I wouldn’t listen to my shit.”

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M: (runs out of questions) So… is there anything you want to talk about?

I love to paint too. Whenever I paint, it’s not about anything. It’s just about color. You know, working with color and blending. I rarely clean my brush. I just continuously mix colors without cleaning. It’s kind of like that with a song where you want everything to be congruent, but kind of reactive and responding to itself.

M: You guys recently put out an EP [Day Changer].

G: It’s going to be an LP. It’s not released yet. I just released a couple songs off [of it]. We’re going to be releasing one or two at a time every couple months, and then we’ll have an LP come out somewhere, probably Spring 2015.

M: How many songs we lookin’ at for the LP?

G: Well, after we filter out everything, probably 10 to 12.

M: Awesome. Well, I appreciate you sitting down.

G: Yeah, thanks for talking to me.

POP POV: Iggy Pop VS Edward Hopper

This idea has long been in the works; two pieces of art – one song, one painting – compared in theme, feeling, style, etc. Studying art is a huge passion of mine, and so often a piece of music and a painting speak to me in similar ways. Even our name “The Vinyl Warhol” came about as a combination of love for music and art history.

For my inaugural juxtaposition, I’ve selected Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger,” a brilliant cut off his 1977 solo album Lust for Life, and American realist Edward Hopper’s 1942 masterpiece, NighthawksEnjoy.

I have always enjoyed the city. Even in such an immense crossing of commuters, there is always a certain singular personality to its madness, thousands – maybe millions – of distinct lives, all unaccompanied in a sea of swirling energy. This theme flows throughout both pieces, playing off of that isolated soul.

In “The Passenger,” that soul travels – presumably by bus – through the city, viewing its “ripped backside” as if looking through a television screen. Pop narrates this transit in a low gristle. His cadence creates tone. We see the passing glow of streetlamps, the distinct urban aura. It’s cold. The sky is hollow.

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As we coast through the sleeping city in “The Passenger,” our transporter passes by a dinner. Inside, the characters of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks sit behind similar glass. This snapshot scene – the viewer peaking into this solemn metropolitan life – mirrors Pop’s croons. Hopper often captured city-goers in his work, but rarely were any of his subjects interacting with each other. The separation created between these mannequin-like forms is haunting. They sit under a bright artificial light, stark against the building’s green colors.

Although the big city brings promise of bustling nightlife, it too is the place where we can feel most alone. Pop and Hopper both knew this, and they each shared their own isolated experiences in two remarkable pieces of work.

PREMIERE: Chris Topher – “Glasshouse EP”

I am pleased to bring you this brand new single from experimental artist and dear friend, Chris Topher. On “Silent Film,” Chris delivers his usual Pollock-esque approach to music: changing tempos, spacey synths, quirky bass lines, and an intimate closeness. Keep an eye out for those spinning reversed sounds as they fly by your head. If Glasshouse EP appears to contain only one track, I would try downloading the EP – which you can for whatever price you like – and seeing if something else reveals itself. Enjoy.

Read my other ramblings about Chris’ music:

Green Machine

Introspective