The magnetic stage presence of Wild Belle, the psych-pop-ska-reggae-funk-rock-jazz band powered by brother and sister duo Elliot and Natalie Bergman, was a big draw on Sunday at The Meadows Festival, so we were psyched to talk to them after their show. And right down to the whiskey question, they had unique answers for everything. “We like Bulleit,” Natalie started to say, before her brother corrected her with a laugh. “No, we only like Judson & Moore,” said Elliot. “I’m just kidding. Our dad is starting to make whiskey though. That’s the name of their new distillery in Chicago.” Turns out their family not only appreciates good whiskey, but good music as well. “We grew up listening to Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Michael Jackson…” Natalie reminisced happily. “I was always singing. Our parents have an eclectic style, and they were always turning us onto stuff.”
“We kind of started collaborating when I had a band called NOMO,” explained Elliot, referring to the Afrobeat band he has been a part of since college. “Natalie came on tour with that band when she was like 16.” The duo confirmed their origin story; that a young Natalie had decided an instrumental track her brother was working on needed some vocals, and stayed up all night writing and recording them in GarageBand – the end result prompting them to branch off and start Wild Belle together. “GarageBand is still my number one recording tool. I mean, as much as I hate to be an advocate for Apple products,” Natalie laughed, “iMovie and GarageBand are my two main uses of a computer. I make all the videos in iMovie and I record all my songs in GarageBand before I take them into the studio.” She also confirmed that the compilation of trippy, vintage film clips that appeared behind them during their Meadows set was something she created in the same fashion. “I’m working on that,” she said with a grin, as if the effect weren’t already awesome.
“We’re finishing a new album right now,” she revealed right then, her excitement bubbling over. “I don’t know what it’s called yet. It’s a blend of both Isles and Dreamland, and I think it’s an evolution of our sound. I’m really stoked on the record, because sonically, we’re experimenting in ways that we’ve never done before. And that’s the goal as an artist. You want to try new things, and you want to sort of out-do yourself from the last record you made. We’re just trying to create a universe of sound and imagery and soul, and we’re just trying to make sense of our world right now.”
“We’re nearly finished with the new album, so it’s fun to try out new material in our live shows,” explained Natalie. “The new record is very political and it’s very… scary. And beautiful. It’s hard not to write about what’s happening in the world right now because it’s affecting all of us. And we need to address certain issues that some people don’t really have a voice to express. We have this amazing platform and we need to do something smart with our music. And we need to help people.” When asked what causes they’re most passionate about, she replied, “I mean…it’s race, gender, sexual orientation; it’s everything,” before Elliot said suddenly, “It’s love.”
“We have people that are preaching hate from the biggest pulpits – like the president,” Elliot commented. “There’s just so much hatred, and what we can do is combat that with love.” “Love is our only option right now, for survival,” his sister agreed, repeating the sentiment. “Love is really the only option for survival.” After affirming that the current climate has been a catalyst for songwriting, Elliot explained, “There’s an urgency right now. We don’t want to put this out in two years, you know? We want to say something now. There’s an urgency about the time we’re in, and media happens so quickly – the president communicates via Twitter.” “It’s so fucked up,” said Natalie, the two refreshingly unashamed to share their views.
“No matter what, you’re going to piss off some fan somewhere in the world,” she noted. “And honestly, we’ve had such a loyal fanbase, that I think they’re open to listening.” “That’s one way that you love your audience too,” said Elliot. “You tell them to wake the fuck up. If you have an audience, that’s a powerful thing, and it’s your responsibility as an artist to speak to your fans. It’s hard to know what to tell people right now,” he paused for a moment, glancing at Natalie while he pondered their message. Then he opened his palms and said simply, “Love your brother and your sister.”
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley