Del Bel – The Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of: Pop-noir.

File next to: Your creepiest and favourite mystery novels by Raymond Chandler.

Playing: Del Bel album release w/ Language Arts, Saturday April 29 @ Longboat Hall (Great Hall basement). Get tickets here!

Del Bel have been a steady if shadowy figure on the Canadian music scene for the last six years. Over the course of three albums, the Guelph/Toronto band’s sound has evolved from stirring, post-rock-inspired indie-pop into a darker, more cinematic, trip-hop-influenced “pop-noir” sound. They’ve been a part of Wavelength’s Artist Incubator program since 2013, and this weekend’s Wavelength show celebrates the release of their third album, aptly titled “III,” on their own label Missed Connection Records. Wavelength’s Emily Scherzinger talked to DB bandleader and bon vivant Tyler Belluz about media love, musical direction, and collaborating across genres.

You’ve received a lot of love from CBC, from having a single sitting at the top of their charts for quite awhile (even coming up behind Arcade Fire at #2!), as well as significant playing on q, Key of A, etc. How does all of this praise feel?

It’s always nice to see a progression in support and praise by the media, specifically the CBC. I have also worn the hat of publicist, which has allowed me to respect, understand and be grateful when someone has decided to positively talk about your project when there is zero obligation to do so.

Your music has been described as pop-noir, keeping the playfulness of pop music combined with the dark anxiety of film noir — how did you come across this sound? Was it a conscious effort to employ this musical aesthetic, or a pleasant surprise?

There wasn’t a conscious effort to steer the music in a direction that would specifically reflect these descriptions, so I believe this has was just a natural occurrence. I think in all three of our albums, I’ve been quite happy with the end result; however no album truly reflects the exact image of how I would like it to sound. I think I have a vision that I bring to the table, but as soon as you add band members with different set of skills/ education, the music is almost out of my hands. I think tonally I have the ability to control the overall musical conception of the album, but I think in a good way, the evolution of the sound is free.

Here’s why I really wanted to do this interview: I saw Nosferatu for the Arts in the Park festival last summer, for which you wrote a score, and I was amazed at how it suited the movie’s darkness and mystery. Scoring a movie is really hard work! Was the score for Nosferatu difficult to produce, as compared to your other work? What made you want to do it? Was it just a “hobby project”?

I think scoring Nosferatu was both easy and hard at the same time. Easy, in the sense that there was zero adjustment tonally and musically speaking. It was difficult for multiple reasons, one of which is that not every member knows how to read music. Secondly, the time it takes to score a full 90 minute movie is insane, so thankfully this 1922 film had many moments which where easily accompanied with style of improvising that was directed by written parameters reflecting the movie, and not on an actual musical score. With a pre-determined amount of newly written material, older songs and improvisation, I think both times we performed Nosferatu went very well.

The first single from your new album, “Do What The Bass Says,” features fast-rising Toronto heavyweight Clairmont The Second. What was it like to work with him? Have you ever worked with hip-hop artists before?

Given the advances in social media and self-recording, collaborating with Clairmont was pretty easy and fast. Aside from tour obligations, it was just a matter of lining up some deadlines to get it into the hand of our mixer. It also looks like our timing to collaborate on a track was perfect, as his schedule seems to be filling up with recent successes.

It seems like every member of Del Bel has other projects and groups on the go. How do members’ experiences with their own projects influence the music of Del Bel?

Similar to my previous answer of musical directions, each member has a specific set of skills that aren’t avoidable, but in a good way. Each player brings an influential, maybe subtle twist and turn that alters a song’s overall spectrum. I think this melting pot ultimately makes the media have a difficult time classifying the music under a normal umbrella and I do have a fun time reading reviews to see how someone else’s ears interpreted it!

Your debut album was entitled Oneiric, which describes cinematic dream sequences in film theory (at least, that’s how I’ve come across the term). Not to be rude, but your music can be pretty creepy and dark, and I’m not sure those are the dreams that I want to have! What is the story behind that name?

Well your process of looking up the term is eerily similar to the way the term was found on our end. 🙂 Coming up with song titles and album titles can been difficult, as this process is completely foreign to me. Lisa [Conway, vocalist] writes all the lyrics, so as of late (the past 2 albums, I believe), each song title has reflected the lyrical content. I feel like this process will never get easier as I’ve made zero attempt on my end to think of interesting way to verbally capture a song/album. (Hence, “III.”)

What are Del Bel’s plans for the future? Become a Canadian supergroup and take over the world à la Broken Social Scene?

I think the future of Del Bel will be looking into the direction of recording more material and moving forward. Performing live is always fun, but is becoming a financial burden without the guarantees that a band like BSS have rightfully acquired. I think everyone involved is proud of the material and have a lot of fun in the process of recording the material, and I wish to keep that going.