IE: How difficult is it to collaborate with your sister [Natalie Bergman] in Wild Belle? Isn’t the point of growing up to escape your relatives?
Elliot Bergman: There’s benefits and drawbacks because we’re very close. We’re pulling from all the same reference points. We grew up knowing all the same songs. She grew up stealing records from my record collection. There’s a lot of that common vocabulary in terms of humor, in terms of understanding visual references. We’re coming from the same place so I think it makes it a lot easier to arrive at a place we’re both happy with. We have few filters in terms of how we talk to each other. I think it gets uncomfortable for some people around us. We don’t have a lot of screens to filter conflict. It can be pretty out in the open.
IE: So much buzz surrounds the band – even Vogue is taking notice – but it all revolves around two songs.
EB: We keep joking that maybe we’re actually not going to put out a record – we’re just going to start a new band and release one song [laughs]. We’re just really eager to get the record out because it’s done and it’s great. That’s why I want people to come out and see us live. Getting everything ready for the record takes a while so it’s not going to come out ’till February, which feels like an eternity to us. We just want to be able to share our music with people and have them get a fuller sense of what we’re about because the record has a lot of different elements to it. There’s stuff that pulls from an island feel, there’s dirty, bluesy stuff. The record is sort of the full picture and all you’ve sort of seen now is the little snapshot.
IE: You could write an additional album’s worth of songs by the time February rolls around!
EB: I think that’s really what we’re going to try to do – keep writing and keep recording and you know, maybe we’ll have album two under wraps before album one is even out.
IE: Is Wild Belle captivated by the sounds of the Caribbean because you and Natalie suffered through brutal Chicago winters growing up?
EB: I don’t know. Maybe that’s a subconscious yearning in our music. We love Jamaica. We were just down there in Kingston and it’s just such an amazing culture. We visited Studio One and we bought basically more records than we could carry back. All our luggage was overweight and we had to sort of sweet-talk the baggage people into checking our bags. So, we’re definitely really drawn to the sounds of that early rocksteady, early reggae stuff and maybe it is because we have this sort of wintry Midwestern climate to deal with.
IE: Is traveling to Jamaica and getting to hang out in Studio One a dream come true?
EB: It was definitely a dream come true. Some musicians down there took us under their wing and showed us around all these amazing places – different beaches and a waterfall where Bob Marley used to run to every day. You go to Studio One and they’re like “well, that’s the bass that we used.” And you’re like, “what do you mean?” Andthey’re like, “that’s the bass” and you’re like, “oh, that’s the bass that’s on like every Studio One record.” It’s just cool to see. You find a lot of the greatest music is made without elaborate technology. People working with limitations and restrictions – that’s often where the music that has the most impact on us is made. It’s something that’s direct and emotional and sometimes just being able to connect with a voice on a song is really what the essence of recording is about. It’s easy to lose sight of that in studios where there’s just infinite potential and infinite options.
IE: Since signing with a major label, has anyone at Columbia Records asked you to shave off your beard?
EB: We were hanging on the beach the other day and this Rasta dude – he had been in a popular reggae band in the ’90s that was on a major label and toured all over – and he was talking about how music is the sticker that they give away. Just like basically the music business [is] just trying to sell an image. It’s unfortunate, but that’s not really the experience we’ve had. The team around us is very musically driven. They’re really excited; they’re music fans.
IE: Moment of truth. Are you a Cubs fan or a Sox fan?
EB: I’m going to have to say I’m a Sox fan.
Wild Belle plays the Hideout Block Party And A.V. Fest at the Hideout on Sept. 15.
About the Author: