Bellefire are a truly important pop band for the plain and simple reason they buck every conventional rule in contemporary pop. Whereas reality TV has created a world where an album is rush released in a matter of weeks, the fact that the band not only got dropped from their original deal with Virgin Records as part of Mariah-Gate, but then actually spent 3 years working on an album which stuck true to their routes rather than jumping on the latest pop trend is pure old school ideology. We caught up with Kelly from Bellefire to talk about how they're more similar to the likes of Norah Jones and Katie Melua than any other girl group.
Q: The comeback of Bellefire was one of those totally
unexpected events and it's been a while since you girls were last on our
shores. What's been happening the last couple of years?
A: Basically we changed record labels. So between working out contracts and then just going off and writing and recording our new album we were quite busy in the background, but for a lot of people we just disappeared. It's been a really great time cos we took all the time we needed to make the album exactly how we wanted it and have as much influence on the writing element of things so we're really happy with how it turned out.
Q: So what exactly happened with your Virgin Records
A: I'll try and shorten it out because it's a bit of long story. Basically there were problems in the company starting from America and they lost an awful lot of money due to artists like Mariah Carey that hadn't worked out. There was a big shakedown of the company and all the heads of all the main record labels throughout the world were basically sacked, including our man in the UK Paul Conroy who was the one who signed us. So naturally when he left the whole heart was out of the project in the company and eventually all the heads of departments were gone - they were either moving before they lost their jobs or they were being removed.
By the time we were releasing our second single there
was a new guy running the company and he didn't really get what we were
about and he didn't give us any promotion or anything like that...there
was nobody in the record company that wanted to work with us which was
quite sad. We were just really keen to get off the label and start again.
If was either going to continue that way at the label or get worse - we
could have stayed with the label for a year and not released anything.
So at least we could cut free and work with a label that understands what
were about and was excited about the music as we were.
Q: So while all this was happening you just continued
A: Basically while they were busy drawing up contracts with East West. We have a little studio in our house and we just got stuck into it. We just started writing and trying to gather up as many songs as we could. And then when we signed to East West we basically started recording and trying them out. I think we did the album in 3 big recording chunks. It was a really great way of writing - 3 big bursts of energy!!!
Q: You're under the Louis Walsh umbrella of acts, but
you're very different from Westlife and Girls Aloud
A: We are quite different. I think that's why he really wanted to work with us, cos he's kind of got the reputation of "the man behind the boy bands". He likes all kinds of music, everything from Soul to Country music, he's not just the man of the ballads. And I think it was exciting for him to work with girls - he always said he would never work with girls because "we're just too much hassle, too much make up and boyfriends", but I think we changed his mind cos he's taken on a couple of girls with Samantha Mumba and Girls Aloud. We paved the way!!!
Q: How did you convince him that you wanted to write
the songs and do it your way?
A: I think the only you can really convince him is by taking the initiative and going away and doing it and hopefully the songs speak for themselves. We really just recorded things in our house and took them over to the record company. It's just caught their attention and they thought they were really good. They didn't expect to be signing a band who could actually write as well, they just thought we were really great singers. When they saw what was coming out of our house they sent us over to Sweden to work with other writers as well.
Q: The song that first brought you to our attention
years ago was the cover of U2's "All I Want Is You". I heard you weren't
happy releasing it at the time cos you wanted to do your own material,
but it was Bono that insisted it was released. Is that true?
A: It's not that we weren't happy, it was just that it's kind of a dangerous thing to do - to release your first single as a cover. We were afraid of getting a backlash off that, but the reaction we got was really positive. I think people who weren't expecting to like it ended up loving it. It was quite funny as well because do you know all these reality TV shows that are happening. We were watching one in Ireland and a couple of girls got up and it was like what are you going to sing - Bellefire's "All I Want Is You" - I was in knots laughing!!!
Q: I hate to use the phrase cos it's usually used as
a form of condescension - but weren't you big in Japan for a while?
A: We had a wide mixture of songs on the album that was released in Japan. We had songs like "All I Want Is You" and then there were a few songs we'd written as well so there was a nice balance. The first record broke a few records on radio, it was getting more airplay over there than any other international band had ever done before. And it's very hard to get into the Japanese market cos there's a Japanese version of Westlife, there's a Japanese Dido and they all sing in Japanese so they tend to buy the music they understand. For some reason our sound just seemed to cross the continents borders.
The strange thing is when your performing to an audience over there they cheer really loudly, but as soon as you hit the first note of the music they just stop. It's like a wall of quiet and they just don't move while you're performing until they hear the last note of the song and then they go nuts again. It's like they don't want to miss anything. It's so different from the European audience where everyone is cheering the whole way through and singing along.
Q: Taking it up to the present day with "Say Something
Anyway" - it kind of sums up the Bellefire sound which is different from
any contemporary pop acts around today.
A: We really wanted to stay away from more production gimmicks. We wanted to just come up with good songs played by real instruments and have no samples in there. We actually worked with one of the guys who had worked with Britney Spears and he wanted to do something a little different himself. He was one of the guys that had invented that Swedish sound, but he was like "everybody at the moment keeps coming to me asking for that Swedish sound and I wanna do something else". We did lots of songs while we were over there as well, but "Say Something Anyway" he wrote especially for us and we just knew it was very us.
Q: You girls have got that crossover sound which means
you can appeal to fans of say Katie Melua and Jamie Cullum as well as the
pop fans who like Westlife.
A: I think it's probably cos were not really driven by production. We just wanted to make a timeless album and have a strong album from beginning to end. There's so many albums in the charts that you can tell have been rushed or they've got 3 great singles on it and the rest of it is just dirge. We were really determined not to fall into that category.
With all these reality TV shows it's become the fact that
bands or artists really don't have the chance to develop at all. You look
at the greatest bands in the world, for example U2, U2 have only ever had
two number 1's. They've had amazing album sales, but if they were releasing
in to today industry they probably would have got dropped after their second
single and wouldn't even have had an album out cos nobody would have given
them a chance. I think it is really refreshing that there is a little bit
of a push against the whole instant TV bands. Artists like Norah Jones
who just seem to come out of nowhere and take the nation by storm, I think
that's indicative of what people want.
Q: You co-wrote 5 tracks on the forthcoming album "Spin
The Wheel" - what's the one that touches you the most?
A: There's quite a few song on the album which I can't imagine would be good singles, but time and time again I listen to them and think i'd really like people to hear this song cos it's just so good. The weird thing is everybody who has heard the album has picked out a completely different song as their favourite. Were taking that as a good sign that we really have succeeded in making an album that is consistently good.
The single is more a way of giving people an idea of what
to expect on the album. The single "Say Something Anyway" is probably the
most vivacious song on the album...it's got a tremendous amount of energy
in the drums. It's the perfect way of coming back and saying WERE BACK!!!
Q: At the moment you're just about to start the Westlife
tour for the next 6 weeks. What's it like in the whole Louis Walsh camp
with Bryan leaving?
A: Louis is very resilient. He's been through a lot of knocks and bumps in the music industry and he's seen a lot happen. Louis is just throwing himself into working with us and then working on the new Westlife album which is going to be a duets album. I think he is determined to crack the boys in America and I saw the guys on TV last Friday and I have to say it was probably the best performance I've seen them do in a long time. Maybe they've got a new burst of energy now that they've got to prove they can carry on. I think it's just going to kick-start the band in a way that the world can't imagine.
"Say Something Anyway" is out now on East West
The album "Spin The Wheel" is released in July
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Our pop pal Kelly from Bellefire sparked our interest in the far flung world of Japanese pop and begged the question can their be such a thing as a Japanese Westlife, a French S Club 8, an Italian Blue or a German Take That?
If you live abroad and know of a great pop act that the UK simply has to know about then please email us at the address below and let us know about it