We’re big fans of Wild Belle, in case you hadn’t noticed. The brother-sister duo Natalie and Elliot Bergman combine a cooler-than-thou ska vibes with a laidback Afro-pop twist that doesn’t sound like anything else out there right now. Check out our interview and their new video for ‘Backslider’ here.
So how did Wild Belle start up?
Natalie: We came together about a year ago, but throughout our lives we’ve been playing music together forever. Elliot was recording a new record [with Afrobeat band Nomo] in the studio and then invited me to come in and we started recording some of my songs, and it just grew into something different.
You guys are siblings. So who’s older and who’s the boss?
Elliot: Come on now… I’m much older!
N: Elliot always invited me to come along on tours with his other band so I just felt comfortable playing with him and his musician friends at an early age. He’s definitely a guide and an influence. Elliot’s turned me onto a lot of great music at a young age.
E: But she’s very an adventurous musical consumer so she quickly took my Pharaoh Sanders and Sun Ra records, then a lot of my African funk records. We both kind of have pretty eclectic taste and that filters into Wild Belle in different ways. But Natalie is really the driving force, she writes these great pop songs that we can then doctor up in whatever way we like.
So how do songwriting duties work between the two of you?
N: A lot of the time I’ll bring in a demo to the studio, we’ll try something out on a synthesiser or just on a simple piano and then maybe we’ll use 808 on a song rather than the crappy drum set in the basement. It’s just a different process every time. Lyrically I’ve written all of the lyrics on the record. I like lyrics, I like words.
What’s the best gig you guys have ever played?
Elliot: We played at the Hideout Block Party, which is in Chicago that’s like, our hometown there. It was definitely the biggest show we’ve played, there was like 5,000 people there. But that place is a very special place in Chicago that we’ve come up through and the people who run it are a husband-and-wife team, Tim and Katie Tuten. Tim gives these elaborate speeches before every band, they take 10 minutes and he acts like you invented music or something!
Have you ever found people dismissing you and saying, “Oh yeah, two white kids making reggae-influenced music, whatever”?
E: I’m sure that’s coming soon, but we don’t have too much opposition in terms of that kind of stuff. People are pretty open-minded about what sort of sounds you can make and what kind of sounds you can enjoy and treat respectfully. We try to be honest people and honest musicians and hopefully that comes through in the music too. It’s not a lot of like, put-on attitude or image. We try to just make music that we love.
You played Vogue Fashion Night Out, you played the Serpentine Party last month – how do you feel about all the buzz around you guys?
N: We’re kind of like, ‘Can we just go on tour now?’
E: We’re excited to get our record out so people can finally understand us, whereas right now they’ve just had a few little glimpses. We’ve already made the record and it sounds real good – but we’re ready to start recording the new record.
Elliot, did you ever expect to end up in a band with your little sister?
E: Yeah. I just had to wait for her to be old enough to get into bars.
Words: Zing Tsjeng