SLOWLY BUT surely Bell X1 developed from a creative and highly entertaining Kildare band, doing the college circuit under the name of Juniper, into an Irish phenomenon called Bell X1 who are on the edge of breaking America.
Bell X1 are currently touring America on the back of their latest album Bloodless Coup. Galway audiences would have first come across the songs when the band previewed them during last winter’s mesmerising acoustic gig in the Town Hall Theatre.
Bloodless Coup brings the band deeper into the world of their idols, namely Talking Heads, not that that is a bad thing, although their lyrics are wonderfully unique to Bell X1 and Bell X1 only.
There is no doubt that since the band’s expansion - they became a five-piece band three years ago in conjunction with their fourth album Blue Lights On The Runway - they have progressed nicely. Bell X1 are now taking full advantage of their new members and have created two strong albums that have kept die-hard fans happy as well as gaining commercial success.
Bigger and better
Speaking about the bigger and better Bell X1 while on tour in America, David Geraghty told the Galway Advertiser that the band’s chemistry has never been better.
“Tim O’Donovan [Neosupervital] was with us for Blue Lights On The Runway and then Rory Doyle and Marc Aubele got involved in touring,” he says. “The chemistry was just right, they’re brilliant players, fun to hang out with, and totally selfless!”
The progression from their Flock album to the new sounds of Blue Lights On The Runway and Bloodless Coup is thanks, in no small part, to a bigger band which has resulted in a different approach to making music in the recording studio.
“With the five piece band there is no imagining the parts,” explains Dave. “We can realise all the parts at once, it’s the only way to get the full picture when recording. There’s no more imagining sounds and parts that have yet to be recorded.”
When Bell X1 were a trio, explains Dave, “there was a lot of pre-production and a lot of time spent nailing down arrangements. This is a much better way to work and I think we sound more confident.”
The addition of Rory Doyle on drums and Marc Aubele on guitar and keyboards has helped the band experiment with keyboards, beats, and electro on their last two albums, while still bringing their usual quirky lyrics with them, and allowing them to play acoustic tours in both Ireland and America, to rave reviews.
Bloodless Coup was recorded in the famous Midlands studios, Grouse Lodge in the serene village of Rosemount, Co Westmeath, where Michael Jackson made his last recordings.
“Paddy Dunning, the owner of Grouse Lodge, had many interesting stories about Michael allright,” laughs Dave. “Paddy likes to hold court when you’re staying out there. He had a few good stories, one about Michael’s car running out of petrol and he had to push the car down the road, now how much you believe of that I don’t know!”
Returning to the Big Top
For anyone who saw Bell X1 play the Big Top in 2006 you might remember a few technical difficulties getting in the way of a great night! Dave is optimistic about this year’s gig on July 16.
“Hopefully this time around we’ll be more triumphant,” he says. “Other than a few technical difficulties it was a really good gig and the Galway Arts Festival is always a great thing to be part of.”
The band are currently touring in America and will be bringing the tour to Galway, with a few changes to cater for the home crowd.
“We’ll probably keep most of the set the same as the US tour, there are just some parts of a set you don’t change but we might alter the start and finish, and the encore,” says Dave. “Gigs allow music to ebb and flow and there’s a natural flow to things. It’ll be a pretty simple gig.”
And after so much success at home as well as in the States, Bell X1 plan to tour Australia next, making this summer’s gigs a must attend before the indie pop group head to the southern hemisphere.
Bell X1 have a busy tour schedule ahead of them including Sea Sessions in Bundoran, the Marquee in Cork, and Marlay Park, Dublin, all after a whirlwind tour of America. Dave is fully aware of the importance of playing live and touring.
“Bands are taking to the road to survive, as there’s not as much coming in from album sales,” he says. “There’s no denying it’s tough at the minute.”
Tough as it may be Bell X1 were lucky enough to snag a rooftop date with Mark Zuckerberg as part of a new series of live gigs to be streamed on Facebook.
“Facebook were looking for someone with a big enough Irish profile to launch the start of live event streaming,” he says. “We were delighted that they asked us to do it, even if there were a few technical difficulties!”
The band got to meet Zuckerberg himself, something which Dave admits was a bit surreal.
“The boss man was even in town for the launch and we got to meet him,” he says. “He’s a really quiet guy, very unassuming, but still a multi-billionaire! Something which you wouldn’t expect he’d be from looks alone!”
Bell X1 play the Galway Arts Festival on Saturday July 16 at 6.30pm in the Festival Big Top in the Fisheries Field, as part of their Bloodless Coup tour. The band will be supported on the night by Duke Special and Liam Finn. Tickets are €35 through www.galwayartsfestival.com and www.ticketmaster.ie