If you think a threesome's difficult, the old saying goes, you should try a band. Ever wonder about the recent surge in musical duos? More money, less egos. Just like out in the human meat market, good matches are hard to find and compromise is the rule. Then again, every so often things just mesh. There's chemistry between the players and a subtle, persistent upward lift to the band, wherein each new month brings another spate of good fortune. Such is the case of Charlotte's Bellglide, who's resplendent musical textures and pulsing sonic attack recall a cross between Smashing Pumpkins and early Catherine Wheel, fronted by Lush's Emma Anderson.
Bellglide began in November 2002, more than two years after the break-up of Laburnum, but featuring Adam Roth, Taylor Short and John Cates from that late 90s Charlotte act. Asked what he did during the intervening time, Roth can manage little more than a deep sigh.
"They were a struggle," he says. "I think we really have to play music."
Laburnum were a "spacey sort of textured rock band," according to Roth, but after two albums their internal problems became intractable even as the buzz around them increased.
"We did all we could do to stay together and it was tough. We were all coming from different places. And we were really young at the time. It was a lot of fun. We just didn't care. We put out a CD where half the songs are over seven minutes long," Roth explains. "We never intended to get interest. Then three years after we start we're in Billboard Magazine, and we're like, "Oh shit."' People started telling us what we should do at this point, and that sent everyone into a frenzy. We would've been better off with no future and no prospects. As soon as the future came into play everything went whack."
Roth, Short and Cates wanted to go on with the band, but none of them could really sing, so things lapsed. They auditioned dozens of singers (The Talk's Justin Williams was among those to jam with them), but nothing really clicked. Then they came upon Kate "Slappy" Gregory playing at UNCC.
"She was definitely a misfit, which fit with us. We could see that she had talent. She'd played bass in a band, but she never really sang and been the front person," Roth recalls. "We said let's just try this. We'll meet and jam and see how it goes. If after three months we decide that it sucks, then, nothing lost. At the end of three months we had a batch of songs, and went forward."
"It was like the beginning of any relationship — you fool around a little bit before things get serious," Gregory opines.
They saved their money and after doing a Pro Tools home-recorded demo, decided it was time to head into the studio, managing to enlist Mitch Easter (REM, Pavement) to record their debut. But while driven by the same dream pop influences as Laburnum, Bellglide was evolving into a creature of another sort, with more of a rock edge, bigger hooks, and more emphasis on the singing.
"We realized that we wanted some nice vocals and harmonies," Roth suggests. "The way we did the Laburnum albums — all the attention was on the music. In some ways, Bellglide still is a music-based band, but we realize the tunes that make the difference are the ones that are the songs — where there's someone singing about something, and the voice is the most important thing in the music. Those are the songs that you remember."
But while they recorded the album a year ago, they still haven't released it, instead putting out a 3-song EP from those same sessions with Easter.
"We just didn't have the funds to put the album out. There are some labels, which are really small in these parts that would be interested in putting it out. But we've held off," Roth says. "We put out an EP, and we're excited about it, but we also have the album with the rest of the tracks. It's hard, because we've started getting approached from different industry folk. And it's just, 'ah, geez, now what do we do?' We've written a lot more songs and we're kind of, 'man, we've got to get this out.'"
Meanwhile the band continues to tour the region, heading as far north as New York (at the hip Manhattan spot, Pianos), building a following in Atlanta, and making several trips to Chapel Hill, where they've found favor with The Cat's Cradle, opening several shows there, including recently for Concrete Blonde.
"Every month we see more people joining our club. Every month there's upward momentum. So and so calls and wants to license our music. We get this new manager [Allan Tepper]. All of a sudden so and so calls and wants us to come up and play. It keeps growing and growing and it feels like something could be about to happen," Roth says.
But with the experience of Laburnum behind them, don't expect Roth and crew to get too caught up in the label circus sideshow, buzz and all those things ancillary to what they do. They're just happy playing together. By Roth's estimation none of them is particularly suited for much else, and they all enjoy each other's company — a crucial factor when four people spend much of their time in close quarters. For her part, Gregory remains focused on the task at hand.
"We've been together for a while, just plugging away. We're still working as hard as we ever had, and yeah, it is nice to feel like we're poised on the brink of reaping some benefits," she says. "At the same time, you just got to keep making music, because that's why you're together — to make music."
Bellglide will appear at The Room on Saturday, Jan. 29. For more information, go to www.theroom.tv.