It’s been years since the three legends from Bell X1 came to Australia. Last touring in 2014, they’ve since released Arms, a synth-driven, choral masterwork that was their riskiest and most ambitious project yet.
Just listening to the opening bar of their latest track Out Of Love is enough to realise how profound their new direction is. An infectious beat mixed with swooning vocals and a swollen bass line is viciously catchy but only bares loose threads of similarity to previous releases. With their tour kicking off in a fortnight, we caught up with David Geraghty to read a little further into these shifting musical prodigies.
Before Arms was released, the members of Bell X1 were more nervous than ever. A month on from it’s release, we grab David Geraghty’s inside perspective on the record, and what to expect on the upcoming tour.
HAPPY: Congrats on Arms’ release. What’s the reception been like so far?
DAVID: Naturally, there’s a thrilling trepidation to releasing any new record, especially when it has taken two years to make! With each new album, we seem to take a swift left turn stylistically from the last album. Thankfully from the reviews that I have read, we seem to have slain the dragon and are onto the next round!
HAPPY: There was some self-doubt around this release, has touring the new tunes eased that a little?
DAVID: Absolutely. We started performing these songs quite a few months ago so the songs did get a chance to dip their toes in the pond ahead of the album release. Something that we’ve taken to doing before an album is put to bed is to tour in a more stripped back, acoustic fashion. Check out our live album Field Recordings if you don’t believe me! These jaunts, apart from being a fun way to re-imagine the songs, is a great way to road test the new tracks. In some instances, it revealed that we needed to re-approach certain tracks from Arms.
HAPPY: Speaking of, what have the reactions been like in all the countries you’ve been to lately?
DAVID: We’ve been concentrating mainly on touring in Ireland and fleetingly, the UK. Apart from this much anticipated Australian tour, we have to wait until February to take the new album to the United States of Trump. We’re in the early stages of putting a European tour together as well, which is always a great experience.
HAPPY: And how do you think Australia will shape up?
DAVID: If the last tour is anything to go by, the crowd and ourselves will have a grand old time of it. For bands travelling from as far flung places such as Ireland, we will no doubt spend most of the tour in a jet-lagged bubble and just when our arses catch up with our heads, it’ll be time to get back on the plane and head for home. We are stoked to be getting back to Oz.
HAPPY: A fair bit has changed in two years, but do you have any extra special memories of your 2014 Aussie tour?
DAVID: After our Perth gig in 2014, we went to a late night restaurant where there was an Irish dude waiting the tables. He recognised us and after we all acknowledged the similarity in our accent, he proceeded to call his sister back home in Ireland (it was the middle of the night there but apparently she’s the biggest Bell X1 fan in the world). It’s amazing how long distance can bring complete strangers together… distance and music!
HAPPY: Are you guys into any music coming out of Australia at the moment?
DAVID: Yes we’re really excited to be sharing the stage with some great Aussie talent. In Melbourne we have the pleasure of sharing the stage with Mike Peters. In Sydney the mighty Betty & Oswald will open for us and in Perth it’s certain young Irish artist who goes by the name of John Barrett. We’re long time fans of Nick Cave and the behemoth that is AC/DC. Then there’s the magical Crowded House. It was a certain Nick Seymour from the latter group that produced our first album Neither am I.
HAPPY: Also, any Irish music in particular we should be getting around?
DAVID: The music scene in Ireland has been going from strength to strength. We’ve had the pleasure of touring with James Vincent McMorrow, Villagers and now there’s a great new act called BARQ. There’s also a Mercury Prize act called SOAK who we think are the bee’s knees.
HAPPY: Absolutely loving your art for the album and shows. Who’s responsible for that?
DAVID: Actually while recording the first leg of Arms in Tommy McLaughlin’s studio in Co. Donegal, we saw some great artwork adorning the walls. They were concert posters for the aforementioned band Villagers. Tommy played guitar in that band (he also co-wrote and produced SOAK’s album). Back to the artwork. It was done by a Dutch girl called Mirjam Dijkema.
HAPPY: Will the Aussie shows be a grand listen of the new album, or are you planning to play some oldies too?
DAVID: We’re really enjoying this new buzz we’re on. Keep the party and the groove going. In saying that, there is what we used to refer to in our youth as the ‘slow-set’. That part of the night when you got to ask the person ya fancy if they wanted to dance… if you’ve had enough Dutch courage! With the live setlist it’s now about the old songs fitting in to the new outfit. So we are choosing carefully, which ‘oldies’ are invited to the party. There definitely is a healthy mix of old and new though.
HAPPY: What else are you going to get up to in Australia?
DAVID: I’ve got some family in Melbourne who I’m very much looking forward to seeing. 2014 was my first trip to Australia and having undergone that trip, I now understand how we have seen each other so infrequently over the years. I’m looking forward to going down to St. Kilda’s beach again to dip my toes in the sea. Not something that an ‘Irish’ gets to do very often in December. We do have a fairly hectic schedule but I’m sure we’ll find time to get up to some mischief.
Bell X1’s Arms tour kicks off in two weeks at the Prince Bandroom in Melbourne. All the info is on the tour poster below, and you can grab tickets right here.