Wild Belle: Falling in love with Afrobeat was very expensive

Categories: Q&A
Photo courtesy of the artist

As of recently, Chicago siblings Elliot and Natalie Bergman have made music as Wild Belle, and contrary to all of the misguided White Stripes comparisons, these two are hardly just another half-exerted indie-rock duo capitalizing on aesthetics. Drawing rich influence from Afrobeat and reggae, they've captured an interesting island-pop aesthetic on their aptly titled debut on Columbia, Isles.

Ahead of their Friday performance at the Triple Rock, Gimme Noise talked with half of the magic, Elliot Bergman, about his familial connection to the Talking Heads and his wallet-draining introduction to the music he now plays.

Gimme Noise: What was the forethought to Wild Belle's inception? Did you seek out to start a new band with your sister? Did you have any idea it would gain such traction?

Elliot Bergman: No, not really at all. We were just kind of messing around in the studio, honestly. We didn't even have a band name or anything. We were making these songs in the studio and didn't really know what we were doing. Eventually after we liked what was coming out of it, we were planning to put out a record on our own label. Then, obviously, things took their own course. But I guess now it's nice that the record is actually getting around somewhat.

At what point of "messing around" did you really decide to push the project forward?

It really came out through experimenting with our old Afrobeat band (Nomo). Initially we decided to get together and release a single, so we put a 12-inch single out and that was the first official thing that we did. Then we started playing shows and travelling around and it all just happened naturally from there. That's how we built an audience, you know, putting thousands of miles on the van, practically making laps around the country. 

Can you articulate the roots of your interest in Afrobeat and jazz fusion? Obviously these influences don't go unnoticed within Wild Belle material.

Well, when I was in college I worked at a record store called Encore Recordings, an amazing store where it's just all touring musicians who work there. It was staffed by all of these crazy musicians who were also crazy record collectors and they'd be passing things to me all of the time. That was basically my music education, to go through all of the music that was passed to me there. You didn't really make much money working there but you came out with an amazing vinyl collection. So that was sort of what pushed me into afrobeat. That's how I fell in love with those sounds. It was music that was very eye- and ear-opening for m,e and so I was able to explore.

That kind of education is priceless.

[laughs] Actually it was very expensive.

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