Friday, June 06, 2008

Band of the Week


"Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known." ~ Oscar Wilde

Why do you create something? What purpose does it serve? I just found out that there is a documentary being filmed on the local DIY music community. Whenever I remotely question the motives behind art I look to this community. At the heart of this music is an undeniable joy. The reason you create is because it makes you smile. You sing a song because it makes you dance or cry or shake or laugh, and you write because this is the story that you want read and share. You do this regardless of fame or fortune, you do this because this is who you are. The promise of a label aids in your ability to share your story, to dance with more friends, to reach more people with what will always be your individual expression.

Brooklyn's Olga Bell released her debut ep earlier this year, and, though only six songs, it represent who she is. Just as her background would suggest, living in both Moscow and Alaska before moving to New York, her music is eclectic and intensely enjoyable. Slightly electronic, her voice cuts through the beautiful instrumentation alerting the world that she has something to share. On a track like "Brown Bear", she lures you in with a gentle tones, and then reveals the reality of it all with a lie like "it's hard to carry on". I am glad she has carried on thus far, and I look forward to hearing much more from Bell.

Recently, Bell was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): Your debut ep was self-released. Are you looking for a label?
Olga Bell (OB): I'm trying to go about this the way I worked Junior High dances: perfectly happy doing the running man by myself, or with a few friends; if someone walked over and asked me to dance, especially if it was someone hot, I was very happy for some of that as well--and sometimes the dancing lead to an enthralling relationship of holding hands during lunch and recess, etc. etc. The point was to keep moving. In your opinion, with all of the outlets available and the ability to sell you music on-line, is a label really necessary? I believe that a good group of people working together as a 'label' would amount to much more than distribution figures. Ideally (should this be in all caps?) they are a launchpad, some kind of reliable moral and financial support system; a big watering can to help an artist explore, flourish, grow, change colors.

OA: You were recently featured on a tribute album put together by Stereogum. Has "new media" (i.e. blogs, myspace, youtube) had a major effect on the success of your ep? Basically, do you think blogs effect sales?
OB: I don't find myself thinking about sales very often. Most blogs give away mp3s, which I suppose doesn't help sales at all. But then something magical happens: people pick up the free song, if they like what they hear they ideally (IDEALLY!) buy the record, a little $$ goes back to the artist, who fills their belly, get a little more free time, and maybe buys some new toys with which to make a new song, which gets converted to mp3, uploaded and given away to the blogs! Thus, with protection, and assurance, we all stay happily in bed together.

OA: Speaking of that tribute album, you have drawn several comparison to Bjork in different reviews. What are your thoughts on being compared to her when on your ep you cover a lot more ground musically then those comparison would elude to? Who are some of you other musical influences?
OB: I love Bjork, and I've always felt very close to her harmonic language and emotional palette. But I have oodles of other influences. Most deeply-rooted and consistent are my study of classical music, the piano, environments in Alaska and Russia, the people who populated and shaped those worlds in which I grew up. Nearer to the surface and more dynamic is everything I'm seeing and hearing on a daily basis. New York is so rich in this way - - food, bands, bums, rushing, waiting, elation, depression. Just these high-speed smorgasbords of things to feel.

OA: What is the atmosphere in the New York music scene like?
OB: It's amazing. See above. Is it more competitive or cooperative? I feel that it's both, in equal measure. That mix seems to make people very productive, and prolific, which keeps everyone else interested.

OA: Are there plans to tour this summer?
OB: Ah, I'd love to skip around all over the country, especially while the sun is in season. Hopefully I'll hit the road in some confluent way by August.

OA: What's next for Bell?
OB: Sleep! ... then some running around, some experimenting, some recording of experiments, lots of collaborating, dancing, thumping, love, fresh produce, etc.

Bonus Questions:
OB: Occasionally.

OA: If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
OB: El Beit! It's down the block and around the corner from where I live in Williamsburg. I'll drink whatever they give me, usually something with a beautiful leafy design in the foam.

OA: What was the last great book you read?
OB: I just finished The Picture of Dorian Gray, and it was soooo good. I don't know how Oscar Wilde does it, but every other sentence he writes is a perfect little aphorism. The preface is just a list of his claims about life and art, just Oscar, laying it all down. My favorites are towards the end of the list: "All art is at once surface and symbol. When critics disagree, the artist is in accord with himself. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is quite useless."

For more information on Bell please visit her website, and to buy her ep for $5 go here. Image above by Alix Winsby.

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