The Rosebuds aren't the only Wilmington expatriates to recently join the Triangle music scene. Chapel Hill has also welcomed Heather McEntire and Nathan Buchanan, who together comprise the duo Bellafea. With a raw, rugged sound, they join the Moaners and Des Ark (with whom they share a recently release split 7") as hard rocking, local, female-led duos. McEntire started playing solo four years ago and began Bellafea a year later. Buchanan had approached her repeatedly about joining up, but she brushed him off until her drummer flaked two days before an important gig, and she finally took Buchanan up on his offer.
For a while, Bellafea commuted between the two cities, with Buchanan joining McEntire in Chapel Hill just in the past six months. "[Wilmington] is a good place aesthetically to be inspired by, and there's this nice struggle aspect because there's not a lot going on, but it wasn't enough for me to remain there and be ambitious in music," she says.
The two of them (with help from buddies Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp of The Rosebuds and Aimee Argote from Des Ark) just finished recording a new 6-song EP with Nick Peterson at his Polyphonic Audio studio. Entitled Family Tree, its title is a nod to the "very familial community ethic" that helped record it.
"I kind of reached this point--I just turned 23 and I've just been going through a lot of transitions in the last couple years just moving here, and kind of abandoning some things and reflecting on where I am now and how I got here. Accepting things and wondering if my family history has any significance. It's kind of sentimental in that respect," says McEntire.
She says the sound differs from the live performance in its use of non-traditional sounds such as slide projectors, bird sounds, boots stamping on hardwood floors, as well as the inclusion of some organ.
"The way that I hear music in a very plural, layered way, it's impossible to reproduce that as a two-piece. What makes a live show exciting is feeding off each other in that dualistic way," she says.
Pidgeon English will be putting out the Family Tree EP in February, but the Bellefea/Des Ark 7" split is already out. They're also putting out the Strange's debut. The Raleigh quintet has an intensity that's unusual in the area, and will be well-matched with The Nein on an upcoming I-40 tour (Asheville, Greensboro, Wilmington).
Singer/guitarist David Mueller formed Strange after the break-up of his last band, Olympus Mons. For a while, Mueller played the field, forming a number of pick-up bands to back his solo stuff. But he soon found an affinity for certain individuals, and then in the studio spawning some songs. The initial germination created a four-song session with Glen Elkins at Desolation Row studio last fall, which grew to nine in the spring, becoming their debut release, Things In Night. The album is expected out soon, though it's been pushed back due to a number of problems, initially with mastering and then with the printing of covers.
"[We're] loud but not heavy; psychedelic but not jammy. Our songs are really simple open arrangements that leave a lot of room for the players to stretch out," Mueller says, describing his band. Versatile instrumentation is very important to the act, which gets double time out of Joel Rhodes (trumpet and synth) and Vince Carmody (guitar, percussion, synth).
Working at Elkins' studio played an important role in the experimental sound of their new album. "[Elkins'] set up was kind of perfect for us, because it wasn't like your regular recording studio with a super nice sound booth. He's actually set up in a metal shop warehouse. The front room is his studio booth, and then there's the open room in the front where the band plays and little closets that we can separate out into. The back of the studio is a metal and woodworking shop and it's about 5000 square feet. So we were able to run microphones and amps back there, and mike it, using all that natural reverb. It really kind of opened up the sound and got a lot of space into the songs," Mueller says. "We experiment with a lot of stuff. There's actually a song where we made a percussion track out of slamming doors and compressed air hoses. Just because where do you go to a recording studio where they have compressed air hoses and metal forges and all this stuff? We were like, 'What can we do with these?'" Strange plays Kings on Saturday, Nov. 6.