INTERVIEW: The Bellrays | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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For those of us who’ve been able to catch a live BellRays show before in the North East, you’ll know they tend to be something that sticks with you for a while after the event.  As it happens, the same is true for the band themselves: “Those [North East] gigs, and especially those at The Cluny; they tend to be wild,” confirms vocalist Lisa Kekaula, “and the fact that we’re coming over in January for our next show means we’ll need to play with extra energy to warm us from the cold.  Man, we’ve been warned about that January weather!”

A madcap combination of funk, soul, garage rock and punk, a BellRays performance is a non-stop journey into the heart of rock ‘n’ roll. Spirited by the genre’s original intent to bring three chords and the truth, The BellRays remain fiercely independent and loyal believers to its transformative power. “The only way to play live, and to do anything, is to put one hundred per cent energy into it, no matter what may come of it,” continues Kekaula, “and there’s never any guarantee that your actions will end up with the result you want, but the only things you can control are your actions and thoughts. We try to apply that belief to our live shows and to our whole lives. Music, whether it’s soul or punk or funk or whatever needs to come from a true place of meaning; and we try to find that meaning every time we play.”

Music, whether it’s soul or punk or funk or whatever needs to come from a true place of meaning; and we try to find that meaning every time we play

Having spread their output across a number of independent labels (Poptones, Alternative Tentacles, Upper Cut), and spending time to grow their fan-base organically, freedom of speech and artistic control remain high on the list of BellRay priorities. “People need to be good to themselves; perhaps a lot better than I see people being. Our music isn’t liked by everyone, some people like it and others don’t, but what’s more important than being liked is that we express ourselves as honestly as we can; getting beyond the need for praise or the need to be liked is crucial in life and in music. Our live shows especially are about us being ourselves and retaining control of how we present ourselves. I’m comfortable in the band as I know that we all think the same about that point; the music should be as honest and as raw as we can make it. Our live shows need to be something special.”

Continuing to push their message, Kekaula admits that there are challenges with this approach. “There were some haters at a recent show so we had to flip their energy and dig even deeper into the music to try and overcome their opinion; for that show, and some of our shows immediately after, I’d say they were some of our best shows ever. We had something to prove. The experience reminded us that music should be real, and shouldn’t be put into labels; real musicians don’t care about genres or styles, they just play as honestly as they can.  Funkadelic weren’t just funky, they were rocking. The Jackson 5 weren’t just pop, they had soul. We try to follow their influences; we’re trying to live our songs and find truth in them.” 

The BellRays play The Cluny, Newcastle on Thursday 23rd and Westgarth Social Club, Middlesbrough on Friday 24th January


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