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A Conversation with bell's roar on Activism Through Music, Genre Bending, & The Art Funds Art Tour

I chatted with Sean Desiree of bell’s roar on activism through music, genre-bending, and the Art Funds Art Tour, a project providing grants to other QTPOC artists.

The project bell’s roar is a reference to the feminist writer, bell hooks and is used as a reference point throughout their music. For Desiree, music is weaved with their identity as a non-binary person of color. After the release of their debut full-length, We Carry Us and the first leg of The Art Funds Art Tour wrapping up, I spoke with Desiree on activism through music, the inspiration for the project bell’s roar and why bell’s roar is definitely not hip-hop music.

“My music is very much linked to my identity as a non-binary person of color and the things that I face, or how I feel about the world- my joys, all that.” - Sean Desiree  

You’ve had a pretty eventful start to 2018, from your debut full-length, We Carry Us to your tour, The Art Funds Art Tour– how did the first leg of it go?

The tour went really well, I definitely learned a lot from the whole process; it was my first time doing it and the first leg of the tour. I went from Albany, NY where I live, down to Atlanta and making stops along the way, like in Philly, Boston & Baltimore. In each city, I connected with local acts to play the show with me, so it was a really great way to make connections with different artists along the way– some of them I knew, some of them I didn’t.

What was it like seeing the Art Funds Art Tour come to fruition?

I think everyone involved in the project was super down with the concept of it which was to give away proceeds from each show to a local artist. There are so many artists out there in need of funds, including me, and that’s how I came up with the idea. I wanted my shows to be more than just about people coming out to see me, but a way to support the community as well. I think it went really well and I have so many ideas to improve it. I really enjoy curating shows as well and having control over the whole experience.

What’s an example of how a tour stop on the Art Funds Art Tour went?

I tried to organize with someone who was involved with local shows in the city. We were able to raise enough money before the show through local organizations for the grant. For example, we were able to give out a grant to Billie Dean Thomas who is kind-of a hip-hop/indie/opera performing artist.

Can you tell me about your activism and how that’s informed your project, bell’s roar?

I grew up in New York City probably around high school was when I really started to think more about world and my place in it, and what I can contribute to it.  I became involved with “Think Outside the System” a queer, trans, people of color led organization which involved thinking of a community without cops, focusing on more community involvement and looking out for each other; so that was really great to get a foundation. Throughout college, I was involved in a lot more environmental issues. Now, I want to use my music as a way to directly supporting people. The Art Funds Art Tour is kind of the beginning of that process and figuring out how my music can be useful for that movement.

The name for your project bell’s roar is a reference to the feminist writer and social activist, bell hooks. How much of your work is informed by hooks?

I feel like the actual lyrics and how I write is not so much directly linked to her, but acts kind of as a reference point for things that I believe in, things that I try to touch upon when I’m writing. My music is very much linked to my identity as a non-binary person of color and the things that I face, or how I feel about the world- my joys, all that.  So it’s not solely inspired by her work but I find her work and the work of others to be very important.

What keeps you honest in your lyricism?

I really do care about that, and I try hard to be genuine because it’s an opportunity to connect people and for people to get something from your music. Lyrics are definitely the hardest part for me. I find writing music easier. The lyrics take a long time for me- I want them to mean something and to convey a message as best as I can. I just try to remember that these are my lyrics and my songs and I don’t really need to overthink it.

What genre would you classify your music in? Do you find people classifying you in a particular genre you don’t agree with?

The only thing that I don’t understand what people are listening too when they’re like, “hip hop”–  it’s not hip-hop at all, so I don’t really know what they’re talking about [laughs]. I think indie-rock makes sense; electronic, soul, and RnB makes sense too. So I think all of those together makes up the sound.


I think people are quick to throw music in one genre box but your sound is definitely a blended one.

Yeah, I feel like it’s hard to place for me. It’s also hard for me to find artists that sound similar to me.

After this leg of the tour, what’s next for you?

I’d like to think about how to bring The Art Funds Art Tour to other cities around the U.S. I definitely want to make more music and I’d like to start producing music for other artists.

How can fans support your tour, and bell’s roar?

The two best ways would be to go to https://bellsroar.bandcamp.com/ and you can get the album there. You can also go to http://artfundsarttour.com/ to contribute to The Art Funds Art Tour and help to make that happen. Either one of those two places are really helpful.

To further support & find out more about bells roar and The Art Funds Art Tour, check out their debut album, We Carry Us here: https://open.spotify.com/album/6gvfUPySiHdW8Ga9XFeYgj ‚Äč& browse their website: http://bellsroarmusic.com/

 

 

*This interview was edited for clarity.

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WLUW presents 88.ZINE

VOL. 1 OF MANY TO COME! This zine includes but is not limited to some things that we have been digging during the Spring semester. Take a peek and let us know what ya think! 

 

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Crumb: Definitely Not Crumby Live

Crumb, Combo Chimbita, & Slow Pulp at Beat Kitchen on April 2. 
 

Setting out on their spring 2018 tour, the group of four musicians hailing from New York known as Crumb comes readily equipped with psychedelic jazz-influenced indie rock that really sets them apart from being just another up-and-coming band. Lead singer Lila Ramani’s smooth vocals paired with dreamy lyrics, laced with commentary regarding intimate thoughts and relationships delicately put into words – from “tell me something sweet and I won’t stay away” (Plants) to “I feel like the world is filled with people who can't hear themselves speak” (So Tired) and “trying to stop but this feeling remains” (Vinta) – evoke a sense of nostalgia and sentimentality that is seldom found in such young artists. Not surprisingly, Crumb gained a considerable amount of traction after the release of their first EP, “Crumb,” in 2016, and have since hit the road on tour several times alongside artists such as (Sandy) Alex G, Hovvdy, and, most recently, Slow Pulp and Combo Chimbita. I had the chance to see Crumb a few weeks ago – with both Slow Pulp and Combo Chimbita – on Monday, April 2nd, at Beat Kitchen here in Chicago, and I did not want to pass up that opportunity.

I hopped off the westbound 77 Belmont bus at the corner right outside of Beat Kitchen at around 8:45 pm on April 2 – just about fifteen minutes before the show was scheduled to start. There were, give or take, twelve people inside Beat Kitchen’s intimate venue space at the time, so it wasn’t too hard for my friends and I to make our way to the front before the first of the two opening bands, Slow Pulp, took the stage. I had heard only one song of theirs – “Preoccupied” –  beforehand and was eager to experience it live. Grounded in rhythmic-based punk, Slow Pulp is self-described as a “dream-punk band oscillating between dream-like states and a frantic sense of urgency.” Released in March of 2017, “Ep2” is their first formal collection of songs since the addition of their second rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist, Emily Massey, if you can believe it; Massey’s vocals are “dream-like” indeed, and seem to be so integral to their style that it’s hard to imagine Slow Pulp without her. The laid-back cadence of the entire group juxtaposed with the multi-guitar intensity of songs like “Die Alone” and “Bundt Cakes” had me hypnotized, leaving my ears ringing and my heart pounding after their short but powerful set.

Illuminated almost independently by red lights, lead vocalist of Combo Chimbita, Carolina Oliveros, took center-stage with a commanding presence. Oliveros’ voice holds remarkable power – almost like a punch in the face, but in a good way. With a “cumbia-not-cumbia” musical style and guacharaca serving as their sound’s irreplaceable backbone, Combo Chimbita is nothing short of jaw-droppingly unique. The four New York musicians who comprise Combo Chimbita draw influence from Colombian and other traditional types of music to form their own spin on it, describing their style as “rooted in Colombia and based in New York.” Oliveros’ composure on stage was ethereal; she is extremely intimidating due to her insane amount of musical expertise, yet at the same time seemed to be so friendly and down-to-earth while chatting with the audience in-between songs. Their set left me breathless as I tried to absorb all I had just experienced...and to mentally prepare myself for Crumb.

As Crumb took the stage, cheers and screams and a buzz of excitement sparked throughout the audience within the now-filled room. Calm, cool, and collected, Crumb kicked off their set with “Locket” – the final song off of their 2017 EP of the same name. Beginning with an air of suspense and ending on a lullaby, “Locket” left the crowd in a dream-like trance. The musical ability of Crumb is crazy – not one member of the group is lacking in any amount of talent or skill whatsoever. They play with the competence of grizzled old veterans while retaining a youthful kind of enjoyment. Looking back at a sea of people singing and dancing and throwing arms in the air felt unreal; I can only imagine what it felt like to be the artist invoking this kind of impassioned behavior, especially so early-on in their success that I am sure is only beginning to take off.

The room cleared as quickly as it had filled, leaving the remains of an audience electric from the experience of the night and a floor littered with empty cups and cans. Crumb and their two openers chatted with concert-goers afterward, all of them seeming to be very down-to-earth, regular people who just also happen to make really amazing music. Although Crumb is done touring for the moment, I am sure this will not be the last we are hearing from them. Keep your eyes out for more shows from Crumb, as well as Slow Pulp and Combo Chimbita; seeing them perform live is an experience you will not soon forget about.

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Yellow Days sells out Subterranean

Yellow Days, otherwise known as George Van Den Broek, has crafted music that makes us think of better days to come. The 18-year-old, English artist reminds me of a blissed out King Krule. With rich, strong vocals Yellow Days sings about love, the cycle of life, depression and overcoming. From the instant this show went on sale, I knew it was destined to sell out. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to catch Van Den Broek alongside a full band at Subterranean in Wicker Park on April 9th.

I walked into the show as Yellow Day’s was halfway through their second song. Better late than never. The place was packed. I headed upstairs to catch the next song; “Hurt in Love”, a personal favorite of mine. In between the next song, the crowd gassed the band up, showering them with praise from the balcony and the crowd. Before I knew it, someone slung a pair of womens underwear from the crowd, landing on Broek's guitar. He humbly admitted to the crowd, "Well, that's never happened before." Yellow Day’s received all the love with poise followed by an impromptu song from Napoleon Dynamite. The show continued with uplifting tracks like “Nothing’s Going to Keep Me Down”, bringing the room to a full tilt, swaying back and forth with soulful intention. Throughout the show, you could see the warmth of happiness in the crowds eyes and smiles, a true reflection of what Yellow Day’s is. Although the show ended earlier than scheduled, Van Den Broek came out to the balcony to take photos, sign shirts, and share moments with many of the fans at the sold out show. 

When I listen to Yellow Day's, I enjoy it just as I enjoy many other artists, idly in my car with some focus on the lyrics now and again. But to put an artists face to the tune makes a difference. Undoubtedly, the show has me looking forward to more yellow days like this one and more music from the young indie-rock prodigy.

Photos by Manny El Barbudo (@el_barbudo42)

 

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April Showers bring May Flowers!

April is a busy month for the majority of us. With finals on the horizon and summer in the near future, we have your playlist needs covered for this month. Don't forget to check out the official WLUW Spotify page whil you're at it!

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