With the expectation of a number one album looming over them and the loss of a band member or two to boot, Kate Rothwell discovers how Bell x1 have been coping with turbulent times.
His own critically acclaimed solo project has been tucked away until the release of a second album in September – yes, it’s finally time for Dave Geraghty to get back to Bell x1. The group’s success has been only on the rise during the past eight years, and now with the release of a fourth album, Blue Lights on the Runway and a number of Irish and American tour dates lined up over the next few months, Bell x 1 has to prove that they can yet again claim the indie-pop crown after the chart-topping hit that was Flock.
Flock was criticised by some as being more commercially-orientated than its predecessors, but Blue Lights on the Runway is, according to Geraghty, a different sort of record. “I think Flock is a bit more commercial… not that we were with Flock, but we weren’t, with Blue Lights on the Runway, going for the commercial jugular.”
Whatever the aim behind this album, Geraghty admits that his aspirations have led to disappointment before. “You have dreams and you kind of cling to them, not to say that they haven’t been coming true in that way, they’ve materialised in different ways I suppose. But you know, you’ve got to keep on keeping on.”
“We weren’t, with Blue Lights on the Runway, going for the commercial jugular”
A cheerful attitude from a band known for heartwrenching ballads and off-the-wall pop songs alike, Bell x1 are favoured for the quirky lyrics which stem from the pen of Paul Noonan. Geraghty compares the songsmith’s wit to that of Talking Heads, and points out the contrast between either end of their spectrum on Blue Lights on the Runway, from the zany ‘The Great Defector’ to the “more heartfelt, plaintive lyrics” of songs like ‘Light Catches Your Face’.
Some of this material received its trial run during an acoustic tour of intimate venues around the country last year, and this is an experience that the band would like to repeat. “As great and as exciting as the big gigs are, there’s nothing really like seeing the whites of people’s eyes in front of you.”
Not that they could have gotten through it without a certain essential though – a cuppa cha. “We enjoy an ‘aul cuppa tea… the acoustic sessions were in two halves, and we’d go offstage and makes sure to have our cup of tea during the break and then come back and finish the set – it was a bit of a ritual.”
Intimate gigs are hallowed happenings in what has always been portrayed as an intimate Irish music scene, and Geraghty claims that it is a cosy a community as it seems – if you don’t believe him, just have a peek at The Palace pool rooms on a Saturday night. “It seems to be a favourite haunt of a lot of musicians, from the Dublin scene anyway… It isn’t like the old days when it was just a rivalry. We really just want to get on and help each other.”
Someone had to step in and help Bell x1 out not too long ago, as the departure of long-time bandmate Brian Crosby left them in the lurch, but Geraghty explains that this was no unexpected announcement and that Crosby wasn’t even involved in the recording of the latest album.
With part-time drummer and Neosupervital frontman Tim O’Donovan also abandoning Bell’s ship, help arrived in the form of Rory Bell and Marc Aubele, who have filled the respective shoes to ensure that the show is back on the road.
As the ever-positive Geraghty states; “It’s onwards and upwards. It changes and shifts the dynamic of the whole group and ‘a change is as good as a rest’ as they say, isn’t it?” Change it will have to be, because for the foreseeable future, Bell x1 won’t be getting much rest.