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  • 11:55:16 am
  • Thursday
  • 23 November 2017

Bella Lea: beyond Denali

Three from Denali’s latter lineup add a fourth and begin a venue-packing tour that will take them across the United States. All without releasing a record.

Last month I interviewed Bella Lea at the Knitting Factory just before they took the stage. Without a full-length record or Ep to the band’s credit, this crowd had packed the house on faith alone. We’d already heard three of the quartet play together in the latter days of Denali. Would this new incarnation do justice to the memory? I sat down with Maura, Stephen, and Matt to find the answer clearly was yes.

Tweed: We did Denali interviews with Maura and Cam about a year ago, just before the break up. What happened with Denali? Is that a sore subject? Is that something you get asked a lot?

Maura: Yea, it’s something we get asked a lot. I can’t exactly explain the whole reason... Just band difficulties, plus the other two original members of the band quit and—

Tweed: Your brother and—

Maura: Jonathan. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be—and I’m ok with that because I have another cool band. Yea! [Howls]

Tweed: Actually the only time I was able to see Denali, Matt and Steve had already replaced Keeley and Jonathan. I barely got to see you guys because I was pushed so far back in the crowd.

Maura: Awww....

Tweed: It’s alright. It still sounded really good. So anyway, to add to the interrogation, what’s your relationship with Cam these days? Is that—

Maura: It’s fine. We talk occasionally. I don’t really see him much. He’s got his own thing, but we’re still friends and stuff. I don’t send him hate-mail or anything.

Matt: Anymore...

Maura: Anymore.

Tweed: So how is Bella Lea similar or different to your previous projects? You all come from successful bands, so how do you guys feel about this new collaboration?

Maura: It’s definitely more rockin than Denali. I mean Denali had the synthesizers and a drum machine and stuff. This band is a more straight-up bass/drum/guitar type thing.

Stephen: For me it’s just more committed. Usually you’re in a bunch of bands and you’re doing these different things. We’re all kinda [exclusively] doing this right now... That’s how it differs for me. I’m giving it more attention.

Matt: I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a band (with all due respect to anyone I’ve ever played with before) with three people who are as good at what they do.

Tweed: So you feel good about this?

Matt: Noooooo.

[Laughter]

Matt: Yea of course I feel good! It’s fucked up I know. I always—I always liked being the good one and it sucks being the worst one is what I’m saying. No, I don’t know...

Maura: [Jokingly] Shut up!

Matt: It’s good. It’s nice to be in a band with people who are really good at what they do. And everyone I think knows their limits but certain people, like Ryan, are just limitless. Ryan is a wonderful drummer and Maura and Stephen are great at what they do and it’s great.

Tweed: So how old are you guys if you don’t mind me asking?

Maura: I’m 24.

Stephen: 30.

Matt: 29. I think. Yea.

Maura: And Ryan’s 30.

Tweed: Sweet. So what are some bands you guys have played with recently that you’re really into?

Maura: We played with Neva Dinova a couple of weeks ago and I remember hearing them before, but then... Now I’m totally into them. I listen to them all the time and I love it.

Stephen: I like them a lot. This other guy Pat Sweeney—a guitar player—he’s good.

Matt: Yea, this guy Pat Sweeney is great. Does it have to be someone we played with?

Tweed: No, not at all.

Matt: Someone just asked us this question and I thought of my friend Devon. This guy Devon Davis made this record that I think is fantastic. And he’s a total unknown engineer guy that’s helped out a whole bunch of people. He made this record that is just this fucking brilliant Kinks-style pop record and he was playing every instrument. I don’t even know when it comes out but I know it’s done. I don’t know if he has a label yet...

Tweed: Cool. Hey... In various interviews and stuff, what’s the most pointless and stupid question you’ve been asked? What shit just gets really... You’re asked every time and it’s just annoying.

Maura: [In deep masculine voice] “Do a lot of guys hit on you?” That’s a really stupid question.

Tweed: [Jokingly skeptical] And you get asked that a lot?

[Laughter]

Stephen: Somebody asked me how many states I’ve been to—just personally. It just didn’t have anything to do with anything.

Tweed: Do you know how many?

Stephen: 47. And you’ll never which ones!

Matt: “How would you be of value to our company or organization?” I’ve been doing a lot of job interviews because I’m broke so you know... Or “How do you handle an sticky situation with a coworker?” is another ridiculous question.

Tweed: And how do you handle a sticky situation with a coworker?

Matt: Well it depends. You need to take your time and if it really gets in the way of your work... then you acknowledge it with them. Sometimes you have to play Pavlov kinda. If they’re being really negative then you have to ignore them while they’re being negative and if they’re being positive then you have to encourage them. Like this guy [pointing to Stephen] is real hard to get along with.

Tweed: He doesn’t look it. So Maura, in our last interview you said you like to keep politics out of your lyrics. Has that changed at all?

Maura: [Shaking her head “No”] I’m not that into politics. It’s not one of my main interests. So no, I’m not going to write about it. If Stephen wrote the lyrics they would be political.

Stephen: Yea I would love to get Maura more interested in politics but I don’t think she should write songs about politics. She should care more about what’s going on in the world but that’s not what her... That can be kind of a depressing influence for music because you can get real cynical about it all. I don’t feel that’s what she should write about. But she should vote!

Tweed: Oh no!!

Stephen: Yea. [Disappointed]

Tweed: But did you two guys vote?

Stephen: Yes, of course!

Matt: [To Stewart] So who did you vote for?

Tweed: You’re going to ask who I voted for? I’ll answer if you guys answer. I voted for Nader in the state of Connecticut. I felt the majority of Connecticut was anti-Bush so my vote would not compromise my goal to get Bush out of office. And I was half-right—Connecticut voted Democratic.

Stephen: I voted for John Kerry in Illinois.

Matt: I did a mail-in vote for Kerry in Ohio. Swing-state. But it didn’t work.

Tweed: Good try though! So you guys are interested in politics then. Were you following the whole privatizing social security debate?

Stephen: Yes. I think it’s absurd! It’s a terrible idea. And that’s how I feel.

Tweed: And what about Iran? It looks like Condoleeza Rice and the rest of the Bush administration is maneuvering to turn Iran into a repeat Iraq. Do you guys feel that way?

Matt: Well... I can explain it like this. My brother is an officer in the marine corps and has been to Iraq and back. This is a whole other conversation but I’ve kinda gone out of my way to not follow the news as terrible as that sounds. Psychologically it’s really difficult. I pay attention to news here and there, but as far as Iran goes I don’t really know what’s going on. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we’ve picked them to be next on the list of the “Axis of Evil” or whatever. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Tweed: So I take it you guys were upset with the results of last fall’s presidential election.

Maura: Furious. [Laughs]

Tweed: Maura goes on the record as being “furious.” So here’s a topic we touched on in our last interview—How do you feel about same-sex marriages?

Stephen: I’m all for it man.

Maura: I’m for it.

Stephen: Let’s do it!

Matt: The divorce rate will drop that’s for sure. Same-sex couples stay together, you know? It’s not really my business.

Tweed: Ok, cool. So let’s get back to Bella Lea now. Is there something about Bella Lea that people don’t know, but should know? Wait a sec... When’s your record coming out? I’m all hyped about you guys, based on your previous work, and you don’t even have a record or Ep out yet with this new band. When can I get it?

Stephen: That’s something we would like to know. Not only should people know, but we should know! We have no information.

Matt: We could give you a list of record labels to call—could you ask them the same question? Where’s our fuckin record? Ha.

Tweed: Have you guys even recorded tracks yet?

Maura: Beginning in April... Supposedly we’ll have an Ep soon after that.

Tweed: What can I expect from the show tonight? Anything crazy going to happen?

Stephen: Well we’re going to start. And like later we’re going to stop. And then like somewhere in between we’re going to go fast, and then slow and... Nothing special really.

Tweed: This is already my favorite interview ever.

Stephen: It’s going to just go fast and slow and fast and then medium. And then like slow. And at times it will get really loud and then at times it will get really soft. Sometimes Maura’s going to maybe look at me, then she’ll look at Ryan.

Matt: The thing you can look for is like Steve and I look at each other after Ryan does something brilliant. We gauge shows by how many looks we give. Like “Oh man, that was a 12 look show” or whatever. That would be a show where Ryan just does 12 things to totally stupefy us.

Tweed: So if Ryan’s so cool, where the hell is Ryan?

Stephen: He doesn’t do interviews. He’s private. He’s not for the public.

Tweed: So... Tell me anything about Bella Lea because I’m dying to know. I don’t have any bio materials, I can’t get any of the records obviously, and your website is just a list of show dates right now. So...

Stephen: All you need to know is you’re going to love it! Just sit back, strap the seat belt on, and enjoy the ride.

Tweed: Is that your final answer?

Stephen: No, here’s my final answer: Boosh! Print it: Boosh!! B-O-O-S-H! Boosh.

* * * * * *

After the interview I pushed through the gathering crowd to the front of the stage. The music was amazing. The communication between members was tight. It was during the last song that I realized my mouth was open. That night Bella Lea managed to emotionally rock my world through their music. I definitely recommend their live show. For more info see BellaLea.com.



Stewart Smith
Tuesday, 12 April 2005
Bella Lea is Matt Clark (guitar), Maura Davis (vocals), Ryan Rapsys (drums), and Stephen Howard (bass).

Bella Lea is Matt Clark (guitar), Maura Davis (vocals), Ryan Rapsys (drums), and Stephen Howard (bass).

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iPod iPod Notes

Download this article for your Apple iPod. Copy it to your iPod's "Notes" folder and enjoy on the go.

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Matt and Stephen arrange a set list after the interview.

Matt and Stephen arrange a set list after the interview.
The Knitting Factory box office.

The Knitting Factory box office.
Bella Lea lays down the equipment in preparation to rock out.

Bella Lea lays down the equipment in preparation to rock out.
Maura Davis.

Maura Davis.
Matt Clark.

Matt Clark.
Bella Lea: beyond Denali
Ryan Rapsys.

Ryan Rapsys.
Bella Lea: beyond Denali
Bella Lea: beyond Denali
Bella Lea: beyond Denali
Stephen Howard.

Stephen Howard.
Bella Lea: beyond Denali
Bella Lea: beyond Denali
The jaw-dropping show ends and its time to go home.

The jaw-dropping show ends and it’s time to go home.
Bella Lea: beyond Denali
Bella Lea: beyond Denali

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Tweed Magazine content report:
2017-11-23 11:55:16
Iran, Conor Oberst, Saturday Looks Good to Me, Owen, Tweed Media, Bella Lea, Conor Oberst, politics, Kurt Cobain, Kurt Cobain, End report.