Bella Lea: beyond Denali
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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.
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.
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: 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.
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
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