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:: Spotlight :: Interview with Belle Roscoe

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Independent Australian outfit Belle Roscoe is a band on the move in 2009. After cutting their teeth performing sell-out shows in France, the three-piece (Matthew Gurry and twin sisters Sarah and Julia) is about to give the big music world a taste of what they can offer.

Recently, they became the first Australian band invited to represent their country at the Cannes Film Festival. Belle Roscoe was spotted during a tour of France last year by the film festival's music director, who figured their Irish-Australian heritage would fit perfectly, drawing together the old world and the new. In April they performed at France's biggest music festival, Le Printemps de Bourges, in a program billed as showcasing the world's “50 new and exciting bands to watch”.

So, the Melbourne-born band now hope to make a mark in their own country and have released their self-titled debut album. I recently caught up with the band for a chat.

Tell us some background information about Belle Roscoe?

It all started with a quintessential Irish heritage – the Catholic Irish family at various events and weekends. As soon as the grog came out, the guitars came out and everyone was singing with perfect harmonies. That was our initial training. We were forced to perform at family dinner parties. The only real professional we ever had in our family was Mum’s grandmother, who was an opera singer. The family loved getting together singing and playing. We all had to get up and sing, with uncles, cousins, etc all involved. The oldies would be playing Buddy Holly songs and we’d be out the back playing U2 songs in a different room. We didn’t know if we were any good. We still don’t!

Then we went to France and learnt to make a bit of money by playing shows. People started to react to us. It was a thrill. Not every forced situation, like ours, resulted in this. What we actually had, in terms of natural vocal harmonies, was quite special. We wanted to develop it further by taking it back to Australia, and we kept going back to France.

What is the affinity with France?

We loved the French culture and way of life, and didn’t realise a career could come of that, but it has encouraged us further. Things were happening at a greater level in France than here, particularly with live audiences. It’s getting better as far as radio airplay in Australia goes, and the French publicity has helped that.

You now have a debut album…

We had previously recorded a couple of EP for ourselves. Getting to do the album took some time, probably about eighteen months to record. We’ve been sitting on it for a while.

What's the best thing about your career to date, taking into account the ups and downs one can experience?

The best time, in all the ups and downs, has been performing live. We forget about the business side and do what we love. The recording was a slog as we said before but we wanted it to be a concept album. We were able to create those magical days in a three-month period where everything clicked. We’d dreamed about creating our first album and much has gone into it, and the fact that we had to save a lot of money to do it. We always believed in our ability and, through the help of our producer, have been able to now create our style.

Tell us about the background musicians who play with you?

We’d been able to work with several exceptional musicians along the way. When we were playing in 7-9 piece bands we learnt a lot from them. They taught us about working with instrumentation. Then, working on cover songs taught us about arrangements and working with the audience.

The second-last track ‘Dis-Moi’ is a highlight track of mine. Tell us about it?

It’s a song we’d been working on for about two years. We didn’t know what to do with the choruses until it was suggested we write the chorus in French. It was a good way of helping to develop the market in France. The song was about a friend of ours in France who died. He was the guy who booked our first gigs. So, it was about him – an epic, big impacting song that was emotional to write.

Tell us about your songwriting collaboration?

As far as songwriting goes, we all come in with different ideas, and everyone writes. Sometimes it’s a simple process, working together from that embryonic stage. We generally work out the melody and harmonies first, then add in the instruments. The song then builds with other musicians who might come into the process. We now have a band that we’ve wanted, so that’s a great thing. We had to make use of our vocal roles, either three leads or one with two backing. All that had to be worked out. It wasn’t until we saw a DVD of Fleetwood Mac – with their three lead singers – that we realised we can make this work.

Where have your influences come from?

Fleetwood Mac, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Van Morrsion, Dolly Parton, and Elbow of the current crop. We love real storytellers and amazing performers. We’d heard a lot of music from our parents before we got into more experimental folk music.

What are the short-term plans?

We’re really excited about going in to record again. We have lots of material to work on. But now, we’re focusing on this album and playing it live. The songs take on a new life on the stage. We’ll be launching the album at the Corner Hotel, Richmond on July 9.

Belle Roscoe album launch on July 9 at the Corner Hotel, Richmond

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