The Van Allen Belt has been steadily gaining popularity in the local scene over the past few years due to a unique sound and solid live performance. After a string of tours, a stint at SXSW, two albums and a few EPs, The Van Allen Belt have shown they’re not going anywhere. They’ve played shows alongside the likes of Stereolab, Atlas Sound, Ela Orleans, Alice Cohen, Givers, Friends, The Night Beats, Louis Logic, Skyzoo, Winter Gloves, and Young Galaxy – an impressive list for such an emerging band. Read our chat below with two of the members, Tamar and Ben, and get to know a bit more about this talented group.
Kymbo Slice: How have you changed/grown as a band since your beginnings in 2007?
Tamar: I’m the only girl now. There’s no drum kit now and there’s no guitar. We added a computer and bass. Many pieces of hardware have come and gone. The members have been the dedicated four since 2008, with a few fun experiments and the occasional schedule conflict. I think we’ve become something pretty amazing to see. We’ve certainly become confident as a group. Our band is a constantly moving process now.
KS: Do you release albums from other bands on your DIY label or is it just for your music?
Ben: As of now, it’s only been our band and my solo works.
Tamar: We digitally released a Christmas song last year under the name Rapping Papers. We’re also working on releasing a new single by Victoria Plume called “Pittsburgh Steelers Half-time Stand”.
KS: You’ve played with an impressive list of bands in the past few years. Any memorable gigs?
Ben: I think the Fillmore show in New York a few years ago will always stand out. It was our first time playing in New York and it was a pretty crazy way to start off.
Tamar: I’m proud to say that there isn’t one I don’t remember.
KS: How’s your new LP Heaven On A Branch coming along?
Ben: So far, so good. We try new approaches every time we record, yet there are consistent elements to all of our albums. This one will sound different from the rest, but stay true to our style. There will be poppier tunes and moments of strange experimentation. It all tells a story.
KS: Your Facebook describes your genre as “Patch Rock” and goes on to say that your music is a non-genre-specific melting pot. How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
Ben: I used to say things like “experimental psychedelic pop” but no one ever knows what to make of that as it could mean so many things. I might say we sound like fun.
Tamar: I think our music best describes itself.
KS: What inspired the song “Lovely In Akron”? Why didn’t you shoot the actual video in Akron?
Ben: It was actually written for someone in Pittsburgh. I had the line, “So tragic is this city, but I wouldn’t know when I’m in it with you.” I suppose any city has tragic qualities, but I didn’t want to slam my own city as being unlovely. I actually think Pittsburgh to be very beautiful. So I picked on Akron where my father lives. I guess it’s kind of a back-handed shout out.
Tamar: A funny thing about films is that a location in a script is not always filmed on that location, in this case, the location we chose had to do with the logistics of production rather than an aesthetic decision. The production team for Lovely In Akron was an arrangement of filmmaker friends who started working together in Ohio mostly. When Scott and I wrote the storyboard, we focused on elements we would set up rather than on the look of the location. We had hoped to film mostly at night, in which case the look of the background wouldn’t matter, but Ben had to work that night so we ended up with more daytime shots where you can see the lovely Fayette County PA, it’s a beautiful location where many good times have been had.
KS: Who are some of your current influences?
Ben: My family and friends are number one for this album. I wouldn’t say that was as much the case with the past albums. I enjoy many kinds of music and incorporate much of it in our songs, often several styles at once. It’s never been our intention to sound like anyone else specifically.
Tamar: Right now? Chauvet Cave is under my radar and I really look up to Mt. Kilauea.
Have some good times of your own this Saturday at the BBT when The Van Allen Belt plays with Le Cachot and FOX Japan. Doors are at 10.