'90s band Belly is ready to rock Boston again
Tanya Donelly opens up about the group's recent reunion, working on their first new album in more than two decades and performing at Boston Calling.
Belly plans to rock out like it's 1995 when they take the stage at Boston Calling later this month.
The local band, which formed in Rhode Island but cut its teeth in the Hub's music scene, reunited for a small tour in 2016 and recently went back to the studio to work on their new record, "Dove," after more than two decades apart. The album, which debuts this weekend, is a refinement of the alt rock sound that made them such a fan-favorite group back in the day, and was made possible thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Ahead of the release of "Dove," we caught up with Belly frontwoman and Throwing Muses guitarist Tanya Donelly to chat about what led to the band's reunion, the new record and performing at the biggest music fest in Boston.
Between the new album, touring and performing at Boston Calling, you have a lot of big things coming up. Are you excited or nervous going into the rest of 2018?
Excitement and a little healthy dose of nervousness added because it’s been two years since we played together live. But yeah, mostly excited and very excited for Boston Calling, which I’ve been an observer but never a participant at, so I’m excited about that.
After more than two decades apart, what sparked this reunion?
The practical answer to that is that I had written a couple of songs with Tom [Gorman] for my solo series, and also with Gail [Greenwood] and Chil [Mott], her partner, and their band, so just the act of writing with them again separately sort of led to our drummer Chris [Gorman] calling and saying, "Let’s try to rubber band this thing back together."
Was it hard getting back into the swing of things with Belly?
No — it happened very naturally, shockingly. I think the first day that we played together a few years ago after such a long break, we were walking down to Gail’s rehearsal space feeling a little like, "What’s going to happen?" Within 15 minutes everything just felt completely natural again.
What makes working with Belly so special as opposed to your other collaborations?
We have a very complementary skill set — that sounds so cold, but what I mean is that musically, in terms of how we run our business, and even relate to each other conversationally, everyone has something to bring that’s very different from the other three. That plugs in just perfectly.
How has the band's sound evolved going into "Dove," the new record?
What I’m hearing back is that it sounds like us but it definitely sounds like the next stage. The next step. I would agree with that. Tom has become extremely talented and proficient in terms of tech, production and engineering, so that's been a huge bonus. We’ve become better musicians, I would hope, and I think my voice has gotten deeper, which I like. And just lyrically, there’s more to draw from because I’ve been alive longer, so yeah, it does feel like us and there are definitely songs where I feel like 'this is old school Belly,' and then there’s the new ones that feel like we’ve moved forward.
Do you have any other big plans for 2018?
After the tour I’m working on a project of songs with Dylan in the Movies, which is a Boston project by my friend Brian Sullivan. He’s one of my favorite songwriters, and he and I are going to start writing. We've been working on a batch of songs. We actually have the songs, we just have to start finishing them up. I just wrote a song with Marissa Nadler that I love, so I’m going to get that into shape once I have a spare minute. She’s one of my favorites at the moment, one of my very favorite local [artists]. She’s amazing.