I wish I was… in Carrickfergus ? No : Ann Arbor, Michigan. Without a doubt, the Great Lakes would be my musical preferred state. With Misty Lyn, Matt Jones – I’m eagerly awaiting for their debut albums – Chris Bathgate, Sam Corbin, Great Lakes Myth Society and since these last few months, Orpheum Bell … my list of michigan’s favorites is getting longer.
I’ve bought Orpheum Bell, first full length at the essential cdbaby.com a minute after streaming their first songs from their myspace page. Pretty as You, is both the album title and the intro track. It’s an irresistible banjo soft-ballad served by a great balanced vocal female/male duet.
Burned my fields and the red wind blows
Drowned my diamonds in the river below
Lit my tears and the flames burned blue …
Ain’t none of that as pretty as you
Words and Tones have been thrown… Welcome to the Orpheum Bell’s music world. Labeled as ‘Country and Eastern’, the Ann Arbor Quintet’s compositions are giving the listener this unique ubiquity gift in both time and place spaces ! From almost traditional country-ballads to gypsy waltzes, from the raspy vocals of Aaron Klein (à la Stuart Staples), to Merrill Hodnefield sweet – sweet and so beautifully placed – voice, for sure, you’re traveling with a first-class ticket !
With a huge amount of instruments ( accordion, banjo, clarinet, fiddle, guitar, ukulele, autoharp, double bass, mandolin, pedal steel, musical saw, and the rare Tiebel Violine, that looks something like a cross between a fiddle and an Edison-era phonograph ), you’ll have to face a real full band, giving to each notes a meaningful rhythm in some delicious instrumental tracks such as ‘Motor in the Weeds’ or ‘Two Over Ten’.
Along with Aaron Klein (vocals, banjo, ukuleles, tenor & regulation guitars), Serge van der Voo (double bass and percussion) is forming the heart of Orpheum Bell. Serge has granted us an interview. Enjoy our conversation while listening to two of our favorites tracks including the brand new duet ‘Goodbye is the Sweetest Word’ and the addictive ‘Pretty as You’.
YCD : Hello Serge, how’s it going ?
Serge van der Voo : I’m well, thank you……..just gotta say up front that I really enjoy visiting your website…….it’s the real deal and always INTERESTING to read and listen to.
YCD : Thanks ! What’s the story behind Orpheum Bell?
Serge van der Voo : Aaron Klein (songwriter, vocals/guitars) and I met about 10 years ago, we’re both from the same area in Michigan but we crossed paths in Chicago where we started writing and recording with a band called Vernal Pool. Years later we found ourselves back in Michigan living just a couple of blocks appart. Merrill Hodnefield (lead vocals) responded to a “seeking vocalist” add that we had pinned-up at a coffee house………needless to say when we heard her voice and influences all three of us knew we had a band right then and there. Annie Crawford (violins) and Shaun Williams (accordion and reeds) fully round-out and complete the sounds we’re looking for. Our debut cd ‘Pretty as You’ was released last year and now we’re about halfway into recording a new one.
YCD : I’m really curious – and ignorant – : would you mind telling us about the band name ?
Serge van der Voo : We were trying to find the right net for our particular butterfly…
YCD : You’ve mentioned the Quintet of the Hot Club of France – with most renowned members incuded Djando Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli – as a main influence. From ‘Gipsy Jazz’ to ‘Country and Eastern’, what’s the process that creates such a singular music style ?
Serge van der Voo : Sheesh…….if that process was to be presented in some kind of diagramatic form it would probably look like a tangled-up ball of yarn!!! Yeah, listening to any of Django’s Q.H.C.F from the ’30′s moves me everytime……..then you add all the members influences and that’s when it starts to rattle.
YCD : Which song from Aaron Klein’s lyrics is your favorite?
Serge van der Voo : ‘Rabbit Field’ has always been a favorite of mine. For me, the imagery totally fits with the music. There are some that will be on the new release which in my opinion are just as poetic……..’Pearls‘ and ‘Goodbye is the Sweetest Word‘ come to mind.
YCD : If you could share a stage with any band or artist who would you choose and why ?
Serge van der Voo : Whoa…….there’s so many bands so here it goes…..Rob Burger, Andrew Bird, Tin Hat, A Hawk and A Hacksaw, Marc Ribot, Benjamin Wetherill, and Rollie Tussing too. They all create music with effortless flow among genres. I like music that you can’t quite put your finger on….. it’s a good thing………that’s what makes music personal.
YCD : According to your myspace blog Orpheum Bell is working on a second album ?
Serge van der Voo : Yes, we’re working with Jim Roll and about half of the songs have been recorded already, the other half are in the process of being written/arranged. This one will be different then “Pretty as You” given that (so far) there are several songs that were written as a group collaborative.
YCD : Any other projects for the coming months ?
Serge van der Voo : Matt Jones has a new recording coming out soon called ‘The Black Path’ and he asked me to put down double bass on several tracks. The arrangements are lush and full with strings and horns, Jim also recorded that one and the production came out nicely. Matt’s a prolific songwriter so when we play live he has a rock (electric) set but then also his full acoustic set with a ten-piece band. It’s been a lot of fun so far and we’ve got some exciting shows coming up in the fall with the Great Lakes Myth Society.
Thank you so much Serge for taking time to answer !
Band : Orpheum Bell
Label : none
Where to buy : cdbaby.com
More appetizers : @sonicbids.com / @myspace.com / @youtube.com