Wild Belle make meaningful music with danceable electronic beats
Family is more than a consequence of birth to Wild Belle. As danceable and fun as their music can be, with its reggae-kissed electronic beats and bellowing saxophone, brother and sister Elliot and Natalie Bergman invest conscientious thought in their music, deliberately considering the bonds of community and family in songs like “Coyotes,” the hopeful “Our Love Will Survive” and “Throw Down Your Guns.” The latter was inspired by an imploded romance (Natalie’s), but it has gradually acquired political resonance; in Wild Belle’s video for the song, an angelic choir of white-shirted girls performs with the band as they melt bullets to forge singing bowls. That transference of personal value to political scenarios is becoming an artistic signature.
Raised in a close atmosphere by musician parents, the native Chicagoans have been making music since childhood. (Both Bergmans are formally trained and play guitar; Elliot also plays electric kalimba, keyboards and saxophone.) Their highly styled image is edgy rock ‘n’ roll bohemian; their ska-influenced music is more psychedelic, with Natalie’s raspy voice resembling Welsh songstress Duffy with a stoned touch of Macy Gray. Their acclaimed 2013 debut “Isles” was followed by last year’s “Dreamland,” produced partly by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek. They’re still promoting it on a tour that brings them to Santa Monica Pier next Thursday.
They’ve since been collaborating with video director Leslie Kirchhoff. In November, they released black-and-white film of Natalie’s haunting performance of the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” The more recently posted “If You Want We Can Stop This Now” syncs civil rights-era footage of dancers, musicians, marchers, nonviolent protesters and police officers to a throbbing beat and Elliot’s hypnotically intoned title phrase. In context of this political season, the message is unmistakable.
— Bliss Bowen
Wild Belle open for Warpaint on Santa Monica Pier at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17. Free. Visit tcs.santamonicapier.org.