Fledgling Melbourne and Castlemaine act The Bell Streets recently made their debut with the first of 10 songs set to be released in 2020. Birthed from the somewhat inevitable partnership of Nick Batterham (The Earthmen, Blindside, Cordrazine) and Josh Meadows (The Sugargliders, The Steinbecks), the duo’s brand new slick bedroom pop single ‘Fragile’ is out now. We sat down with Josh from the band to talk all things friendship, collaborating and the future of The Bell Streets.
Hey Josh, congratulations on the new team up, The Bell Streets! Tell us, how did this collaborative project come to be?
Nick and I have known each other for years. We both used to be in bands on the Melbourne label Summershine and our bands have played lots of gigs together and toured together. Sometimes after a gig, Nick or I would float the idea of writing songs together. To be honest, I never thought it would come to anything. I thought it was just talk. Nice talk, but not serious. But then Nick set a date for me to come to his studio to start writing songs together. At first it was a little awkward. Even though we were already friends, songwriting requires a level of self-revelation and vulnerability that many friendships lack. So the process took time as trust developed and we got into a rhythm with each other. Ultimately, I have found it incredibly rewarding. To have my creative outpourings shaped and honed by a musician of such a high calibre as Nick is a privilege for me.
You’ve just released your debut single ‘Fragile’ and dropped a stunning new video too! It looks like one of the best road trips we’ve seen. Where was this one shot? And did you get a chance to tag along on set at all?
Yes, the clip is gorgeous, isn’t it? It was made by our friend Ursula Woods, a filmmaker who lives in southern Tasmania. She filmed it near Port Arthur. In the video three friends drive around in a big old Toyota Landcruiser en route to White Beach and Longley waterhole, with stops at a milk bar and a lavender farm. Nick and I weren’t on set for this one, but we would like to do more videos with Ursula, so maybe we’ll have the chance down the track.
It perfectly matches the blissful feelings that the track itself evokes. What initially inspired the song and what creative process did you follow to develop it from concept to its fully realised form today?
It’s actually really appropriate that this song is our debut single, because it’s all about recognising and honouring the fragility, the vulnerability, in another person, which is sort of what Nick and I have had to do to become a songwriting partnership. In the world today, brashness and bravado are rewarded, while vulnerability is pounced on and punished. Just look at our political leaders – here and overseas. The ones who succeed are almost always the brash, uber-confident bullies. Jacinda Ardern is an exception! I really reckon being vulnerable with each other is part of being truly human. But, of course, being vulnerable opens us up to being hurt, so most of us tend to close ourselves off and keep our true selves hidden away. I came up with the initial ascending piano figure and the first few lines and took them to Nick at one of our songwriting sessions. It was a joy to see how quickly he put flesh on the bare bones I offered. It blossomed really quickly. When Nick added the groovy little guitar bit that comes in at the start of the second verse, I knew we had made something special.
Each of you have played in a bunch of bands over the years including The Earthmen, Cordrazine, The Sugargliders and The Steinbecks respectively. How does The Bell Streets differ to these past projects and what, if anything, has carried over into the sound of The Bell Streets?
I find this really hard to answer. I’m too close to it all to be able to say. My first band, The Sugargliders, started when my brother Joel and I were teenagers, so the songs we wrote looked at the world through teenage eyes. Naturally my songwriting has changed as I have. Musically, Nick and I have taken each of the Bell Streets tracks in whatever direction the song seemed to be leading us. If a song called for lushness, we went really lush. Yes, we did get in a proper string section on one occasion. Other songs wanted a grittier, rockier feel, so we went with that. Nick’s keen ear and attention to detail in the studio has made the recordings really shine. I’m really proud of how they sound.
What are some of your current musical inspirations? Seen any great bands or nabbed any new releases we should keep an eye out for?
I host a weekly radio show called It’s a Jangle Out There on MAINfm in Castlemaine, in central Victoria, so I am fortunate to find out about a lot of cool new releases that way. Some of my favourite new singles are ‘Leave’ by Ultracrush, ‘The absence of birds’ by a Swedish band called the Radio Dept and ‘Going gone’ by Melbourne trio Dianas. From last year I loved new records by Olden Yolk, Monnone Alone, Cate Le Bon, Emma Russack and Omni. My favourite gig so far in 2020 is probably House Deposit plus the Great Divides on a Sunday arvo in January at the Bridge Hotel in Castlemaine.
And have you got any shows of your own on the horizon? What can we expect from a Bell Streets performance, have you got a live band?
We’ve got some very talented friends to join us for the Bell Streets’ live band. Kelly Day from Melbourne band Broads is playing bass, while former Earthmen Craig Mitchell is on drums and Nick Murray is on guitar. We’re really looking forward to playing some shows in April/May.
Finally, what’s next for The Bell Streets? When can we hear more music?
Very soon! Our next single, ‘Disappointment town’, is a duet between Nick and Kelly. It’s coming out in March. The album, Monument, will be released in early April on Popboomerang.