Skewed pop-reggae from the siblings who took Texas by storm
Photo: Dan Dennison, NME
South By Southwest might normally be fuelled by an endless cache of free beer and super-strength skunk, but this year, one band bring something distinctly different to the table. The Chicago-raised/Brooklyn-based duo Wild Belle arrive here sharking for record deals, and leave having wooed every label rep in town. Their sound? Think Lykke Li if she suddenly went lovers rock. Their schtick? Well, for this week at least, it’s about casually sliding a cheery cocktail umbrella right through the heart of every other buzz band in town.
Soul jazz-obsessive brother and sister Natalie and Elliot Bergman have been playing music together their whole lives. Natalie started touring with Elliot’s instrumental act NOMO at 16, but Wild Belle only properly came into existence last year, and only came up with the name six months ago.
So what’s it like being in a band with a sibling? “It’s the best and it’s the worst, because he looks out for me,” says Natalie. “But then if I have a crush on somebody, that’s when it’s bad…” With a 10-track “island soul party” album mixed on a desk previously owned by Sly & The Family Stone ready and waiting, the irrepressible skank of debut single ‘Keep You’ is already garnering mainstream attention. An unhurried dancehall-inflected freakout, it’s got the words ‘mammoth summer banger’ scribbled all over it.
Of all their SXSW shows, it’s a packed-out appearance at Antone’s – a venue that also includes a casino – which stands out. Awash with Caribbean coastal grooves and grounded by Natalie’s husky intonation and blithe handclaps, the crowning moment comes when the impressively bearded Elliot – a man who looks like he should be preaching Biblical psych-folk – suddenly whips out a ginormous saxophone and parps away nonchalantly like a hipster Kenny G. “You should always dance,” he tells us. “Dance and smile, dance and cry.”
Need To Know:
For Fans Of: Lykke Li, Nancy Sinatra
Buy It Now: ‘Keep You’ is out now
Believe It Or Not: The band filmed a scene with Ryan Gosling while they were at SXSW. Not everyone here gets to do that
This article originally appeared in the March 31st issue of NME