The siblings of Wild Belle create a universe of their own

Apr 17, 2019 at 1:00 am
Elliot and Natalie Bergman of Wild Belle.
Elliot and Natalie Bergman of Wild Belle. Leslie Kirchoff

Wild Belle — Elliot and Natalie Bergman — are much more than just a brother and sister duo. While it's charming that the two are siblings, each of them is an accomplished artist in their own right, musically and otherwise, and the duo's melding of influences makes for a type of delightfully unconventional pop music.

The band's latest album, Everybody One of a Kind, is an amalgamation of their appreciation for world music, doo-wop, and dark rock — part of which they picked up from Elliot's time working at Encore Records in Ann Arbor while studying at the University of Michigan.

"That was sort of a parallel education," Elliot says. "I worked there with Fred Thomas from Saturday Looks Good to Me, Mike Dykehouse, Aaron Dillaway from Wolf Eyes ... everybody would always be like, 'You need this record.'"

Elliot's time exploring the turntables was supplemented with studying jazz music, and before long, young Natalie was listening to Bitches Brew, Bob Marley, and Sun Ra records on her portable record player. "Elliot's been such an influence to me with music," she says. "He was always turning me on to the cool, eclectic style of the '70s. He liked obscure music, so, in turn, I started developing a palate for it."

That palate characterizes Wild Belle's worldly sound, especially when it comes to Jamaican influence. Their first record, Isles, is a little more outwardly island-influenced, but the band says that they carried that flavor on throughout their last two records as well.

"Those slower, rocksteady, lovers-rock kind of sounds ... it feels good," Natalie says. "We want to create something that makes people dance and makes people feel good."

The band's music video for "Mockingbird" is a shining example of that feel-good mentality — with a rocksteady beat and plenty of dancing — and outrunning the cops.

"Have You Both," the band's other music video from the record, showcases its darker, American-rock side. Natalie's gritty vocals are set atop a Breeders-like bassline and driving percussion. The collages in the video were made by Natalie herself in a last-minute attempt to get a video together.

"It was kind of an emergency video," Natalie says. "The single was coming out sooner than we had thought ... I just hunkered down in my apartment and cut up people and made them dance for about five days, and then, somehow, out came this music video."

Not to be outdone, Elliot also dabbles in other art forms. "We try to create a world we can live in," Natalie says. "We do that with music, and Elliot does that with his sculpture and I make collage and it's all an extension of us."

In fact, Elliot currently has an installation on view at the prestigious Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles called "Peace Bells." The bells are made by melting down bullet casings and guns found in Chicago, the duo's hometown. This is an obvious nod to the gun-violence controversy in our nation's third-largest city. The band also "accidentally" addressed this topic in their 2016 song "Throw Down Your Guns," which Natalie says was initially meant to be a personal song. "When I wrote that song, it had to do more with my emotional turmoil and what was going on inside my head and in my heart," Natalie told GQ in 2016. "I didn't intend for it to be a political song."

Political or not, the duo's eclectic and multidisciplinary style even has a fan in Beck, who they'll be touring with later this spring. But before that, the band is bringing their all-encompassing rock 'n' roll universe to the Loving Touch.

Wild Belle will perform Saturday, April 20 at The Loving Touch; 22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-820-5596; Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

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