As Chicago’s Andrew Belle puts it, he simply outgrew the acoustic music he had been making, most prominently heard on his 2010 debut, The Ladder. Three years and a heavy dose of electronic experimentation later, the independent artist has released Black Bear. The album, which is available at andrewbelle.com, has a more plugged in, alternative sound. Lyrically though, nothing has changed; Belle is still churning out moving songs about relationships–familial, romantic, and religious. While driving from Sacramento to Portland (on his birthday, no less), we chatted with Belle about his favorite dish to cook, Seattle eateries he loves to visit, and his new sound. Andrew Belle plays with Grizfolk at Tractor Tavern tonight.
Happy Birthday! Are you doing anything to celebrate? We stopped at Chipotle, which I love, and we’re all in good spirits, so it’s a good birthday.
Speaking of food, you often post photos of dishes you cook online. How did you get into cooking? I grew up loving food. I wasn’t interested in cooking until college. I started dating a girl who was really into food. We got married and now she’s a chef, so food is very much ingrained into my world just through her. I’ve learned how to cook a little bit; I’m sort of an amateur.
Do you have a favorite dish to make? I make a good vegetarian chili. It was my wife’s recipe, and I started tweaking it. I like things a little spicier, a little more flavorful. She has more of a refined palate. Basically, I took her recipe and add a lot more spice and different flavors.
Do you eat a lot of good food on the road or is it mostly fast food? It’s 50/50. There’s usually not enough time to go places. I have a running list on my phone of places I want to go, but it’s rare that I actually have the time.
Have you had any good meals in Seattle? Serious Pie was on my list. Pretty solid go-to. And The Walrus and The Carpenter. I think we’re going to try to go to Walrus on Wednesday.
It’s been three years since The Ladder . What was that time like for you? Right when I put out The Ladder, I ran into a lot of success, which was awesome. Then six months in, I don’t know how to explain it except to say I decided to head into a different direction. A lot of it had to do with my personal life. Getting back into touring slowly, I wasn’t sure what I was going to write another record about, and then I got married last year; there was a lot of inspiration all of a sudden. I felt refreshed and rejuvenated to make another record. A lot of it had to do with the new sounds that I was experimenting with.
Can you tell me about the process of working with those new sounds? I just got tired of the acoustic folk/pop thing. I grew out of it, you could say. I wrote The Ladder in 2008 and this record in 2012, so there’s four years of musical growth. I wanted to make a record that was a lot more vibe-y and ambient, and electronic elements were a big part of that. I knew it would mean going out on a limb, but my rule of thumb was “If I would be happy to listen to this, that’s what I should be striving for.” It really opened up my songwriting and re-inspired me and reinvigorated me to make songs again.
I get a bit of M83 from the album. That was definitely one of the bands I discovered a year or two ago that started getting the wheels turning. M83, Beach House, Washed Out. The music has a lot of those alternative elements. It’s the same as the way I wrote The Ladder, it’s just delivered in a different package.
What does the rest of the year look like for you? My plan is to tour up until the holidays, take the winter off, and then go back at it next year. Hopefully, after the holidays a lot of people have gotten the chance to check out the record and are excited about it and we can really hit all of the country again.
How have fans reacted so far? It’s been overwhelmingly, 99 percent positive. I can probably count on one hand things where people are like “I thought this was going to be acoustic.” That doesn’t really bother me because I made the record that I wanted to make. If it disappointed anybody that wanted to hear The Ladder part two, I apologize; but I felt like if I was going to do it again, I needed to make something that I was going to really appreciate and enjoy playing every night. But if I had to quantify it, I’d say 99 percent has been really, really positive.