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Bio

The Belle Sounds

It may seem strange that The Belle Sounds were just named one of Austin’s “Best New Bands” by the Austin Chronicle Music Poll for 2016, considering their first record was released in 2013, but it goes to show the continued evolution of this five-piece indie/folk/rock band. In many senses they are just now beginning to discover themselves and the audiences are becoming huge fans of their mystical, unique sound, full of three-part vocal harmonies, haunting guitars, synth/keyboard sounds and a driving rhythm section.

 

The actual journey began years ago in San Francisco where husband/wife team and founders of The Belle Sounds, Noëlle Hampton and André Moran met and immediately fell in love. Hampton’s early career was a whirlwind of propulsion and media attention, and with André by her side on electric guitar, they opened for a number of major touring acts (Bob Dylan, Wilco, Chris Isaak etc), saw their songs placed in film and TV, released 3 albums under Noëlle’s name.  She appeared in the first iTunes commercial alongside such celebrated songwriters as Iggy Pop, Aimee Mann, Jeff Tweedy and Michael Penn.

 

In 2005 they moved to Austin, TX and became immersed in the Americana sound that Austin is known for, and eventually connected with producer Mark Hallman to record Noëlle’s last record under her name, the critically acclaimed “Thin Line,” which celebrated her newfound influence of a rootsy/Americana sound. However, before long Hampton began to miss her musical roots of a more lush, rock/pop sound. As her writing began to shift back to that more instinctive ground, they decided to dive further into that direction. The Belle Sounds made their first appearance in 2013.

 

In 2013, the couple traveled to East Nashville, TN to work on a batch of songs with a new producer, Neilson Hubbard. Noëlle, André and Neilson, along with a few other players including Evan Hutchings (drums) recorded the eponymous “The Belle Sounds” in a whirlwind recording session, full of creativity and sonic discovery. What emerged was different enough that it was calling out to be a new band, The Belle Sounds. As they headed back to Austin, essentially a duo with a band name and a lot of parts on the record to cover, they began to search for band members to fulfill their new sound. A newcomer to the Austin music scene, Emily Shirley (keys/vocals) was their first member, along with Harmoni Kelley (Bob Schneider/Kenny Chesney) on bass/vocals. After Harmoni moved to Nashville they were joined by Kris Nelson who fell effortlessly into the sound, covering Neilson’s vocal parts and adding so much to the rhythm section. By the time they went back to Nashville to record their EP, “Black Stone,” they had created the beginning of their signature sound of strong three-part harmonies and storytelling through a dynamic and lush sonic landscape. The songs on Black Stone take the listener on a beautiful journey of wonder, mystery, trepidation and reflection, from California’s Mt. Tamalpais to Greek isles, from ghosts to golden boys, with a spooky homage of sorts to HBO’s Dexter. In “The Siren”, the band explores a collective and calming counterpoint to the chalkboard screeching noise of technology and the general over-stimulation that seems to engulf us all these days, inspired by Ray Bradbury’s 1953 classic Fahrenheit 451. One can’t help but be swept away by “Ghost of Mykonos”, a tale of a bridegroom who came up missing on his Grecian honeymoon, never to be seen or heard of again, making full use of the band’s vocal mastery with their delicious and winsome “ooohs”. The EP concludes with Hampton’s sparse Erik Satie infused atmospherics on piano in the beautiful song, “Drifter”, that echoes the ebb and flow of friendship.

 

When Kris had to leave the band they recruited their longtime friend, Nathan Harlan (Endochine/The Big Fix) to play bass and sing. Finding a drummer that was able to commit to the project was a journey on its own, but eventually were joined by Jim Echels.

 

Band members now include Emily Shirley (keys/synth/vocals), Nathan Harlan (bass/vocals) and Jim Echels (drums) along with André Moran (electric guitar) and Noëlle Hampton (acoustic/electric guitar/keys/lead vocals). Noëlle’s writing continues to shift with the current lineup and together they have recorded a few singles and future album tracks. They are in the midst of preparing to record a full-length record with the newest evolution of The Belle Sounds.

 

They have performed locally at The Saxon Pub, One-2-One Bar, The Townsend, Strange Brew, The Cactus Café, The Continental Club as well as ACL Moody Theater and many others, including a major performance in San Francisco at The Great American Music Hall in 2016.

 

The City of Austin will proclaim Thursday, April 13, 2017 to officially be “The Belle Sounds Day.”

 

The Austin Chronicle’s Michael Corcoran says, “The Belle Sounds are their own thing”.

 

 "The follow-up to a sensational debut, the new Black Stone EP suggests that the excellence evidenced in that initial outing was no fluke. Helmed by superb songstress Noelle Hampton, the Belle Sounds navigate the difficult divide between seductive folk pop and the sterling accessibility that successfully prevents them from ever becoming too self-absorbed. Despite the fact it’s only five songs long, Black Stone EP is a compelling compendium, further evidence that this band bears watching. Thus, one can only imagine what will come next."- Lee Zimmerman/No Depression 

 

"…We caught this fine folk-rock five-piece at the tail end of their 9 p.m. show. It’s tempting to draw parallels between Belle Sounds and Fleetwood Mac, given the triple-threat interplay between band leader Noelle Hampton, masterfully atmospheric guitarist Andre Moran and keyboardist-vocalist Emily Shirley. Backed by bassist-vocalist Nathan Harlan and drummer Jim Echels, they play sophisticated pop originals and have a great rapport with the audience." - Peter Blackstock  - Austin360  (8/26/16)

 

"Husband-and-wife duo Noëlle Hampton and André Moran have put out a debut full-length disc that is quite a polished effort, mixing bits of twee pop with wafts of folk. At their best, they veer toward the indie camp, like on the hooky "Away Away" and the Shins-sounding "When We Were Young." - Paul Carrubba/AUSTIN MONTHLY

 

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The Belle Sounds: Black Stone EP

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