Upon delving into his vast discography, David Bello’s potential for creative output appears immeasurable. His independent releases span over a decade with an extensive catalogue mirrored by its sonic variety. David’s work ought to be required listening for anyone with a penchant for Appalachian lo-fi/folk à la Daniel Johnston or indie/post-rock.
My initial introduction to his music was actually preceded by discussing our mutual appreciation for early seasons of The Simpsons while attending college. In retrospect, it’s no surprise to see how far he’s come given his consistent level of devotion to writing and performing.
I was privileged to have a great conversation with David about his musical roots, growing up in West Virginia, his current work in The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, and the recent presidential election.
I hope you enjoy reading the conversation as much as I enjoyed having it and highly recommend checking out his experimental-vocal Little Elephant session.
Scene Point Blank: Tell us about your current projects and what we can expect in the future.
David Bello: Right now I just finished up a short solo tour of the East Coast and Midwest with a band called Teenage Halloween. I did it solo, doing my own songs and using just my voice through a looping pedal. There are some videos of it up on YouTube and while we were out I did a Little Elephant session that should be posted in the next month or two. As soon as I got home I did a live recording of each song I was doing on my own and I'm hoping to either put that out on cassette soon or just on Bandcamp.
TWIABP is doing a short run of shows this weekend and after that continuing to write our next full-length, which is about a third of the way written. We go into the studio in April and if all things run perfectly it could be ready to go by the end of the year, but nothing is ever perfect. [Laughs].
Scene Point Blank: I’m fortunate enough to be familiar with a large portion of your discography up to this point, which includes a massive amount of solo material. For those less familiar, can you elaborate on where you started and what’s brought you to where you currently stand in the scope of independent music?
David Bello: I started taking guitar lessons because my dad used to find stuff in the trash and bring it home and clean it up. One day he brought back this shitty little acoustic guitar, not sure if it was full scale, but it's what I learned to play Green Day songs and Pavement songs on until I was 14 or 15. I started a pop punk band called Mr. Gerald Ford with two kids I went to school with, one of whom is Jim Rita who works for Broken World Media and is probably to this day the most original drummer I've ever played with. We did like two shows to maybe ten people total, one at the city park in Parkersburg and another at my friend Rocky's birthday party one afternoon.
We tried to record stuff and did a few songs that I poorly mixed. All I had was a Fostex MR-8 digital recording machine that my parents got me from Musicians Friend one birthday or Christmas. I didn't really know how to use it so I experimented with plugging my guitar straight into the soundcard on the old family PC desktop and made instrumental stuff that way and started multi-tracking full lengths one by one in my spare time at home with the MR-8.
I had a lot of free time because I didn't really play sports or hang out all that often; doing anything else that high school kids used to do.
Scene Point Blank: I think it's fair to say things had progressed by the time we met through mutual friends at college. I remember you played shows constantly back then, both as a solo act and with multiple bands -- producing a considerable amount of material prior to joining TWIABP. Tell us about that period in your life.
David Bello: Oh, definitely. I started doing open mics with John Miller every week at 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown, WV and eventually Paul Vallette who did sound there and ran the open mics asked me to open a real show for his band at the time. I kept doing those and kept playing solo shows and recorded a couple more records in my dorm room and eventually met some guys who were older than me who wanted to play in a band. Most of them were already in a band called Librarians and we started playing mainly these five songs that we later recorded with Brian Spragg who was in the band It's Birds at the time and playing a ton. This band was called "David Bello and the ..." something different every time; David Bello and the Stinky Slinkies, David Bello and the Revolution featuring Kyle Vass, David Bello and Sebastian; The Busy World of David Bello; etc. But we eventually stopped being able to come up with funny ones and left it at "David Bello and His God-Given Right") this band was mainly run by Dylan Balliett because he was my closest friend. I was super close with everyone, but he and I had met before I met the others and we were roommates for a long time. And I was very lazy when it came to organizing a practice or telling the other guys what to do. The band dynamic was like "I trust you guys as musicians and friends fully, so here's the chord pattern I play and the lyrics I sing and when things are supposed to happen, you guys do what you want. Your ideas of what you’re going to do are better than what you would do if I told you to do something specific.” But Dylan helped take that laissez-faire attitude and let us be a responsible group of reliable adults who played music.
We got lucky because most of us had been playing shows either solo or with other bands and our first or second show was opening for The Walkmen, who came through Morgantown and played 123. At the time we'd get maybe three or four "big" shows where a touring band we were all huge fans of would come through and it so happened that we knew the right people. Dylan and I lived in an apartment above 123 for a couple years with James Braswell and our landlord was LJ who owns like that entire block and booked all the shows, so we had his number and he had to respond to us. [Laughs].
We played tons of shows and would record stuff occasionally, but I don’t think we ever played a show with that band outside of West Virginia. I didn’t know how to make that happen, I don’t think any of us really did, but I would definitely say I knew the absolute least about making that happen… still maybe am the least educated out of us actually, just been very very lucky to get to where I am now. Eventually I moved away to go to grad school for a year and a half and I did some solo stuff along the way, but then came back and I think we played a few more shows while I was back living there until I moved to New York City in 2012 or so.