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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Belle Weather Take a Chance

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It’s no mystery that most bands face challenges on a daily basis, from where to play to the creation of set lists to what items they can afford. More so than most bands, though, Milwaukee’s The Belle Weather seek out challenges and face them head on.

Sometimes these challenges build on each other. In January they trekked to the frigid Upper Peninsula of Michigan to record their debut album in an old 1920s vaudeville theater, dealing with broken cars, little heat and inexpensive gear. They liked what they had but felt the songs deserved better, and turned to Howl Street Recordings. This Saturday, the band will release their debut Hold On at the Pabst Theater, a venue few local headliners have attempted to fill.

Even the band’s name—a play on the word bellwether—was chosen to challenge them, to inspire them to make their sound a sign of things to come. “We want to be that leader,”
says singer Eric Cox.

Sonically, the band acts like a musical chameleon, shifting styles with ease from beautiful folk songs to sweaty grunge rock songs.

“We’ve always prided ourselves that we can play coffee shop gigs or small dinner clubs and pull things back and play an acoustic show and redirect a song towards that kind of crowd and then get onto a big stage and turn up the amplifiers and really crank the same things out,” Cox says. “It keeps things interesting because you have to find different inspirations in the song to be able to learn it a number of different ways. I think it makes us a much better band, a more well-rounded band.”

When Cox and drummer Steve Spalding started the band after their previous band Icarus Drifting ended a little over a year ago, they wanted to turn up their amps more and use different influences. Once again, Cox looked to the band’s namesake for inspiration.

“It was a reminder to make big, beautiful music even if it’s grunge rock with dirty guitars and stuff like that, to make the sounds really bold and beautiful in a lot of different ways,” Cox says. “You can make really melodic heavy music or melodic folk music but you should have that thread of beauty running through it.”

Rounding out the band’s lineup is Benjamin Olberding on bass and Cox’s younger brother Ian on guitar. Spalding and Cox were up for the challenge of fitting their more jazz-based and busier playing influences to their already tight-knit chemistry.

“They’ve been part of stuff where they’ve played with other guys and messed around but they’ve never been in an established group before,” says Cox. “So they’re more green coming into this and it’s been fun getting them on stages and showing them the ropes a little bit. When you’re starting out there’s a raw excitement to it because it’s all brand new. It’s been fun to show them new stuff and see how they react to it.”

“Honestly Steve and I feel like we’re playing our first show ever every time we take the stage—we’re huge geeks about getting to play,” he adds. “We get so excited to play every show. So we’ve got four guys that are really amped up to play every time we take the stage and that’s a huge part of who we are.”

They’ll definitely be amped up when they play the Pabst, where they’ll feel they have something to prove.

“It’s something I’ve been dreaming as long as I’ve been back in Wisconsin making music,” says Cox. “We took a shot in a really good studio and made the best record we could possibly make. When we looked for venues, the same idea followed through. We wanted to take this one shot of how we would do it if we could do it any way we wanted to and this is how we’d want it. We’re taking a big chance to see if this works. It’s about believing in ourselves and saying we’re here and we can prove it.”

The Belle Weather will release Hold On Saturday, July 13, at the Pabst Theater with I’m Not a Pilot and Rectifier.