"Belloluna's So-Called Livid Life"

by Sarah Marmion

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It seems that more and more, bands are popping up that transcend a set category. Their music occupies a refreshing place between the convenient, often limiting labels used to describe the sound of a band. The style offers a little of everything, and just about everyone loves it. Belloluna is one of these bands.

John Brand, the band's vocalist and keyboardist, says that when they released their first album three years ago, they got labeled a lounge act. "At first I enjoyed it," John says, "but then I got really tired of it. We rock too hard to be a lounge band. I guess I'd call it pop-hard rock."

Now with their second album Livid and Loving It, released in mid-January, they have captured attention not as a lounge band, but as a creative, high-caliber fivesome that rocks in a unique and intelligent way.

Livid and Loving It is full of inventive writing and arrangements. All music and words were written by John, something he says doesn't come naturally, although, to the listener, it sounds as though the words were dictated to him from an alien on some distant planet. "It's all very autobiographical. I've found it's great therapy for anger; it's a way to purge these demons."

The result is a batch of tasty, "pissed off, but with a sense of humor"-type songs. Many of the verses I'd like to hang up on my wall as a mantra or write in a letter to my ex-boyfriends. Listen to this: "You've been trying for a very long time/To convince me you're so profound/Get up on your soap box/ I don't want your MTV/There's nothing on my Christmas tree that's yours."

While flipping through the channels one night, John wrote a song titled, "I Wanna Be Like Martha Stewart." He says he "kept getting sucked into this bizarre black hole" in which he couldn't stop watching Martha. "Part of me makes fun of her and the other part of me finds her show genuinely entertaining. I mean, I was excited to learn how to grow herbs!" Funky, light keyboards accompany words like, "John dear, why not be more like me/Sit down and try these cookies/ I'll give you the recipe."

John, who doubles as publicist for Indigo Girl Amy Ray's not-for-profit indie label, Daemon Records, cites the talent of the rest of the band as a reason for Belloluna's success. "My goal is to be the worst musician in the band," he laughs. Musicians for Belloluna are Jeff Jerso (guitars), Brian Kelly (drums), Brillo (Bass), and B. Wheeler (percussion and mandolin).

John himself was never formally trained in music. He just "noodled around" with keyboards, creating his own "weird chord chunks." His self-taught method mixed with the various sounds of horns and strings definitely works. Billboard Magazine published a feature about them in December. "It was a big feather in our cap," John says.

For now, the band will continue playing their goofy, tongue-in-cheek live act, while they bask in the early success of their second album and anticipate a time when they can make enough money to quit their day jobs. You can catch Belloluna on the east coast or the northeast this spring.

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