Double Up and Come Back #1: Paul Noonan of Bell X1 Interview Rewind

By on Friday, 12th September 2014 at 3:00 pm
 

Last week, Irish art rockers Bell X1 began part 2 of the touring cycle for ‘Chop Chop’, their fifth studio album that was released back in July 2013. When I caught up with frontman Paul Noonan via e-mail a few days ago, he was surprisingly frank about the album’s reception thus far. “To be honest we hoped it would have gotten to more ears by now. When we made the record we had such fire for it, and were aching to get it out there. We love playing so we’re glad to be out again, but we had hoped we’d get to visit a lot more places in the US this second time around.”

In my interview with him from last spring, Noonan talked about the “mentality shift” that went into the making of ‘Chop Chop’, particularly with regard to technical skill and playing the songs live. “We really wanted to do it quickly and mine a little more instinct and intuition and become better musicians.” He emphasised the live aspect of the band’s music as not just the end result, but an important part of the songwriting process. “Initially, actually, we wanted to make two short albums, and call one ‘Chop’ and the other ‘Chop’ and then have some kind of a way of connecting them that they would become ‘Chop Chop’. The time from making a record to it actually getting out is often frustratingly long, and often you spend 6 months or so sitting on a record you’ve made and are burning to get out and play and to bring to people. And so we wanted to make a record and put it out very quickly and then tour that, and then (repeat the cycle)”.

While events didn’t work out exactly according to that plan, circumstances did conspire to highlight a few other dualities surrounding Bell X1 relative to ‘Chop Chop’. The band spent the remainder of last year on the first part of the album’s tour cycle, including the October 2013 live date reviewed here. They then took a brief hiatus, which saw two of the band members working on side projects. Noonan introduced his treble-oriented duet project Printer Clips, which realised the idea of combining two component parts into a single unit. Meanwhile, multi-instrumentalist David Geraghty continued his understated solo work under the new title Join Me in the Pines. Noonan puts the side projects into perspective, saying that they fit comfortably into Bell X1’s current touring schedule. “Musicians and writers have a lot of time to make stuff, or to avoid making it, or to dream up new ideas for one day making stuff. And sometimes the stuff gets made. I suppose the band has become a hub from which lots of other projects have sprung over the years, and long may it continue. Sometimes there’s a clearing of the head required alright, when it comes time to work on new material as a band.”

After a busy start to 2014 with activity from both side projects, this summer saw Bell X1 reunite for a handful of festival dates in Ireland before they embarked on their first-ever tour of Australia in July. Of the antipodean experience, Noonan says, “It’s a hell of a long way down. We’ve been wanting to go for a while, so it was great to finally get there, and for people to show up to the gigs phew! It was a mad, spacey dash around the country in a week.”

Bell X1 began the North American leg of their autumn tour this past Tuesday in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Noonan hints that the set lists for these shows might be less focused on the recent ‘Chop Chop’. “We’ve added a few songs from other records to the pack this time out, it’s been good to get them together. We’ve been juggling various ideas for the set, trying something new every night so far.” Their opening act for the tour is Los Angeles singer/songwriter Gabriel Kahane. If Bell X1’s past support acts, which have included Lyla Foy and Duke Special, are any indication, Kahane should prove to be another undiscovered musical treasure. A full list of North American tour dates can be found on Bell X1’s official Web site.

Looking beyond the completion of their North American dates, Noonan says, “There’s some moonlighting to be done when we get home with the solo/side projects, some shows in Ireland. We’ve been offered some shows in the Middle East in December, so I’m hoping that will happen.” He is also cryptically optimistic about the potential new Bell X1 music in the near future. “We’ve been working on new songs over the summer. It’s been great to feel that thrill of jumping on that train again, glimpses of where the songs might go and what rags they may wear.”

Thanks to Paul Noonan for taking time to answer my questions, and to Foye for facilitating the e-mail exchange.

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