The Van Allen Belt is the vision of songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Benjamin K. Ferris. In 2006, he initially intended for the project to emulate and re-contextualize the sounds of 1960’s pop. Recordings were made with 2 female vocalists; collaborator Tamar Kamin gave an injection of Pittsburgh’s historic jazz gateway with confident and versatile vocals in both lead and background roles; perfectly offsetting witty, wry lyrics and Martine Mancini was the voice behind the smoky and soulful leads heard on 6 of the 20 songs on their self-released debut "Meal Ticket To Purgatory" in 2007. The album received warm accolades from a wide array of critics and musicians, including Indiecater Records, Jono Podmore (Can Collaborator), Leicester Bangs, Leonard’s Lair, Paul Giovanni, Song By Toad, & Worm (Rotterdam). With the departure of Mancini after the night of their live debut on Friday April 13th 2007, the group began working as a 4 piece live band, enlisting the talents of bass/guitarist Tom Altes, and Scott Taylor on drums with Ferris on keys and Kamin performing lead vocals atop prerecorded background. They were soon opening a short U.S. tour with indie favorites Stereolab and the solo project of Bradford Cox, Atlas Sound. Debuting alongside such luminaries set a high standard of achievement and TVAB immediately set again to the studio.
Recording sessions in 2009 produced the albumette "Vancouver and All The Reasons Why" as well as the sophomore LP "Superpowerfragilis: Or How I Learned To Stop Caring And Love The Drug" which were released simultaneously on January 20th 2010. “Superpowerfragilis” received a glowing endorsement from the UK singer/songwriter and author Julian Cope (Head Heritage). The song “Camp Newton” was featured in “Under The Radar” Magazine’s Spring Sampler vol. 18, alongside tracks from Reggie Watts, Toro Y Moi and Fleet Foxes. “Out To Lunch” was showcased on Tom Robinson's show - BB6 Radio Introducing in 2011.
At this time, the project took a turn in a visual way, as the team began recording original videos to complement the songs on their follow-up album. “Out To Lunch” was featured on Ruth Barnes blog "The Other Woman" and was screened at the SENE Film Festival in April 2012. The music video for "Lovely in Akron” was screened at the First Glance Film Festival in November 2012, earning Scott Taylor credit for Best Director. Video compositions became an integral element to the live performances, featuring the work of fellow contributing artist Peter Luckner along with the group's original productions.
The performance that The Van Allen Belt have developed is a multimedia installation, incorporating video with a juxtaposing sonic identity composed of heavy beats, angelic vocals, mixed and effected on stage. The live performance strays from Ferris’ introspective method with the recordings by literally joining all members together sonically, making for a unique live studio feel for each track. They have performed over 250 national US shows including showcases in the CBGB, MPMF, NXNE, SXSW, and VIA festivals. They plan to release a new LP in the fall of 2014.