"The follow-up to a sensational debut, the new Black Stone EP suggests that the excellence evidenced in that initial outing was no fluke. Helmed by superb songstress Noelle Hampton, the Belle Sounds navigate the difficult divide between seductive folk pop and the sterling accessibility that successfully prevents them from ever becoming too self-absorbed. Despite the fact it’s only five songs long, Black Stone EP is a compelling compendium, further evidence that this band bears watching. Thus, one can only imagine what will come next."- Lee Zimmerman/No Depression
The newest project from established husband/wife team Noëlle Hampton and André Moran brings a bigger and brighter sound to Noëlle's songwriting. In 2013, the couple traveled to East Nashville, TN to work on a batch of songs with a new producer, Neilson Hubbard, in the hopes of getting away from the Americana sound they had been floating around and dig deeper into their musical roots of a more lush and rock based songwriter sound. What emerged was different enough that they decided to create a new entity called The Belle Sounds. As they formed the band and began to play live shows in Austin to support their eponymous record, it began to feel more and more like what they had envisioned. By the time they went back to Nashville to record their EP, Black Stone, they had created the beginning of their signature sound of strong three part harmonies and storytelling through a dynamic and lush soundscape. In many ways, it is just the beginning for The Belle Sounds.
Band members include Emily Shirley (keys/synth/vocals), Nathan Harlan (bass/vocals) and Jim Echels (drums) along with André Moran (electric guitar) and Noëlle Hampton (acoustic/electric guitar/keys/lead vocals).
Texas music icon Jon Dee Graham and his son William Harries Graham, who is following his father’s musical path, testified to both the band’s originality and its generational crossover appeal when they told The Belle Sounds, “No one is doing what you are doing”. The Austin Chronicle’s Michael Corcoran says, “The Belle Sounds are their own thing”.
Noëlle and André met 17 years ago when they were living in San Francisco and fell immediately in love. Hampton’s early career was a whirlwind of propulsion and media attention, and with André by her side on electric guitar, they opened for a number of major touring acts (Bob Dylan, Wilco, Chris Isaak etc), saw their songs placed in film and TV, released 3 albums and Noëlle appeared in the first iTunes commercial alongside such celebrated songwriters as Iggy Pop, Aimee Mann, Jeff Tweedy and Michael Penn. A move to Austin, TX immersed the musical couple in Americana, but before long Hampton began to miss her indie-folk/pop roots. As her writing began to shift back to that more instinctive ground, they decided to create a new project to highlight this direction. The Belle Sounds made their first appearance in 2013.
BLACK STONE EP:
On the heels of The Belle Sounds April 2013 eponymous debut release, recorded in East Nashville at Mr. Lemons Studio and produced by Neilson Hubbard, Hampton felt an even bigger shift in her songwriting and wanted to create a snapshot of the band in it’s current form, so they headed back up to record an EP with Hubbard, taking Emily and their bass player at the time, Kris Nelson with them. Hampton explains, “It was a no brainer; Neilson is such a creative force, and works so quickly and efficiently, all the while making the experience a blast. He has amazing ears and comes up with some really cool out of the box ideas. We work really well as a team and speak the same language.”
The songs on Black Stone take the listener on a beautiful journey of wonder, mystery, trepidation and reflection, from California’s Mt. Tamalpais to Greek isles, from ghosts to golden boys, with a spooky homage of sorts to HBO’s Dexter. In “The Siren”, the band explores a collective and calming counterpoint to the chalkboard screeching noise of technology and the general over-stimulation that seems to engulf us all these days, inspired by Ray Bradbury’s 1953 classic Fahrenheit 451. One can’t help but be swept away by “Ghost of Mykonos”, a tale of a bridegroom who came up missing on his Grecian honeymoon, never to be seen or heard of again, making full use of the band’s vocal mastery with their delicious and winsome “ooohs”. The EP concludes with Hampton’s sparse Erik Satie infused atmospherics on piano in the beautiful song, “Drifter”, that echoes the ebb and flow of friendship.
What began as a husband-and-wife duo has now transformed into a different and evolving story – kindred spirits all in service to the songs that this band feels must be sung, shared and celebrated. Black Stone, then, is but the latest family portrait in this moment in time; a time that calls out for the beautiful sounds of The Belle Sounds.