For some bands the road is smooth, direct and easy to follow. For other bands, like Former Belle, it’s like trying to navigate through Center City in rush hour.
Formed and fronted by Philadelphia’s Bruno Joseph, folk band Former Belle has a colorful history. Starting as a solo project for Joseph in Summer 2010, Former Belle transitioned into a full band with violins, upright bass and foot-stomping drums.
This chapter would not last forever, though. After “breaking up” in mid-2011, Joseph continued Former Belle as a solo project, one that ultimately took him to Europe.
Refueled by a foreign tour, Former Belle is back at it, having released its first full-length album, “Cathedral,” this past winter. To achieve the diverse sound found on the album, live shows now feature new members Nathan Allebach on bass and Kyle Sheva on drums.
Former Belle will play PhilaMOCA on May 9. The Temple News talked to Bruno Joseph about Former Belle’s music, history and future.
The Temple News: When did you start writing material that would ultimately become Former Belle songs?
Bruno Jospeh: I wrote in late high school, but the stuff that became Former Belle didn’t really happen until college. A lot of the time during winter breaks or summer vacations because I’d go home and not have a job, and that’s where I’d just be stranded in my mom’s basement writing.
TTN: Can you explain how Former Belle came to be?
BJ: After I got out of college I had all those songs that I wrote throughout college. I met with a producer [Chris Radwanski]. I was going to do the whole solo act. [Radwanski] said, “Why don’t you get a band?” And at that point I just called friends and said, “These are the songs. These are the parts I have in my head. Help me put them together in a band.” And it kind of formed that way. It formed as a solo project into, “Hey, let’s be a band now.”
TTN: How did you come up with the name Former Belle?
BJ: I had a couple names in mind because I felt they represented the project, but Former Belle represents a time where I thought life was this big beautiful thing and I thought life was always going to be that way. And then as I got older, I saw the more harsh side of it, so I always wanted to reach back to where things were formerly beautiful.
TTN: How would you describe the evolution of Former Belle?
BJ: It started as a solo project with friends. And then it turned into a folk band. From there, it really turned into a full-on, full-time band. We were playing every month, and we were playing a lot of shows a month. And then we started traveling, and then we bought [a] van to travel in. I’d say the biggest step for Former Belle is we kind of took a break when I moved to Boston. Everyone kind of dispersed and decided to do their own things. That was considered us breaking up. And then while I was in Boston I wrote half the new album and then got a call that I could go to Europe to tour. I think that the European trip, plus the Boston trip, was really the biggest step in the evolution of what the band actually turned into. Once I got back it was, “OK, new record.”
TTN: You just put out your first full-length album, “Cathedral.” Describe the writing process of that album.
BJ: The writing process was weird, because it happened in three completely different sections. Some of songs were older songs that I wrote during the first “Sounds from the Ground EP” days. Then when we went through our breakup and I moved to Boston, I’d say half the songs, if not written, were started there. And then I went on tour in Europe for about five weeks, and I wrote the rest of the songs. So, it started in Philly, went to Boston, went to Europe and essentially all the songs came together in the studio when I moved back to Philly after the tour.
TTN: What would you say was one of the most significant moments for you and Former Belle?
BJ: The opportunity to go to Europe. That was life changing, because at that point I thought Former Belle was dwindling out. At that point it changed my whole outlook and it was like, “Yeah, I still want to do this.”
Jared Whalen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.