Posted by Tobias Carroll
The Brooklyn-based four-piece BELLS≥ play finely controlled music capable of shifting from expansive roaring to quiet explorations of sonic textures. Their debut, the six-song There Are Crashes, alternates loudly cathartic moments with more contemplative sections; live, those dynamics are even more pronounced, with controlled use of silence and occasional wordless vocals making appearances.
They’re also a band with innate literary connections: the poetry of drummer Zach Barocas has appeared in journals such as A Public Space, and he has released two collections to date. Barocas also runs the independent press known as The Cultural Society. (He’ll also be appearing atVol.1’s next Civic Pride event, on May 19th at WORD.)
As I write these questions, you’re presently en route to DC to play a show with Office of Future Plans. What does the current state of Bells travel reading look like?
Zach Barocas (drums): I had James Gleick’s The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood with me, though the trip was mostly a chatty one: there was no reading for me until I got home.
Steve Shodin (guitar): I typically drive the van so I don’t get to read during the actual traveling. I always bring a book though. This time around, I didn’t drive, and ended up reading Twitter and some other interwebs stuff on my phone. I brought along Neil Stephenson’s Quicksilver which I’ve been reading for a few weeks now. It’s a huge & fascinating piece of work that I’m savoring slowly, like a well-made cocktail.
What else of note have you been reading lately?
Barocas: John Adams, Hallelujah Junction; Ed Roberson, To See the Earth Before the End of the World; Fred Uhlman, Reunion: A Novella.
Shodin: I started reading Glen Duncan’s new book, The Last Werewolf, at about the same time I got the Stephenson, and ended up consuming it in a matter of days. It’s a really fun read and was a nice break from the massive Quicksilver. I’m also really into Brian Evenson right now thanks in large part to, well, your recommendation.
Chris Ernst (guitar): I have been slowly reading these 4 books this Spring off and on. I guess that counts? Ex Machina (graphic novel series) by Brian K. Vaughan; The Parallax View (Short Circuits) by Zizek; Atomic Light (Shadow Optics) by Akira Mizuta Lippit; The End of Days: Armageddon and Prophecies of the Return by Zecharia Sitchin.
Adam Rizer (bass): I’m reading The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow.
Your first album was released via The Cultural Society, and the merch tables I’ve seen at your shows have had as much (if not more) books than music available. Do you find that people who’ve come to see your music are receptive to buying a book or two?
Barocas: By & large, I’m not selling any books at shows. I think it’s worth it, however, to have them there to let people know that it’s part of what we do. Ours is a band committed to a number of pursuits other than playing music, any and all of which inform and intrude upon our musical practice.
Shodin: Whether they are receptive to the books or not isn’t something I spend a lot of time thinking about, but I am always hoping that folks at least take a look. Z. puts out quality stuff and I think it speaks for itself. I’d love it if people bought his poetry chapbooks at the same time they buy our record, but I don’t expect it, which, i suppose, is the whole point. I don’t see any reason why the worlds of poetry and rock music have to be separate, but some folks might. I feel like the CultSoc exists to bring all kinds of people together regardless of particular interests. So yeah, I hope that folks are receptive to what the CultSoc is putting forth.
Zach, as a poet and a drummer, you work with rhythms in very different mediums. Do you find that there’s any give-and-take between the two — that working in these different disciplines makes you view the creation of both differently?
Barocas: I find there’s significant give-and-take between the two, or at least I seem to be concerned with the same things in either practice: measure, energy, feeling, and community.
(Photo: Caspar Newbolt)