Band Booking: Jake Bellows on Borges, Backing Vocals, and More


New Ocean, the new album from Jake Bellows, is a quietly beguiling folk-rock record. It’s the small details that make this particularly captivating: a blissful guitar line; a backing vocal that avoids expectations. Ultimately, it makes for a fresh-sounding album, rooted in certain traditions and rootless in others. If Bellows’s name sounds familiar, it’s likely through his work as frontman for Omaha’s Neva Dinova; Bellows has since relocated to Los Angeles. I caught up with him via email to ask some questions about New Ocean.

You wrote on your website about endeavoring to release songs soon after they’ve been written and recorded. How has this approach been working so far?

I guess you could say that my efforts to this end have somewhat slowed with the recent release of New Ocean. However, I continue to try to record the songs as near to their birth as I can, my thinking is, the songs will retain their initial spark of inspiration and (hopefully) the clarity of vision that comes with their conception.

Has that changed the process that you record your songs at all?

I think it has changed things some. I no longer want to wait for the year that it takes to finish all of the songs, in order to record the one that is ready and done.

And how did you go about selecting the songs that comprise New Ocean?

New Ocean‘s song selection came about from a process that was sort of unique. I had recorded some demos and then sent them, thirty in all, to some of my most trusted friends to ask their opinion as to which ones spoke to them most clearly. They were asked to choose their favorite 10, and then I picked out of the overlapping chosen ones.

I’m struck by the way the backing vocals come in in “I Can’t Wait” — it’s slightly off-kilter, and works (for me, at least) very effectively. How did you go about arranging these songs?

I’m so glad you like that! That was a last minute choice to bring in two uniquely talented young sisters to sing the parts. I love the sound of their voices, they affect a different and profound feeling when I hear them. The arrangement was sort of interesting as well. I stood in the room with them as they were recording (per their request) and acted as a conductor to their delivery. It was really fun and had an interesting effect. Each one was conducted with a different hand, but at the same time.

What does the concept of a new ocean mean to you?

I suppose, without boring you with some laborious analogy, the New Ocean represents to me, oneness and harmony amongst humans, with a focus on how we treat one another.

What have you been reading lately?

I recently picked up a copy of Don Quixote as an effort in discipline and also because it comes highly recommended by my very favorite author, Jorge Luis Borges. They are both fantastic, but I think I love Borges best!

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