Friday, March 4, 2011
In Scarlet and Vile: The Echoing Green Confronts Life
By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS) -- Somewhere on Texas is a studio that resembles a barn. Now the Texas I’m referring to is not the large state. Rather, it’s a street in Albuquerque, New Mexico where producer and musician, Joey Belville, works to create his brilliant music.
I began by asking a simple question: “How long has it taken to finish this album?’
“Believe it or not, this album is five years in the making,” Joey said, almost apologetically.
“But let me say, much has occurred in the past five years,” he added.
“Like what?” I prodded him, knowing that his plate has been quite full.
“Well, to begin with, I’ve produced six albums: two for the group, Leiahdorous; two for the group, Argyle Street; one album for Pristina; and one album for the punk rock group, Vertigo Venus.”
“Not enough,” I joke back. “Anything else?”
“I guess so,” he shot back. “I’ve been given four awards by the New Mexico Music Association: Producer of the Year, Best Rock Production, Best Punk Producer, and Best Electronic Track. Is this enough?”
“I suppose,” I say, letting him off easy.
Joining them on this new album is John Ball on guitar, Will Foster on keyboards, and Dave Adams returns on drums.
“So tell me about the album,” I said.
“How so?” I asked.
“Well, the album confronts life: the conflicts people have and the way humans deal with life’s issues. We created several ‘what-if’ situations, whereby we address topics that people have in a very real ways,” he clarified.
“Give me an example,” I said, wanting more.
“On the song, The Huntress, for example, we talk about a girl who is addicted to her abusive lifestyle. Though the girl knows what she does is wrong, she continues to act out her unruly passions, causing pain and turmoil in the process. In essence, she’s pushing the limits of grace,” Joey answered, thoughtfully.
“Though this girl as the power to stop what she is doing, she continues to make people stumble,” he added.
“How does the The Huntress work itself out musically?” I asked.
“Chrissy sings the lead, the huntress. She is seeking her next kill, if you will. In turn, I sing counter-lines as the one being pursued, the hunted. We go back and forth throughout the song as the hunter and hunted,” he explains.
“This gives you an idea of the direction of the song,” Joey pointed out with a mischievous look.
“What about the song, Suffer? What influenced you to write this song?” I asked.
“I was listening to a John Piper message on suffering. A phrase he said caught my attention. I began to think through the idea of suffering, coming to the conclusion that—to a certain extent—we were made to suffer,” Joey said.
“Suffering is an awful and beautiful reality. Even though we live in a grace-infused world, the hard fact is that we don’t deserve it, and this, in an odd way, is a type of suffering—knowing that we don’t get what we deserve.”
“O.K, one more,” I added. “Tell me about Heaven: Devil in the Details. Sounds like an odd assemblage of opposite realities: heaven and the devil,” I clarified.
“Heaven is about a relationship gone wrong,” Joey pointed out.
“Give me an example of the words,” I ask, not thinking he would remember. But voila—they pour forth:
“Weekend comes and all we've said is done/But we can't get past/All the memories that we've pushed away/All the feelings that we've led astray (led astray)And all the Saturday's and Sunday's someday/I see heaven in the things you say/And the devil when you look away/And you breathe like it's the first time/And I feel like it's the last time/I see heaven in the things you say/And the devil when you look/Look the other way/And I feel my heart resign/With empty hearts here we both stand/And the second hand...It goes tick... tock… tick... tock...The culmination of our hopes and fears/And all the minutes stretching into years/I wanna make the circle stop/Every time I hear the/Heaven in the things you say/And the devil when you look away/And you breathe breathe like it's the first time/But I feel this is the last time/I see heaven in the things you sayAnd the devil when you look/Look the other way/And our hearts beat out of time/Something like that,” Joey finished up. “There is a little more, but this will suffice to get the gist.”
Looking around his studio, one thing hits you like a brick: there is a lot of electronic equipment. There’s rack, keyboards, computers, and gadgets galore.
“Would you consider yourself an electronic musician?” I asked.
“Well, no,” Joey responded. “Now don’t get me wrong, electronics play a huge role in what I do, but calling The Echoing Green an ‘electronic’ band is an overstatement. We use real drums, guitars, bases, and the like. As a matter of fact, the wonderful drummer, Teryl Bryant (from Iona), plays on a track,” Joey replied.
“In all, our sound has an electronic base, with a rock top. I think the songs are not stale like some other electronic tracks, but exude intimacy and passion,” he continued.
“So what do you make of all this electronic gear in your studio?” I asked.
“All the gadgets are just tools to help craft excellent songs, nothing more. If this song isn’t good, all the gadgets in the world won’t help,” he said.
“Though, I may add, I do have some cool gear. Take this Atomosyth. It’s Peruvian made. It provides me with some crazy sounds. But once again the sounds help craft the songs, not vice versa.”
“Did you do the mixing yourself?” I asked.
“I did some of it. Overall, that’s something I do for other groups. But with The Echoing Green’s new album I wanted to get some outside ears. For six of the songs, I worked with Simeon Browning from the United Kingdom. Another fellow from Britain, Glen Nicholls, mixed another song. They did a great job,” Joey said quite enthusiastically.
“Any surprises on the album?” I asked, before wrapping up our conversation.
“Yeah, as I mentioned earlier, the internet version has additional songs. These extra tunes are a little more experimental, and some downright rock. Also, the last song on the album, Away, is unique for The Echoing Green. It’s the closest thing we get to a praise song. It’s about being taken up and away in God’s consuming love. It’s like asking God to rescue humanity from the mess we’re in. But in all, there are a few surprises,” Joey said, with a sneaky grin.
With that, we sip more tea and talk about how Jim Morrison, of The Doors, lived down the street from Joey’s studio as a young teenager.
I wonder if brilliant music is birthed in the heart of Albuquerque. My conclusion after hearing The Echoing Green’s, In Scarlet and Vile, is in the positive: wonderful music is still being birthed.
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