AS TOLD TO Chris Nelson IMAGES Christian Anwander
ARTWORK Natalie Bergman
We swooned when we first heard Natalie Bergman’s smoky, seductive voice. In 2013, she and her brother Elliot brought Wild Belle to life in their hometown of Chicago and wowed the scene by using unique instruments to create catchy, Caribbean-influenced music. Wild Belle now has two hit records and a third drops later this year.
I&A: Wild Belle’s debut album, Isles, is lighthearted and romantic. The sophomore album, Dreamland, feels angrier and more raw. Where did you draw inspiration from for the first two albums, and what should we expect from the third?
NB: I love Jamaica and spent a lot of time there, so the first album had a happier island influence. The second album felt a little heavier just because I had a little bit of chaos going on in my life. As we're working on the third record it seems kind of like a full circle back to the Caribbean roots that I grew up listening to. Elliot has an amazing studio in Chicago with every kind of instrument you could imagine. We're trying to figure out our mission for this next record. We both want it to touch on things beyond us and above us.
I&A: We’re amazed how strong and successful your brother-sister relationship is. Seriously, how have you managed to not kill each another?
NB: I think there's something so unbelievable about being connected by actual blood — essentially sharing the same blood cells. You can't really fuck with that. Sometimes we make each other absolutely mad and insane and throw shit at each other. It's one of the most challenging relationships I've ever been in. But it's rewarding because Elliot shares this sort of sonic library with me. We really have the same taste for sound and tambour and all of that stuff. We just share this dialogue that no one can fuck with, and we’ve both made ourselves very vulnerable on this next record.
I&A: Tell us about the album. Are you already falling in love with it?
NB: There's a track that I'm totally crazy for called “We Are the Future.” It's loosely based on the Gully Queens, a transgender community that lives in Jamaica. They are completely ridiculed,completely outcast and alienated from their society, so they're sort of the nomads of the country. The track has this booming bass and booming rhythm section. I’m stoked on it.
I&A: Not long ago, you started posting strange, sort of grotesque collages on social media. What’s with that?
NB: Collage is such a remedy to my life. It's just you and scissors and faces. I'm making these and it's tedious as shit, but I find it very rewarding. It brings me ease and peace of mind. Just ripping stuff up, cutting stuff up — the act of essentially destroying something in a peaceful way. The “freaks” … most of them are pretty lonely and sad. They're kind of like little strangers, but they're my friends. It's a way for me to put myself — my soul — into a different person.
I&A: More and more, motorcycle lingo finds its way into your lyrics. You have a thing for bikes, huh?
NB: My dad grew up riding motorcycles. He loves vintage BMWs, and so does my brother. And old machines have always been appealing to me. Not just choppers, but cars. I've always found myself driving a vintage car of some sort. Right now I've got a '65 Mustang. Hand-built things are very attractive to me — my instruments, my amplifiers, my vehicles, so and so.
I&A: What is it that attracts you to motorcycling specifically?
NB: I've been on trips, going 700 miles on the back of my boyfriend's motorcycle, and the rain feels like fucking needles on my face, and the cold is just brutal. And it can be so brutal — my journey as an artist. It can be just excruciatingly painful because the lows feel so bad, but the highs are incredible and I wouldn't change what I have for anything. There's this freedom and there's this danger that's involved because we aren't certain. Nobody's certain of what's going to happen. On a motorcycle, there is this undeniable feeling of freedom, and that's the best feeling in the world. And I think that with my music I've been blessed to have this great outlet that takes me all over the world. I want my music to connect with people everywhere and touch them in a grand way.
This article was originally featured in Issue 028 of Iron & Air Magazine.