By Kristi Kates
Since 2009, when Express last checked in with Ann Arbor band Orpheum Bell, they were putting on a big CD release show at Freshwater Studios in Boyne City - and watching their music slowly but surely acquire more and more critical and fan acclaim.
Well, the gypsy-esque lineup of musicians has changed a bit, now reading Aaron Klein, Michael Billmire, the inimitable Serge van der Voo, and newest bandmates Henrik Karapetyan and Katie Lee (With every member change, our music goes through a growing transformation process; Katie and Henrik have added tremendous intensity and inspiration to our groups sound, van der Voo says) but Orpheum Bell the band havent slowed down at all.
YEAR OF ACCOMPLISHMENT
In the past year, we took part in several music festivals and concert series events, such as the Detroit Folk Festival; the Black Swamp Arts fest in Bowling Green, Ohio; the Ann Arbor Summer Arts Festival; Detroits annual Soup City Benefit; and the Aten Place Summer Concert Series in Boyne Falls, van der Voo explains.
In addition, several tracks from that aforementioned CD release event (Pearls, 2009) were selected for a prestigious film soundtrack, yet another coup for the group.
The songs were chosen for an art documentary, The Life of Chris Roberts-Antieau, van der Voo says, the film was released in 2010, and was featured at Baltimores American Visionary Art Museum.
Visionary is a good word to apply to Orpheum Bell themselves. More multifaceted yet simultaneously more focused than many indie bands on the scene today, their self-professed country and eastern approach melds moody folk, gypsy, and retro jazz into a sound thats uniquely their own, and has been made even more diverse by their newest bandmates and experimentation on new instruments all round.
Our new material is definitely more rhythmic with the recent addition of instruments such as xylophone and glockenspiel, and collaborating with a drummer/percussionist, van der Voo says, There are Cuban, Latin, even Mariachi influences to be heard in the new songs. It has been a lot of fun to explore new directions and experiment lyrically with these songs, and the vocals on this one are much more playful - theres one in Russian as well.
RHYTHMS AND RIBBONS
More of those songs are on the way soon from this ambitious group, which Orpheum Bell fans will be glad to hear. The band are currently writing and recording their third album, which theyre already titled The Old Sisters Home, (due out December of this year).
The drummer/percussionist that theyre collaborating with is none other than Red Sea Pedestrians Mike Shimmin (who also works with local favorites Seth and Daisy), and the approach theyre taking this time is along the same retro vein as before, but with a little added attention to changing around some of the technological details in the studio.
Weve been using older ribbon microphones and analog tape, van der Voo explains, which adds a certain warmth to the recordings.
As the weather itself is getting warmer, Orpheum Bell is spending even more time on the road, with plans to hit Chicago for a series of live shows in May. Theyll be making their first appearance at the Frederic Meijer Gardens Amphitheater in Grand Rapids in August (with Lac La Belle), and will be playing Ann Arbors Ark in September, to be followed by another Ann Arbor-based locale for their CD release around the holidays.
But first, another visit to Northern Michigan for a trio of events: one at Traverse Citys InsideOut Gallery, a return to Boyne Citys Freshwater Studio, and an appearance on WNMC-FM, all of which van der Voo says the band are really looking forward to, especially given their current revitalized membership.
Were excited to be returning with plenty of new sounds, and with our latest member, Henrik, who is just such an amazing violinist, van der Voo enthuses, we really do consider ourselves lucky with this latest lineup.
Orpheum Bell will be appearing on WNMC 90.7 FM on Friday, March 18 at 2 p.m.; at the InsideOut Gallery in Traverse City on Friday, March 18 at 8 p.m.; and at Freshwater Studio in Boyne City on Saturday, March 19 at 8 p.m. For more information contact the individual venues, or visit the bands website at http://orpheumbell.com.