A Season of Change: Former Belle talks Life After ‘Foreign Bed’ EP

Featured Image via Carolyn Lederach 

It’s difficult to capture a sense of place in music, especially when you’re waking up in a place you’ve never been before. But that’s the exact sentiment that Former Belle frontman Bruno Catrambone accomplished on his project’s latest EP, Foreign Bed. Catrambone returned to Former Belle after taking a break to tour across the country with his other band, the immensely popular CRUISR. During that time, however, he managed to find a new source of inspiration that led to the development of Former Belle’s newest EP. After signing to Randm Records, Catrambone wasted no time calling up his long time friends and bandmates Kyle Sheva (Drums), Tim Bostwick (Bass), and Josh Miller (keys/guitar/vocals) to take the record on the road. The band also aligned itself with a PR company and brought on the savvy Carolyn Lederach to manage them, making Foreign Bed the band’s first serious release. Since the EP dropped in April of this year, the band has completed its first real tour that included shows with The Lawsuits, a performance with SoFar Sounds, and a session with the famous Daytrotter crew. I managed to catch the band before their set at Philadelphia’s Boot & Saddle to discuss achieving new heights, the ongoing flipcup war with The Lawsuits, capitalizing on the momentum they’ve built up, and more!

ROP: What were some of your recent experiences that inspired Foreign Bed?

Bruno Catrambone: I think it was a bigger picture thing. I happened to be on the road with CRUISR and in an inspiring spot creatively. I had time to really live inside my head for a bit to pick through thoughts and ideas. It’s kind of inspiring to wake up in a place you’ve never been before and just enjoy what’s around you. All that, combined with some changes that were going on at home, is what sparked the bigger picture of the EP as a whole.

ROP: Does it represent a phase you’ve moved on from?

BC: It’s a continuous kind of sadness *laughs*. I always battle the same gloomy weather all the time. I tend to be an extroverted person when I’m out and with friends, but I think there’s always a theme throughout the stuff I work on. It’s always there, even when it sounds like I’ve overcome it. Especially some of the changes that were going on while I was writing this stuff, it’s the type of struggle that will be there for a long time. I tend to write about what always bother me. Every now and then I’ll write a song that makes me think, “Okay, I got the hell out of my head and I won’t have to think about it again,” but there’s always something nagging at me me. I think the only way to cope with it is to write about it. It this form at least.

Album art courtesy of Randm Records

Album art courtesy of Randm Records

ROP: How did Foreign Bed come together in the studio?

BC: It started as me demoing a lot of stuff in my apartment. I had three new songs that were done and I found three old demos that were just vocals and guitar. I really liked how they sounded stripe down and honest, so, once I had all of these, I buried myself in them and took them to 1809 Studios where I recorded them with Dave Drago.

ROP: How has it been transitioning that intimacy to the full band?

BC: We’ll take songs that are mellow and solo then add parts to them live to make them more fun. I think there are some songs that call for live moments and I think we all come together and do that, even though the goal for recordings is to go for less is more. But live, it gives us a chance to add a little more to make it more enjoyable.

ROP: I looked through your tour photo diary and I was left with one question: Who won the flip cup battle you waged against The Lawsuits?

BC: Alright it’s complicated, because we won round one, then there was another round they won… somewhere. Then at the Fillmore, when we got back home, we decided to play a couple of rounds and they had sub-in players, we had sub-in players. Josh doesn’t drink and Sheva doesn’t drink fast, so lot of the load was on Tim and myself *laughs*.

Tim Bostwick: They had definitely practiced, too.

BC: Here’s the thing: they were smart, because they didn’t want to get too messed up before they played. It’s up in the air now. I feel like we’re gonna have to throw a party and settle it one day.

Kyle Sheva: It’s never ending.

BC: I’m gonna say it’s a complicated tie.

ROP: What’s the story behind all you guys getting group Former Belle tattoos in Chicago during the tour?

BC: It was representative of this EP. I think it’s finally getting to a point where we’re taking it seriously by playing together more, working with management, and having an awesome label have our backs. The logo came from the bass player in CRUISR, he’s a designer who does a lot of hand designed stuff that I love. I just asked him to put something together and it was just a very simple leaf. It was cool because the color scheme was very autumn-ish and went really well together. The fallen leaf goes well with a lot of the songs and it just made sense. Then we all decided to be goofballs and go in to get one together. It was Carolyn’s and Sheva’s first, so lots of apologizing to moms.

Introducing Leafgang Amadeus Mozart

Introducing Leafgang Amadeus Mozart

ROP: Were you guys able to have a pretty relaxed time out on the road?

KS: Define “Relaxed.”

Josh Miller: Was it too relaxed?

KS: I tried to keep it in check.

BC: These two (pointing at Miller and Sheva) do a very good job at keeping us in check, on-time, and prepared. Tim and I just drag Carolyn down with us.

KS: The trip was a very pleasant, enjoyable time. We didn’t come home with any issues. I never travelled like that with one, two people before, let alone five people in a small car, but it was a blast.

BC: It was. I think the fact that we’re all goofy as hell and like to have fun had a lot to do with it. I brought a selfie stick in Indiana, we got into Faceswap a lot which kept me busy between stuff like that and the time we had off like after Daytrotter. We went out into Chicago, got our tattoos, got some dinner, and did an interview there, and hung out. We really had fun and when you do that you set yourself up for a fun trip rather than anything stressful.

ROP: The Brookladelphia review of your show at The Fillmore noted that people at the show were especially attentive and responsive to you. Was there anything in particular with that audience that you felt was different from your other shows?

BC: That’s a toughy. We really click well with The Lawsuits and both band’s collective friend group are really supportive, very big mutual support system between these two bands. It’s a little startling that it’s taken so long for us to team up and do something together. I think when people come to see you live and they see that we’re all clicking as bands, that positive energy spills over into the people who are there to watch a show. Between the fact we all had a great time skateboarding in the green room and-

JM: Falling out of boxes.

BC: Yep, falling out of boxes, playing flip cup, popping champagne bottles…

KS: As far as crowd attentiveness, between our collective support systems, like Bruno said, we made a deal out of it with our family and friends. I think everybody wasn’t there to catch up with their friend from two months ago. Minimal conversation and genuinely interested in what we and The Lawsuits were doing onstage.

JM: That was definitely a night where people were like, “Oh, Former Belle and The Lawsuits at The Foundry?! This is something that I don’t want to miss.” I had a couple of people who I hadn’t seen in years who said “Whoa you’re still playing music? I want to see that.” At that venue, it was incredible.

How and when did Former Belle as a band come together?

BC: I’ve actually been playing with Tim and Sheva since high school.

TB: Since birth.

KS: I played my first live show with Bruno in, maybe, 2007 or 2008.

BC: We used to cover Taking Back Sunday, Starting Line…

KS: Both in a serious and joking environment. We would play them out live and in our parents’ homes.

BC: Yeah, it was our guilty pleasure. We would play them live because that’s what we loved to listen to. Still love rocking out to. We were all just heavily involved with music at the time. I was just learning how to play guitar, Tim was learning to play drums and we would just jam out on covers at bars we were too young to get into. When Former Belle first started in 2012, Tim was the original drummer and we had a totally different bassist plus a violinist. Sheva came in as an auxiliary percussionist and keys player, but everything shifted and Sheva started playing drums. We went through a couple of bassists before Tim came back then we eventually asked Josh to join. Over the years it’s turned into this lineup. There was a rotating cast, but after while I told these guys that you’re always a part of this and you’ll always get the call first.

ROP: It sounds like this started from a very personal place. How did it feel when you got signed to Randm Records for Foreign Bed’s release?

BC: For me, I was working on this project for four years then took a break from it for a year to play in CRUISR, then there was a point where everyone couldn’t be in the band anymore except for me. So I sort of ran away to Boston and wrote a bunch of songs and made friends *laughs*. To finally get to a point where we’re getting offers to work together on stuff… I’ve been too busy to sit back and think about just how cool it is. I will say that it’s a blessing because you work on something for years at a time, no matter who has your back or who’s in or out of the band, it’s a really cool feeling. I hope one day I can look back and think “Wow, that was cool.” It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m sure one day it will.

KS: We went thirteen months without playing a show and I said to the guys plenty of times, “Hey if we can play one show a month from now till we’re 40, that would be cool.” So when Bruno said he was gonna do the EP, I knew that would mean things gonna happen with the band as a whole and we’d be playing way more frequently. When that began in November to the New Year, we already had multiple shows booked and months later we’re getting into discussions about a tour. I was just grateful for the chance to do one show, so the fact that the EP has brought the band together for so many different reasons… I just couldn’t be more grateful.

TB: I think that speaks for all of us.

JM: Yeah I like playing in this band, I guess.

ROP: I’d love to hear about your Daytrotter Session. From what you mentioned in the tour photo diary, it sounded like a pretty outstanding experience.

BC: Daytrotter is legendary, you know. Everyone wants the cartoon photo of themselves and, for me, just to be there was incredible. I’ve been listening to Daytrotter since I was hopping on Pure Volume to find bands, so to be there was incredible. There’s plenty of bands that go through, but, when you actually do it, it goes a long way. When we got there it was brand new and the minute we walked in everyone was supportive. The sound guy was on it, Sean Moeller was there front and center listening to us, and the turnout was amazing for a Monday night. You could hear Tim flub every note *laughs*. You could literally hear everything word for word because everyone was there for a reason.

TB: They’re audio people, too. So everything in that room is built to sound good.

BC: That was by far the best sounding room we played it. We literally just plugged in and they did the rest. I remember feeling so at ease, content, and not stressing about anything because I knew they were taking care of it.

KS: Everything about the place was just so high quality. There’s a storage room for your gear between the green room and the stage, like everything little detail just made sense logistically. The monitor boxes were in nice, small wood housing –

TB: The perfectly sized flip cup table.

BC: That may have been a little disrespectful. It was brand new and we were playing flip cup.

ROP: Hey, leave no table with a cup unflipped.

BC: We leave no table with a cup unflipped

ROP: If CRUISR and Former Belle were family members, what would they be to each other?

BC: I think they would be step-siblings who get along very well cause they come from two totally different worlds but can still exist under the same roof without clashing. The CRUISR guys are nothing but supportive of us while I’m still trying to get these guys to support CRUISR.

KS: I love CRUISR. It’s a very mutual thing. They come out and support us at our shows and we do the same.

ROP: Looking back and drawing from your experience with CRUISR, do you feel like this release and tour had gave Former Belle a lot of positive momentum going forward?

BC: Definitely! I think there’s nothing more important than putting yourself out there. Even if you’re playing for a room of five people, you have to do the small tours, the shows that you still feel iffy about, it’s important to just put yourself out there. That tour especially is huge because you have to branch out. Now we’re already planning more dates, and those come from putting ourselves out a line. It was our first tour in places we had never been as a band. That’s so next level for this band because it was the only thing that we hadn’t done as a group. That’s how you push things to the next level is put yourself out there in random places. We’re also working with a great PR company and manager to help push this record. Our job was to just get out there and play, which was a big step for Former Belle. That was for sure a big stepping stone we needed to tackle.

ROP: From a business standpoint, it would have been easier for you to have done this tour solo. Not only that, the EP was, admittedly a little minimal and acoustic. What would have missed out on had you not brought everyone along with you?

BC: You know, I’ve thought about this and still may do something like that so I don’t wear and tear these guys as much. And you’re right, a lot of the EP is very bare and acoustic. I could tour on it if I really wanted to, but the thing is playing without a band is a whole different ball game. The shows you can get on as an acoustic act are very specific. A lot of the time it’ll be like, “Okay, be there by 6 then you can go on at 6:30” and you’ll be like, “But the show doesn’t start till 7…” *laughs* With a band, you can offer a full package. It can be a little more accessible for people coming out to see bands. It would have to be a very specific tour if I were to do it myself.

ROP: What was everyone’s favorite song from Foreign Bed to play live?

KS: “I Woke Up in Chicago” is actually the only song on the EP that has drums on them. Bruno also did the drums on it. I’ve always been told I’m a pocket drummer and that’s right up my alley. It’s perfect.

TB: Yeah, that’d be my favorite off the EP that we’re playing live right now. The version we’ve been doing recently includes a little bit of improv at the end, which has made it fun and it gets a nice response.

JM: I’ll have to go with “I Woke Up In Chicago” as well. That was the first new Former Belle song that we got into playing, which was nice having played with these guys for so long. It gave us something fresh, like Tim said, to jam on, do a lot of improv and still shape into something different live. We still keep it straight forward like the recording, but it’s still exciting.

BC: I guess “I Woke Up in Chicago” for me as well. It highlights some of my favorite things about this band. I get to play acoustic guitar, I love keyboard lines and it has that. It’s so weird because every time I hear the song I think of Colbie Caillat or Norah Jones a little bit. I know it sounds crazy, but when I hear that simple, laid back drum, I love that. I had a very specific snare and kick drum sound in mind, but the kick in the studio far surpassed what I had in mind. What I was originally hearing a very Norah Jones-y type drum sound, like a very laid back and smooth sound. I just loop that and make these guys play it over and over again. That’s my favorite because it highlights those little parts that I enjoy about playing those songs.

I stuck around Boot & Saddle after the interview to catch the Former Belle’s show. After two superb sets from notable Philly acts Hemming and Howlish, Former Belle took to the stage to perform tracks from the band’s Sounds From The Ground EP and Foreign Bed. Halfway through the set, Catrambone posed the question to the audience of whether they’d rather hear Nirvana or Taylor Swift. Luckily, we were treated to both as the band dove into the Nevermind classic “Polly” and a cover of the Ryan Adams’ cover of “Bad Blood.” It was an incredibly intimate and lighthearted show complete with birthday wishes to friends and mid-set whiskey shots. Take a look below for pictures from the show courtesy of Carolyn Lederach!

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