Needs More Wild Belle: Pop Duo Natalie and Elliot Bergman on Their Next Move
To see more of Elliot and Natalie’s work, both in and outside music, check out @nataliebergman and @elliotbergman on Instagram. For more music stories, head to @music.
When Elliot Bergman (@elliotbergman) was a kid, he picked up a record by Brian Eno and Jon Hassel called Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics. It set his mind on a decade-spanning journey through the imagination –– one he’s still on to this day.
“I maybe stole the sentiment for the titles of some of my own records,” says Elliot, about his early purchase. “Ghost Rock, Invisible Cities, Isles and Dreamland all might have something to do with what I imagined Eno and Hassell thought was ‘possible music.’”
Elliot’s exploration typically happens with the help of his younger sister, Natalie (@nataliebergman). Together they make up the two-piece group Wild Belle. But even when they’re not conjuring expansive, reggae-tinged pop tunes, the Bergman kids keep busy. Natalie’s art, for instance, has been used as the cover for the band’s singles “June” and “Keep You.”
“The X-Acto knife is probably my number one tool besides the guitar,” she says. “I sort of feel like everything in my life makes sense when I glue these collages together. It’s definitely an escape from reality, but it also has become my reality.”
Natalie also pastes old models onto vintage cars and choppers, setting them in exotic deserts, mountains or sometimes just plain black backgrounds. Her favorite materials are old Iron Horse biker mags and ‘60s-era National Geographics. The photos are sometimes hand-painted and often matte in finish, reflecting her and her brother’s obsession with merging classic styles and vintage processes with a modern attitude.
“I like dusty magazines,” she says. “I like dusty clothing, I like it to have some wear and tear. When it comes to making music, we love machines that are more complex, but also simpler than your cell phone.”
“We have a soft spot for things that are slightly outmoded or half broken,” adds Elliot. “The modern way of making a record is actually pretty complex. You have an infinite amount of sounds and processing tools at your fingertips. We try to embrace those technologies that help work flow, but we do cling to some of the beautiful old things that we love.”
Like his sister, Elliot also keeps himself busy with handcrafted diversions, from foot-tall (30-centimeter) bronze sculptures to original, functional instruments that find their way into Wild Belle recordings. The video for “Another Girl” shows Elliot working an electronic kalimba, a thumb-piano in the style of African mbiras, which he then runs through various effects pedals and amps to create the sound of steel drums, church bells and fuzz guitars.
“He can make anything,” says Natalie.
Lately, Elliot has been casting a variety of bells from bronze using the lost wax method — one he says is “one of the oldest methods of casting, and still one of the best.”
“When my great-grandmother died, I was given a small collection of Swiss cowbells that I loved,” he says. “Since then I’ve been collecting them wherever I travel. I’ve brought back big bags full from India and Africa. They end up getting used on my records and oftentimes given away as gifts.”
Elliot’s bells are featured throughout Wild Belle’s latest LP, Dreamland, set for release in April. The band grew immensely throughout the recording process, working with a range of producers including Doc McKinney, Pat Carney, Diplo and more. Elliot and Natalie continue to venture into new sonic territories, blending genres and instrumentation as a means to keep creating the wild worlds that run through their brains.
“It’s an expanded world for Wild Belle on Dreamland,” he says. “With every song you have so many possibilities, and you have to learn how to write a song each time. It’s a process of discovery.”