The Early Years
The Belltowers – “Demonstrations” CDR (No Label) 2008
I was recently contacted by ex Lears guitarist Paul Mutchler after he had found my blog. Paul suggested that I might be interested in hearing his new band The Belltowers who also have a penchant for 12 string Rickenbacker action.
”Of course I would be” was my cry and he kindly offered to airmail me some Belltowers sounds to EXPO67 HQ. I eagerly awaited the CDs for I’m always hungry for guitar jangle. Well, my dear readers the package arrived this morning and I was blown away by the uptempo cool rockin’ jangle souds.
The Belltowers hail from Orlando, Florida and have quite rightly joined my favourite list of contemporary groups who hark back to yesterday’s sounds but give the whole reverie new and fresh sonics.
This 5 song CDR contains cover versions of Gene Clark’s ’Los Angeles’ and the traditional folk rock gem ’I Know My Rider’ recorded by several 60s groups. The three original songs are also perfect jangle rockers with the shorter blast of ’Tried So Hard’ my pick of the crop.
Paul tells me that all five songs on ’Demonstrations’ were recorded on his Tascam 4 track.
Paul Mutchler (12 string/vocals)
Marshall Huggins (bass/vocals)
Eddie Foeller (guitar)
Ken Chiodini (drums)
The Belltowers – “The Lily-Pad Sessions” (Curium Records) 2009
The Belltowers recorded this five song mini CD at Lily-Pad Sound Studio, Orlando in Florida during July and August 2009. By now original drummer Ken Chiodini (ex The Lears) had been replaced by Tom Miller.
All songs are Belltowers originals except ’Annabel Lee’ which had been recorded in 1991 by Paul Mutchler’s former band The Lears. The openers ’Make Me Smile’ and ’I Can’t Wait’ are short and sweet. The former is fast paced jangle rocker with the addition of some magical tambourine bash. 12 string guitar mixed with a tambourine sounds so good it makes my mind hurt.
’No Reason To Cry’ is a slowish folk rocker that reminds me of early Rain Parade. A very mournful and reflective piece of greatness with some cool harmonies and sunshine pop ’La La La’s’ over the 12 string texture.
My favourite song from the ’Lily-Pad Sessions’ is the fabulous folk punk jangler ’Tomorrow Will Remain’ – The Belltowers really hit their stride with this absolute killer. Fuzz and feedback enter the mix giving the song more of a Sunset Strip garage sound than on their previous recordings.
The Belltowers – 4 track demo CDR (February 2010)
The latest Belltowers demo recordings were put down at Lily-Pad Sound Studio during February 2010 and the overall jangle sound remains intact but these new songs have a more pop approach. Indeed some would suggest that The Belltowers have gone all power pop.
’I Can’t Hide’ is a cover version of The Flamin’ Groovies tune and the group stick with the Groovies formula of melodic guitar and harmonies. I think this is the stand out demo cut.
The remaining three songs are all Belltowers originals and have their signature sound but lack the sparkling tambourine flourishes from earlier recordings. But, as Paul pointed out to me these songs are still ’work in progress’ and no way the completed article. That may be true but I’ve heard way rougher finished performances that have had official releases in the past.
These four songs were recorded on a KORG digital 8 track.
For me The Belltowers are up there with my favourite contemporary groups and performers at the moment such as The Thanes, The Higher State and Paul Messis. They get the EXPO67 seal of approval and come highly recommended.
My questions to Paul about The Belltowers:
Q1. When and how did The Belltowers form a group. Did you already know the other guys for instance?
Eddie Foeller and I started a band called, Wild Mercury. Our bass player was Kenny Bussiere (ex-Original Sins) and our drummer was Alan Cowart (ex-Begger Weeds). We were trying to be more alt-country. Trying to sound like later Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers,Dillard & Clark,and Long Ryders.
When Alan left the band, Ken Chiodini (ex-The Lears, ex-Hatebombs) became our drummer/backing vocal. When Kenny (Bussiere) left, we took time off to re-group.
After reading the liner notes of The Byrds boxset, ”There Is A Season”. Gary Louris (The Jayhawks) described The Byrds like a supersonic jet soaring over an old chiming belltower. I thought The Belltowers would be a perfect name.
We also decided that Alt-country wasn’t for us. We are better playing Folk-Rock. Marshall Huggins became Kenny’s replacement on bass and took over backing vocals. When Ken (Chiodini) left the band, Tom Miller came on board as our drummer.
I’ve known Ken since 1970. We both became Beatles fans, then Jam fans, and then Byrds fans.
I’ve known Eddie since the early 80s. He hung out in the same circle of friends. We both loved the same 60s garage bands.
I’ve known Marshall and Tom since the late 90s.
Q2. What other groups have you all been in?
Eddie, Marshall, and Tom were in an Orlando, FL band from the 90s called, Little Bill. They were very much a jangly garage type band.
My first band was called The Green Today. I was on 12 string guitar, vocals; Ken Chiodini was drums and vocals; and Martin Everett was on bass. We were together from 1984-1987. We had a flexi single that was enclosed with issue Number 1 of Kaleidoscope magazine. We also had a song on The Exploding Underground Compliation that was also released by Kaleidoscope magazine.
In 1988 I moved to Clearwater, FL. From 1992 to 1998 I was in a band with Dennis Dalcin called The Lears. Two 45s, one EP and one CD, plus other songs released on various compilationss. I moved back to Orlando, FL in 1998. From 1999 until 2000, I was in a band with Marshall and Tom called The Knievels.
Q3. Where and how often do you play gigs?
We play mostly in Orlando. We try to play out once a month.
Q4. Any plans to release any 45s or vinyl LPs?
Right now, no plans since we are ”self-financed”. However, I would love to have some labels interested in releasing vinyl! I’m sending out promo material in the hopes that I can get someone interested.
Q5. Do you think you’ll be doing anything with those newly recorded songs from Feb 2010?
I think those recordings need a little more polishing. But, we’ll see. We are planning more recordings this fall/winter 2010. The plan is to release a full length LP and a perhaps couple of 45s in 2011, either on a indie label or we’ll release them.
originally posted 2nd October, 2010