It’s been almost 30 years since Tanya Donelly formed Belly. In 1993 their debut album Star shot them straight into, well, Star-dom, and the single, “Feed the Tree,” became a hit. 25 years later and they’re back with Dove, a collaborative work that’s bridging the gaps between reverbed-out bliss and hook-forward pop.
And the New England-born trailblazers of the early 90s will join us for a very special Front Row Boston: Live at Fraser on 10/2.
Donelly’s influential roots run deep in the Boston music scene. Early on she co-founded Throwing Muses with stepsister Kristin Hersh. And in 1989, Donelly and Pixies member Kim Deal came together to create The Breeders. But it was her desire to combine pop with punk – and an alt-rock aesthetic – that fueled her desire to form Belly.
The band’s early 90s success threw them into a maelstrom of non-stop touring and studio time, resulting in the release of a second album, King, before a breakup in 1996. Since then Donelly and band members Chris and Tom Gorman and Gail Greenwood have kept busy with individual projects. But getting the band back together after 20 years was a relatively seamless process that started with an email to gauge tone and availability. “By the time we were all in the space we practiced in back in the day – Gail's ‘Rock & Roll Control Center,’ aka her basement – everything just kind of came back to us,” Donelly says. “The chemistry, the muscle memory, the fun.”
But it was their 2016 Boston shows that set everything in motion. “A room filled with friends and family,” Donelly says. “[It was] a real homecoming vibe.”
Dove is the first joint effort for the band, each member contributing to an equal amount of the album’s creation. It’s also marks the first time that they’ve self-released an album. “The pros outweigh the cons for the most part – in terms of control and freedom, and the band bond formed by a DIY release,” Donelly tells us. She goes on to disclose some of the challenges. “It has [also] been a lot more managerial and logistical work than we're used to in our musical lives,” she says. “And a lot more screen time.”
Most of Belly still live in the area, which made recording the album fairly easy. “We recorded in several places, separately and together,” Donelly says. “Stable Sound, Paul Kolderie's New York studio, and in our own homes.” A nice full circle moment for the band considering that Stable Sound is the first studio they ever recorded in. “And the same goes for working with Kolderie,” she adds, “Who I've worked with my whole life, basically.” Kolderie is one of the original co-founders of Boston’s infamous Fort Apache Studios, a legend that Donelly has had close ties to since the beginning.
Donelly notes that she’s peripheral, at best, to the Boston music scene now, but is a big fan of Marissa Nadler, who will be supporting Belly's Live at Fraser appearance. “New albums that I love right now are Will Dailey's Golden Walker, Andrea Gillis's Ladies Love Thunder, and Abbie Barrett's That Shame,” she tells us. “I also love Speedy Ortiz, and Sadie's solo stuff.”
Getting back out on the road and in front of their audience after two decades was poles apart from the way it used to be. “The biggest difference is obviously the blessing/obligation of social media, which is the most effective way of getting word out and connecting with people,” Donelly notes. “Also, the people who come to the shows now are the deep-cuts crowd, which we appreciate a lot. They know all our stuff, including some very obscure b-sides that we love playing.”
“(And) it seems like each song has its own cheering section,” she adds. “The new stuff surprisingly seems to get the most enthusiasm, but elders like ‘Slow Dog’, ‘Super Connected’, ‘Judas’ and ‘Spaceman’ seem beloved.”