Tomasz Furmanek interviewed BEATE S. LECH, the Norwegian singer/composer with a Polish background and co-founder of Beady Belle, who are appearing at the ReVoice! Festival on Wednesday October 16th:
Tomasz Furmanek: The song “Clandestine Bond” recorded at the very beginning of your career with Jon Eberson Group was beautifully haunting and romantic . Is that your nature?
Beate S. Lech: Oh…long time ago, this song. But yes, I think I am romantic – as the opposite of pragmatic. I am emotional, sentimental, nostalgic, melancholic, energetic, I love surprises, I cry easily, laugh a lot, am easily excited and I am very affected by the atmosphere around me. I am a filter-less absorber.
TF: Your Father, jazz violinist Zdzislaw Lech, is Polish. Do you speak Polish?
BSL: I’m afraid I don’t speak Polish. I am quite disappointed that I don’t. It would have been so easy to learn – with a father speaking Polish to his kids. But he didn’t do it to either of us, so no… No Polish. And this language is so intricate and difficult, so when I have tried to learn it after being grown up, I have given up…
TF: How was it growing up in Volda, a small place by the fjord in Norway?
BSL: Volda is a small town in the western part of Norway, about 10000 citizens. But even though it was a small place, it was a cultural place with a lot of cultural activities – choirs, orchestras, music school, dance and ballet schools, sport – and I was a very active child. I think I was busy almost every day, singing, dancing, playing my violin, my piano or my bass, riding horses, playing volleyball, skiing and…well…being a child. The nature is spectacular in this area of Norway. High mountains are going straight into the deep fjords, fresh air, sheep in the mountains, deer in the woods and fish in the see. I loved growing up in Volda.
TF: Then you moved to Oslo to study music at the State Academy of Music…
BSL: Oslo is a wonderful city to live and work in. I love the size of it. It is a big city (about 600 000 citizens), so it doesn’t get boring, but it’s not like a big metropolis. I can use my bike almost everywhere. I don’t own a car, and I really don’t need one. The musical scene in Oslo is also very inspiring I think. There are plenty of good musicians here, but since Norway is a small country there are not enough musicians to make these kind of strict groups that doesn’t like each other, doesn’t know each other, or doesn’t work together. Almost everybody knows about each other and many had worked together across genres and generations. And I think this is important for new ideas to develop.
TF: Just after graduating from your university, in 1999 you were asked by Bugge Wesseltoft to make a record for Jazzland Recordings. The company gave you total artistic freedom. After 1.5 years your début album “Home” was ready – Beady Belle was born to a massive critical acclaim… 5 albums later you have managed to generate a cult following in Norway, across Europe and U.S – where is your band now and where are you planning to take it in the future?…
BSL: Hmmm… I actually don’t have any concrete plans… But these days I am searching for an inspiration and looking for new ideas for a new album. None of Beady Belle’s albums are the same. I am constantly searching for new angles, new grounds to base my musical ideas upon. I think I need this constant movement. This is how I am. And I play ball with the other members of Beady Belle. Together we try to find a golden key. And when it comes to all that stuff that is outside the music – like how to build a project and to make a carrier, make smart choices, and stuff like that – I am the most useless person in the world. I make music and I perform it. This is the only thing I know.
TF: In 2011 you decided to record your first solo album ever “Min Song og hjarteskatt”… Tell us about this album – how is it different from Beady Belle albums and what did it mean to you?..
BSL: This is somehow a very personal album. It is in Norwegian. It is Norwegian folk songs. Religious folk songs. But I did something new with these old, old songs. I changed the lyrics. I started with poems written by my grand mother. And then I asked 3 other female poets to write new, modern and brave lyrics to these songs that have been song in Norwegian churches at all times. And I also wrote one of the lyrics myself… and to have 5 women writing anthems is a very unusual thing – at least in Norway. If you read in the old church books, you’d find that almost ONLY men had written these lyrics. It was a very inspiring angel – to sing these songs from a female perspective. It was so powerful. These folk songs I recorded in a church together with very good jazz musicians. This is a jazz album. But it is based on the sound of Norway.
TF: Nu jazz is an umbrella term that appeared in late 1990s to refer to the music that blends jazz elements with other musical styles, such as funk, soul, electronic jazz music and free improvisation… what is your interpretation of that term, does it mean anything to you? If yes, what?..
BSL: I actually have no idea of those kinds of terms. I am illiterate when it comes to genres and trends and stuff like that. Which genre it belongs to – the music I make or the music I listen to – is for me personally of no interest. It could be interesting for a music store to know on which shelf to put the CD on. But other than that, music is music I believe. I think the fact that artists and musicians of today mix genres and get inspired by many musical directions, many different kinds of artists and want to be open to whatever is moving them, is what makes the music develop. This is music history being created.
TF: Your recent album “Cricklewood Broadway” is based upon the novel “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith?
BSL: I was looking for a trigger when I started working on this new album. And I wanted this trigger to be a book. I read many, many books – many good books going straight into my heart. But they weren’t what I was looking for. Finally Sidles Endresen (the singer) recommended “White teeth” to me. Zadie Smith connected with me. Her humorous way of writing about quite serious topics. The extreme scenarios. The characters’ constant searching for identity – regardless of generation, culture or religion. Everything was universal in a way. You don’t have to come from Bangladesh or to live in London, to feel involved in this story. There was so much. I think I could have written one more CD just from this book.
Tomasz Furmanek: The exciting news is that you will be performing soon in London, in Pizza Express Soho Jazz Club on 16th of October as a guest of Georgia Mancio’s ReVoice! Festival!.Have you prepared anything extra special for that evening?
Beate S. Lech: We are so much looking forward to finally coming back to London! Every concert is special. Two concerts with Beady Belle are never the same. We open up the songs and give room for improvisation and to make new choices every concert. This is what makes the music alive! We haven’t played in London since 2005. Then we played in Royal Albert Hall, as support for Jamie Cullum. That was a lot of fun! But that waseight years ago! So we are really looking forward to coming back to London now, and I think that the setting of a slightly smaller venue than Royal Albert Hall will be absolutely perfect…hehe. We will come close to the audience and I hope we can manage to lift the roof and to fill the room with good energy.
Beady Belle will perform in Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho in London on 16th of October at 20.30 in Georgia Mancio’s ReVoice! Festival.
– BOOKINGS (there may be just a few tickets left)