Interview by John Wisniewski

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Bell Stray began writing songs on guitar at seventeen, and by nineteen was singing in a punk band. Around this time, Bell says, she also developed a passion for the piano, “I moved to my mom’s house, and there was an untouched piano just sitting there.... One day, I sat at it and began messing around with a few chords, and before I knew it, I was sitting at that piano from the moment I woke up until I slept, learning Chopin waltzes and Mozart minuets; I was obsessed!” Bell Stray then began experimenting with a keyboard and 4 track -- exploring different kinds of rhythms and instrumentation, inspired by a wide range of musical genres, such as: punk, dub, blues, folk, and classical, and the sub genres in between. Her lyrics touch on various subjects, including: escapism, loss, and the disillusionment with the roles society has to offer. They largely draw from her personal experiences, including leaving home at the age of fourteen and living a nomadic lifestyle, and the challenges she faces adapting to more conventional ways of living. She has been performing in the L.A. area since 2010

JW:  Your sound is unique, Bell how did you develop this?

BS: I rarely have a specific intention as far as genre goes when making music. I’m usually more interested in capturing a certain feeling a particular sound or combination of sounds evoke. I think it’s a sort of primitive process informed by a visceral reaction to certain sounds, which I guess could lead to something unusual.

JW:  Any musical influences?

BS: I’ve been influenced by all kinds of music — punk, post-punk, blues, avant-garde, classical, hip hop, indigenous music — pretty much everything! Although, it’s not necessarily the components of what make up a genre of music that I’m most inspired by, but it’s more about a certain rawness or authenticity, usually distinct to a specific artist or band, that moves me most, and makes me want to create music. People like Scott Walker, Nina Simone, and Patti Smith come to mind.

JW: Do you write songs alone, or with others?

BS: Alone. Although, I used to be in a punk band where I collaborated on songs with my ex-boyfriend, who was also in the band, but since then I’ve only written songs on my own. I am open to writing songs with others, and actually have a few collaborations in the works, but I’d say writing by myself is kind of my default, and what comes most naturally to me.

JW:  What are you doing when not writing music?

BS: I like going to shows and checking out new music. My sister, who also lives in L.A., is a painter and very involved in the art community, so I like to check out art with her sometimes too.

JW:  Do you paint and draw as well as write? 

BS: I draw, although I rarely do it. It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid, and I’m always telling myself to do more of because I really enjoy it. It’s kind of like meditation for me because it calms me down and sort of centers me, but for some reason I don’t make enough time for it. I also painted for the first time recently at my sister’s studio and loved it, so who knows, maybe I’ll do more of that! I did go to school for creative writing and used to write a lot of poetry, but haven’t done much of it since graduating. I think I got kind of burnt out on it. The only writing I really do these days is usually in the context of songs.

JW: What lies in the future for you?

BS: Hopefully I’ll continue to create music, and collaborate with musicians and artists I admire!

Bell Stray's EP, Scribble the Pink, now available for Cassette (Limited Edition) and digital orders!

Bell Stray’s EP, Scribble the Pink, now available for Cassette (Limited Edition)
and digital orders

BS: It was an organic process that unfolded slowly. I started with just recording the songs individually, not really having an album in mind, but after hearing four of the five songs — which later became the EP — in succession I thought they’d work well together as a collection. At the time I was also going through some demos I’d previously recorded, and came across the song “Steady Sister,” a super lo-fi bedroom recording I‘d done. At that point I knew I was going to release the album on cassette and thought that “Steady Sister” would work well on that format because of its very lo-fi qualities, and would also add another layer of emotion to the album.

JW: Will you add drums and other instruments to your music?

BS: I’ve written some songs for my next album where drums will be more prominent, and which will also incorporate more instrumentation. My goal when making music isn’t necessarily to adhere to a minimalist aesthetic, but is more about doing what I think serves a song best, which could entail the use of sparse instrumentation on a song, or some sort of grand production — although I have yet to take that route!
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