A brief history
The seeds were probably planted when I first became good friends with Joe and Jonathan. They are two great examples of the many innately amazing musicians out of Decatur and watching all of them play music and progress over the years has been something I’ve cherished from the get-go. In the first half of 2011, I was getting more in to hardcore punk, particularly bands like Ceremony. So my interest in that, mixed with starting to get more involved with the local scene, and watching Joe and Jonathan play music all the time, I was really itching to start my own band and do vocals. I pitched the idea of starting a hardcore band to Joe on May 16th, 2011. Later that day, me, him, Jonathan, and our friend Will (who played bass for our first practice and then never again) started a band called Belial’s Kim Tiddler, a name that was conjured from our then (and persisting) obsession of absurdist humor à la Tim & Eric. We played our first show 9 days later at Planet Avalon in our hometown. After the first show, we dropped the “Kim Tiddler” part from our name as per recommendation from a friend and became “Belial.” We played as a three-piece until December of 2011 when we were lucky enough to get Alex Powell to play drums for us. When Alex joined, Joe moved to bass to form the classic lineup. In February of 2012, we recorded our first full length with Chris Wilson in one live, 12 hour session. Never had a better time than I did that night, still look back on it fondly. We released that album digitally in July of that year and continued on playing all over Alabama and Tennessee for the next year. Since mid-2013, there have been a few lineup changes, an e.p. (Beats by Frank), a second full-length (You Look Good for Infinity), a handful of tours, and more recently, a name change (that being X.Y. Spaces). And now here we are, reverting back to our original state for a few shows.
After three years, what sparked this reunion show/album release?
Alex brought forth the idea earlier this year to play some reunion shows with the old name and finally, after 4 years, release our first album physically. We all congregated at Joe’s house and hammered out the details and, as a group, listened to our 5 song 2011 demo, a demo of which none of you need to hear. As to what sparked the idea, I think enough time had passed to where we’d reached a peak of missing all the given aspects of this era of the band i.e. this particular lineup, the old songs, and all the other memories that go along with it. For a good portion of this time in the band, we were almost constantly making music and playing in new towns, and I think I speak for all of us when I say I believe we all just really missed doing all of that stuff together. And as to why we’re just now deciding to release the album physically; when we first put the album out, we were a good bit younger at the time and just not proactice enough to set everything up to get copies made. It’s always been a shame that this album never got physical copies made for it, so we decided it was time to fix that. Personally, I’ve always been extremely proud of the content of this album. Considering it was all written by kids ranging from 15 to 18 completely blows my mind. I think the album shows that while things may have changed with the band since then, we’ve always practically been doing the same thing, which is making music that naturally comes to us, and it’s always just so happened that what comes naturally to us is something totally left-field and what I would say is a mix of all of our different and eclectic influences, yet a sound that’s contrary to those influences at the same time. The result is something that I can’t nail down most of the time, which might be the thing I love the most about this band. Anyway, getting physical copies for this album was long overdue, it is just as deserving of that as any of our other releases, and of course there’s no better time to do it than these reunion shows.
How does Belial differ from other projects you have been involved in (before or after)?
Believe it or not, this was my first band, I have been in a handful of bands since Belial/X.Y. Spaces first started, though. The main one other than this band was definitely Hipbones. That band went for almost two years and recorded a 6 song e.p. before it dissipated. Randomly enough, we did a few reunion shows for that band earlier this year. But anyway, the main thing that differed with Hipbones would be the overall presentation of the band. I wanted Hipbones to have a more somber aura about it, which at times kind of made me pull punches that I’ve never pulled in Belial/XY. The presentation that I’ve cultivated with Belial/XY has been a work in progress since the day it began and it’s something I don’t think I could ever successfully carry over to another project. The connection I have with my on-stage persona, if you want to call it that, mixed with my connection to the lyrics I’ve written, and the music itself, is something that I adore, and I get more in tune with it all every time we practice or play a show. In other words, those songs have essentially become a part of me. While a good bit of my goal is to entertain people, my main priorities are to put on a good performance, do my parts correctly, and to express myself, which is something I think people at large should strive more to do, as everyone has pent up feelings and emotion that need to be projected, and everyone should try to find their thing that helps them let all that stuff out. For me, there’s no better way to do that than to play music that I love in a public setting. No matter what I’m doing on stage, whether I’m dressed a chef mixing a smushed banana with ketchup in a plastic bowl, or dressed as substitute teacher handing out kindergarten-level math worksheets, or if I’m just in street clothes singing the words, I’m always 100% serious about what I’m doing. There may often be a comedic value to the presentation of our live show, but I’m never doing what I do to be funny, I take every bit of it very seriously. I say all of this to better illustrate how, while I could certainly be heavily invested in another project, I don’t think I could ever carry over the same level of emotional attachment I have with Belial/XY to another project, and that’s what differs between this band and any other potential project.
What about the performance aspect of your live shows?
My approach to the live performance aspect of the band has changed a fair amount of times since we first started. For the first few years of the band, we just tried to make our live shows as energetic as possible. I would do vocals pretty much as harsh as I could without passing out. Somewhere along the way, I took a step back and focused less on bouncing around and flopping on the ground and tried to revamp the way I did vocals in a way that I thought sounded better and also didn’t wear out my voice as much. There were even some sets where I used a mic stand the whole time. A few things influenced me to start doing what I guess you could call “themed” sets. One would be that I started to miss being exceptionally wild while we played, and another would be seeing the band Terror Pigeon from Nashville play a show. They’re extremely unique and there’s no way you couldn’t have a blast at one of their shows. After seeing them, it made me really appreciate the bands that go the extra mile to do memorable things live and give you your money’s worth. it got me thinking that there’s so much I could do as a vocalist in the realm of performance art, ’cause after all, all I’ve got on me is a microphone. The first time I did a “themed” set was actually the last time that the original lineup played a show, back in May of 2013. I dressed in a button-up and a tie, adorned the area where we played with lamps with pink lightbulbs, and placed a desk and chair in front of me. I guess the theme for that was for it to be more or less like an office, with me dressed like a business man. This theme I actually still do today and it’s my go-to themed set. I used to have a draft in my old flip phone saved of all the different themes. Almost all of them are just occupations (UPS man, substitute teacher, chef, etc), and I just come up with all of all the weird, zany stuff beforehand that I could do while we play to match up with the theme. There’s never exactly a meaning behind any of the sets, it’s all just for the purpose of doing something that I think is really fun and entertaining, and to give the audience something memorable and different than what they may typically see at shows.
What are you most looking forward to about playing this show?
Us reuniting with this lineup has already supplied me with what I was arguably looking forward to the most with this whole thing, which is us just playing music with each other again. The excitement and elation that I’ve felt about this reunion has been constant since the first note that rang out at our first practice back that we had months ago for these shows. One thing that was amazing was that it sounded as if the last time we played these songs was a week prior instead of three years ago. Some of the things I’m looking forward to the most with the shows is that anticipation and impatience that I remember us all getting while we wait for our turn to play. It’s a little hard to describe but Ihe picture above I think illustrates pretty well what I’m trying to say. “Man, I’m just ready to play,” was something I remember hearing a lot around that time. I also can’t wait for the atmosphere of the shows in general. There will be people that I either haven’t seen in a while or don’t get to see that often being all around me, which I’m highly looking forward to. I’m excited for the electricity and excitement that’ll be ubiquitous throughout the night. Having our family portrait hanging out on our merch table is kind of a subtle thing that I’m actually really looking forward to. And definitely right when we first start, when everyone packs in, and we ring out our first little barrage of feedback, I absolutely can’t wait for that moment.
Reflecting on your time with the band what are some of your favorite memories/ experiences ?
Since it’s more topical for the interview, I’ll just include memories/experiences from OG Belial. There’s a million of these but I’ll try to whittle it down to a few. It’s funny how the first things that come to mind are things that don’t really sound like good experiences on paper, but I just happen to look back on them fondly. One would be our first out-of-state show. It was at The Muse in Nashville with a few other heavy bands. We get there way early and talk to the only guy that’s at the venue and he has no idea that there’s a show going on that night. He gives us the number to someone involved with the venue, and after a few hours, he gives us a call and let’s us know that the show is indeed on. We get back to the venue, the show starts, and there MIGHT be three people in the crowd that wasn’t in one of the bands playing. Of course, we were just excited to play, it just happened to be an extremely poorly promoted show. Despite it being kind of a dud show, it was just a really fun night. A big reason I mention that story is ’cause I think it helps a lot for young bands to play shows like that (not to say that bands should deliberately try to get on shows like that), but I think every new band with young members needs to be humbled a little bit, ’cause you’re likely going to be playing a lot of shows like this starting out. Shows like this, I believe help young bands learn what they’re really doing this for; in other words if they’re playing shows like this as if they’re playing in front 100 people, I would say they’re on the right track. There’s also the time we ran out of gas on top of a hill on the way back from a show in Gadsden back in 2012. We all hopped out of the car while it was moving (I have NO idea how I didn’t face plant) and pushed it to the nearest gas station which fortunately wasn’t too terribly far away. And one big thing I look back fondly on is how easy it was to get shows when we first started. Our first show was at Planet Avalon in Decatur, a home away from home for us, so it wasn’t too hard to get whoever booked it to throw us on. From there, someone asked if we wanted to play a show a week or so later at the JC Arena in Hanceville, and then from there, someone asked if we wanted to play at a hot dog shop in Gadsden. This trend pretty much continued throughout the rest of the year, and we racked up contacts faster than I ever thought we would. I feel like right now it’s not as easy for new bands, at least in our region, to get shows like we did, and I wish that wasn’t the case. And other more subtle and obvious things that I look back on fondly would be all the great shows we played, like every show we ever played at Andy’s Music in Gadsden, especially the one where we brought like four packed cars of friends from home. Several shows at Coffee & Playhouse/Planet Avalon in Decatur, namely any show with Tir Asleen, Comrades, Stillglow, and the show we played with Souvenirs from California was a lot of fun. shows at The Dan in Birmingham, there’s just so many of those. And as I alluded to earlier, I still cite the night that we recorded our first album to be one of my favorite nights ever, if not my favorite. Going from 7:00PM that night until 7:00AM the next morning, we had friends randomly show up that night all throughout the recording process, which made it more fun (shoutout to everyone who was there that night, you know who you are). Alex’s insane farts that sound like encyclopedias dropping on a linoleum floor were pretty frequent and entertaining that night, as well his delirious ramblings at about 5 that morning. I’ll just cut it off there before it gets too long, there’s just so many great memories.
Speaking from your experience, what would you say to inspire other people to get involved with music or other creative outlets ?
If you are reading this, and you make art, play music, and/or are in a band, make an effort to find out what’s around you. I feel like there’s probably a hidden sect of musicians and artists all around that could be a benefical addition to any given scene, but they’re just not aware that they have a local scene. Take me for example, in middle school, I would have LOVED to have been informed that there was a local scene in my immediate area. I hear Arsonists Get all the Girls, The Number Twelve Looks Like You, HORSE The Band, and a bunch of other bands that I loved then and still love came around here and I could have seen all of that if I was aware. Now of course, part of this falls on the people that book and promote shows, y’all should strive to up your flyer game/promotion game in general, but you can’t always count on that being accomplished. So if you’re reading this, and you’re unaware of what goes on in your area and would like to know, scavenge Facebook for group pages for local scenes, talk to people that work at local music stores, there’s bound to be someone there that at least knows something. Basically, do what you’ve got to do to track down that information. Attend local shows and don’t be afraid to ask questions, like who all books in the area, what all venues are around, and of course don’t be afraid to inform bookers/promoters that you’ve got a band or project going. Bookers are always psyched to hear that there’s new bands sprouting up.
For those who may have not ever listened to this band, how would you describe Belial?
One thing that I’ve noticed with the band since we first started, is that just about everyone has their own unique take on what we sound like. To this day, we still get that we sound just like an old school hardcore punk band, especially Dead Kennedys, I swear we’ve gotten that like ten times in the past year. That’s probably the main thing people liken us to. I can kind of see that with our very early stuff, but any of our stuff after that, I just don’t quite get that. And even a few months ago, at a show we played in Huntsville, someone mentioned how they thought they’d seen us before and asked “y’all were the pop punk band right?” I would have entertained that question at least a little if I personally thought we sounded anything like a pop punk band but I just told them “nah, that couldn’t have been us.” They then described our live show, citing how I had everyone sit down for this one song, along with a few other anecdotes, and they were definitely talking about us. I also remember hearing about somone asking if “we were that funky hardcore band.” Basically what I’m saying is, everyone seems to perceive our sound differently, which I’ll admit, used to bug me a little bit when I personally thought it was way off from how I perceive it, but something Jon Karel from The Number Twelve Looks Like You said in HORSE The Band’s “Earth Tour” documentary helped me get over that. I can’t remember it verbatim, but it was basically that, people’s relationship with your band belongs to them, not you. I should just be grateful that they’ve come to one of our shows or decided to check out our music. So to answer this question, I would just tell someone to go to our Bandcamp, there they can decide if we sound like a hardcore band, a dad rock band, a Zimbabwean doomjazz band, etc.
Thanks for reading what I had to say about stuff. I try not to talk about my music goings-on in person too often so this was a good outlet to air all of that stuff out. Thanks to those who have ever given us the time of day and a special thanks to everyone who has been keeping up with us since the beginning! Hope to see you at the reunion shows!
Past and present bands/projects featuring members of OG Belial:
Merch will be available at the show, including the last available shirt from the original design. It will be sold to the highest bidder at the Decatur show.
Keep an eye open for a few more reunion shows over the next few months
Feature by Brady Lett