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Scans from the Information Service
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On Ultimate records,the belltower produced some tremendous shoegazing
stuff, the vocal harmonies were ace....members of the band went on to
be in Fountains Of Wayne, Ivy and Astrojet....
Here's the line-up:
Jody Porter - Vocals/Guitar
Britta Phillips - Vocals/Guitar
Nino Dmytryszyn - Drums
Mark Browning - Bass/Vocals
In the meantime, here's an interview I found with Jody Porter (who was in the belltower, a
shoegazing band who released several top records: DISCOGRAPHY),
which mentions the band:
It's a strange day in midtown Manhattan. Although the morning rain that
shut down the subways has (literally) cleared by noon, most New Yorkers are still
frantically derailed. But at an East Side diner, Jody Porter appears detached from it all,
consumed, it would seem, by quite the opposite dilemma.
In a few hours' time, the guitarist/singer/songwriter will be en route to England's
Reading festival, his last stint with Fountains of Wayne before leaving to play full time
with Astrojet. At 30, Porter has spent a decade traversing these time zones, but tonight's
eight-hour flight will be especially exhausting.
"I'm still trying to get over my jet lag," he explains. "After a one-month
tour, we flew from L.A. to Japan, spending two-and-a-half days on flights alone. Playing
live is the payoff, but I'll be glad to be putting an end to this part of the business for
Speaking with Porter, words are expressed slowly, selected carefully, and laced with a lot
of well-chosen modifiers, like the restrained elocution of someone who's either very
deliberate or simply too tired to hasten the conversation. I forgot, he used to live in
England.... Never mind, back to Japan.
Fatigue notwithstanding, "The Fuji Festival was uninhibited Japanese fun. The kids go
crazy over there, moshing-even to the ballads and slow songs. So I guess you can be big in
Japan, whether you're a tourist or a pop star."
While it's slightly difficult to visualise the pit ("Denise" perhaps, but
"Troubled Times"?), the kids' enthusiasm is not surprising. A wickedly clever,
well-hooked ode to teenagers scouring the city to escape suburbicide, Utopia Parkway
(Atlantic) is clearly one of 1999's finest pop output. And though it's doubtful their
Japanese fans have ever even heard of that Long Island thoroughfare (much less cruised
down it to catch light shows at the Hayden), ultimately the Fountains' second LP achieves
a universal appeal-the kind that makes albums, well, hard not to like.
For Porter, that appeal has culminated in a heavy tour schedule, including stretches with
the Lemonheads, Smashing Pumpkins, and Imperial Teen: "It's been a lot of fun, and
we've covered a lot of ground. When I joined the Fountains in 1997, I let the guys know
that once I had a full album's worth of songs to record, I'd head off to do my own thing.
So the time has come."
Though Porter was raised in Charleston, South Carolina, "Even when I was a kid, I
always had more of an understanding of British style," he says. "When I was six,
my father bought me a Fender Mustang, so I've been playing guitar and writing songs since
I was a little brat."
Later on, after attending two years of college, he moved to New York, where the Belltower
formed during the late '80s. Though the band would soon relocate to England, their first
transatlantic visit was earmarked with difficulties: "We had one-way tickets and not
a whole lot of cash. We were just there to prospect, but got sent back before we ever left
Heathrow." In hindsight, he admits, "The gold nail polish didn't help matters
But despite their initial setbacks, the Belltower were soon resident in London, where
their success grew rapidly over the next three years. During the height of U.K. "dreampop" or "shoegazing" (depending on your aesthetic perspective),
the band released two EPs on Ultimate, a U.K. indie label; then signed with
Atlantic/EastWest to release Popdropper, an LP Porter wrote and produced.
Having to record "wherever there was a studio available," the album transported
the Belltower to some intriguing locales, including the home of John Entwistle (John
Entwistle Band, former Who). "When we stayed with John, he gave me the keys to his
attic. There were about 250 vintage guitars up there, so I used a lot of his collection
for the record."
After releasing Popdropper in 1991, the band met with increasing acclaim, as their "Outshine the Sun" single reached the number-three spot on the British Billboard
charts. From there, they went on to play Reading, Amsterdam, and Paris, before returning
to the States, where the Belltower eventually disbanded.
(EDMUNDS NOTES: Er, Outshine the sun came out waaaaaay, before popdropper,this
was the re-release......and it didn't chart in the UK, at least not outside the indie
charts....it did go to number 6 in the CMJ Import chart though)
"For the next few years, I did a lot of writing and recording," says Porter, who
at the same time linked up again with drummer Tommy Hamer (also ex-Belltower). Hence, the
two began laying the groundwork for Astrojet, whose roster would ultimately be rounded out
by bassist Jeff Berrall and guitarist Chad Murdock.
In 1997, he received a call from another former bandmate, Adam Schlesinger (Ivy,
ex-Belltower), who encouraged Porter to join his current project, Fountains of Wayne.
Meanwhile, Astrojet regrouped in Northampton, Massachusetts, where they have continued to
rehearse for the past year. "We've been getting it together whenever we can,"
Porter says. "So we've been doing this for a while, but now we're taking it to
By now, the chaos is dying down in Manhattan. Taxis are vacant, the gridlock has lifted,
and a sense of calm descends upon the city. Astrojet, however, "is ready to blast
off," Porter says of the band's forthcoming attack on New York. Currently in the
process of relocating, Astrojet plans to be playing out by November.
Equally eager to get back in the studio, "I'm excited about getting in, exploring
different sounds, ideas, and tones," he says. "I have so many songs I've never
even played for anyone-about two-and-a-half records' worth of stuff to record." After
hearing Astrojet's demo tracks, it's all pretty gorgeous stuff, frankly.
"For me, it's about trying to get it down on tape as unadulterated as possible. I
think that's what all people who write songs aspire to do-get it as close as possible to
the way they hear it in their heads."
While he's not set on any specific date, Porter expects to release Astrojet's first
offering by early 2000. "The new millennium could be an exciting time," he says.
"In fact, we may be the first band to make a triple debut album, just to get rid of
these backlogged songs.
"Ultimately, it's been important to first let Astrojet grow organically as a band,
rather than just getting it out there as a product. I tend to lose respect for these 'just
stick your tape together,' sessiony vibes. Of course, you can never dictate how your music
is going to be received. You can't control who's going to like it, who's going to get it,
or who's going to like it because somebody else gets it. But now, because we've come
together as a band, we feel comfortable putting it out there on a big scale."
In 1991, Porter was quoted in Melody Maker: "As long as it's demented, as long as
it's saying something, it's cool to flirt with pop music." When asked if this still
holds true: "Pretty much so. I still love the classic pop songs, but what really does
it for me is Revolver-era Beatles, a song like 'Tomorrow Never Knows.' It's pop music, but
it's a bit more eccentric.
"Actually, a friend of ours in Northampton has a project called Wank Factor 7 and
Rising. They recently played a show, and I sat in with Kevin Shields on guitar (My Bloody
Valentine) and J Mascis on drums (Dinosaur Jr.). It was this fun, brilliant thing with
everyone building an improvisational wall of sound.
"Certainly that's what was happening with the Belltower back in the day. So, what
we're doing now is more or less a continuation of that avant-garde style, but with a bit
more of a pop sensibility. What Astrojet does is rock, but it's also a lot of other things
as well. It's experimental, it's noisy, it's pop-it's everything all in a nutshell,
(Edmund) AND I FOUND THIS at
"Shoegazing from the US???
Yes, itīs possible, and the Belltower were the
best example that Americans could do it just as good as the English. Their album
"Popdropper" is actually one of the best Shoegazing albums.
This is mainly down to the fact of the gorgeous
voice of lead singer Britta. She had one of the best voices for this kind of music.
As Iīve only found out recently, Britta seems to
be celebrity in her own right, sheīs even got an internet fanclub (The Britta
Phillips Online Fanclub), and appeared in a movie in 1988 and did the vocals for a
cartoon character! Amazing....
Anyway, back to the Belltower and Popdropper: Best
tracks are definitely the singles "Outshine the Sun", "Lost in hollow"
and "Flight". Another really good song is "One-Dimensional".
I donīt think they released much more after that
album, but two of them are now in Fountains of Wayne...erm.....
WHAT THE PRESS SAID:
About In Hollow: MM "... not bad. I think that used to be an insult."
About Popdropper, (MM
August 1992): "The Belltower are a great band. If you canīt afford to buy Popdropper
now, find a friend who can and tape theirs. Five years, ten years hence, when times are
better, itīll still be in the racks. You can search it out then. Yes, itīs true, Iīm a
fan, and with good reason."
About Popdropper,(Select October 1992): "Itīs a measure of American
taste that a band so damn fine, so emotionally charged and so American as the Belltower
have to come to the UK in search of recognition" 4 out of 5
What they said themselves:
Jody, October 1991,
MM: "As long as itīs demented, as long as itīs saying something, itīs cool to
flirt with pop music."
Edmund's notes: Not a bad little
summary, there are other decent bands at the angelfire site too....
Recieved this information from an unknown contributor:
Danny lived in England with Jody etc in the
around 1998-1990 or so and played bass with Belltower.
I think there was one tape I recall seeing with all
their pics on it tho that may have been a promo item.
The cover was in black and white. They worked together
later on Fountains of Wayne I think it was... I would
have to do some fact checking on what projects and
when. Danny came back to the states when things were
stagnating across the pond and has had wonderful
success in the years since both personally and
professionally. He has been with They Might Be Giants
for over 10 years and has had his hands in so many
projects with everyone from Lincoln to David Mead to
The Davenports as well work on commercials. You can
search his name on google but the Belltower connection
is little known online as he did before the internet was the pool of info it has now become.
Was also sent information that:
"Jody and Danny also worked with David Mead on
Mine and Your's... a really wonderful cd if you come
Thanks to dlny911