With their sound as fit for sunny days as their lyrics are for heartache, Wild Belle's 2013 debut Isles is rife with reggae undertones, and as the weather warms and festival season revs up, the album seems fit to soundtrack another summer. The duo, featuring siblings Natalie and Elliot Bergman, has spent two years taking its pulsing tunes to venues across the country, first on tour with Toro y Moi and ultimately snagging a series of headlining dates last fall. Surprisingly though, Isles wasn't something they created with concertgoers in mind.
"That was really just something that we made before we even knew we'd have a live band," Elliot tells the Scene. "So it wasn't like, 'Oh, this song plays, this is the one that really gets everyone going. Let's put that first.' "
As their third summer on the road kicks off, Wild Belle is again emerging from a stint in the studio. This time around, Elliot says the countless nights performing Isles for new audiences have given the band a clearer vision of what they want on their next release.
"There's a certain energy that, playing every night, you want to be able to re-create," Elliot says. "You want something that feels like it has some weight to it and some power behind it. To feel like it's coming from a place that you can stand behind for a long time."
Wild Belle has been working on their upcoming record in Nashville with The Black Keys' Patrick Carney, and Elliot tells the Scene it's nearly finished. Now they're immersing themselves in the new material in rehearsal to see which songs will make the cut, but Bergman says he's not sure how much of it they'll debut onstage this summer.
"It's always a different perspective to see what people respond to live," he says. "A lot of the time, I feel like people just respond to what they know. ... You always are taking cues and energy from the audience, so if there's something that's really resonating with people, that obviously impacts the way we think about the song and the way that we play it."
Since Wild Belle built their sound in the recording process rather than refining it through live performances, they say that advice from friends and industry vets Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of Tom Tom Club has made the biggest difference in pursuing a concert experience they're crazy about.
"Chris and Tina always had these amazing stories to share with us every time we'd see them," says Elliot. "At one point, they said to us that the most important thing you can do when you're out on tour is to love the way you sound every night onstage. That was a very cool lesson, an encouraging thing."
Pooling resources and investing in entirely new gear for the road, Elliot says the improvements in equipment and adjustment in attitude have taken the live show to a different place. It's an exciting development for a band that's taking another turn testing new audiences at clubs and festivals alike.
"Because you have to do this every night, it almost becomes this kind of robotic thing," Elliot says. "You're traveling around, you show up every night, and you play pretty much the same set over and over again. You just have to find a way that you can really be here every night. You just have to be able to love it. That's kind of one of the things that was a bit of a breakthrough in terms of just being able to enjoy what we do. "