Bell Gardens began with just two friends (Kenneth James Gibson and Brian McBride) over many late nights talking and playing for each other the songs that have inspired them over the years. Songs such as the Beach Boy’s Cuddle Up, Jack Nitzsche’s We Have to Stay, and even a Bobby Vinton song or two, seemed to make sense of their lives at the time. Even when the duo first thought about making music together, Skeeter Davis’s End of the World was unanimously chosen as a piece that the duo would aspire to properly cover.
When Brian traveled to Europe in the Fall of 2007 to tour for Stars of the Lid’s And The Refinement of the Decline, Kenneth had sent him some demos of some tracks he had been working on. While Brian sat in the van awaiting his next performance, he starred out at the European countryside studying the Gibson’s tracks and other songs that he had loved for some time but wanted a better understanding of why. Occasionally before the beginning of a performance, Brian would turn to these recordings. Upon returning from tour, recording for the duo began. Initial recordings found Kenneth and Brian trying to stay faithful to a time period in which songs had been recorded. Wanting to experiment in what they believed to be a classic type of sound, the two used mainly live instrumentation, thinking about what was available in studios from the 50s to the mid 70s. Pre-set software sounds were rejected for their own recording of pianos, strings and horns. Even the sounds of the strings were often recorded flat in an attempt to preserve both room sounds and the natural sound of the instrument. If you were to ask Kenneth and Brian about the process of recording, they would probably say that the music they’re making in Bell Gardens is more “experimental” for them than their previous work.
The EP Hangups Need Company by Bell Gardens is loosely based on a sense of “pop” from another time. Although pop is what you could call it, there is still a sense of restraint and unhurried beauty here combined with a sense of heady beds of weirdness. The LA Weekly describes it like this: “It’s gorgeous, rapturous pop balladry with candy-coated Beach Boys falsettos and pre-afro-Phil Spector production. It’s weightless with gravitas. Gibson might be the techno flavor du jour, but this is the stuff that will mark his place. I found him.”