We caught up with Bella Figura after his gig for the Coffee House Sessions Tour!
The Coffee House Sessions are a series of live acoustic and semi-acoustic performances from some of the UK’s hottest singer song-writers and acoustic musicians.
Join us every Wednesday in the Terrace bar to see newly signed artists perform live for free!
Last year we were joined by the likes of Seafret and Hudson Taylor to name a few…
How have all of the other dates been so far?
It’s good fun! I’ve been on time most of the time, staying relaxed and enjoying the gigs! It’s been a really good experience.
How do you choose your setlists?
It’s very off the cuff really. There were some songs that I tried in the first few gigs that I didn’t do again and then as I went along I kept thinking of more songs, kept digging out older songs and stuff. They’ve been working really well, especially in this setting of just myself. That might even lead to us playing those songs again as a band – some we used to play and stopped as we got newer material and they never got recorded or anything. We played them at our early gigs and a couple of them are just even older from my own songwriting, the more love song type of thing, more singer-songwriter. So who knows, I might incorporate that again.
How different is it playing solo to playing with the band?
It has been a learning curve. I think my voice has improved because of it as there’s nothing to hide behind. You can hear yourself so clearly without the big drum sound and the bass behind you. So I’ve been learning to control my voice: being more delicate in places and then when I want to go for it, being a bit more controlled in those bigger moments. That’s been good, I needed that. Similarly on the guitar, in a full band gig there are lots of heavy guitar solos and they can be quite scrappy but that’s part of the sound and the vibe. Here, on my own again, the guitar’s much cleaner. One wrong note and you really notice, so it’s definitely different.
How long have you been playing together as a band and for how long were you doing your own music before that?
This band has been going for just over two years. Before that I was in a band that we started at secondary school, five or six years before university. So I was 18, started gigging until about 24. There was a bit of an overlap even with the two bands. The first band started to fizzle away a little bit, people just kind of moved on. Check it out though, we were called The Joker & The Thief. We’ve got an EP online and some videos. We were a very different sound but I learnt a lot playing in that band for ages. I was always involved with writing stuff and arranging stuff and then I thought I’d start my own project. It’s not like I’ve gone solo, it’s just a new band. In the interim between the two I started collaborating with other people, met a whole bunch of people from the gigging circuit and joined one of their bands as well. I still play with them, they’re called Dark Moon and they’ve got an album coming out at some point, they recorded it over a year ago now. That’s a really cool, heavy, psychedelic kind of band, I played bass for them. So I’m just keeping busy really, but it’s nice to have your own project, and the whole time I’ve been writing songs with all kinds of different styles.
You said you played bass for Dark Moon but you played guitar today?
When I was a kid learning guitar I’d be jamming on all sorts of stuff, you learn all kinds of styles including lead guitar stuff. With my first band, which was six years, I was very much rhythm guitar. We had no bass, almost half acoustic rock and roll kind of fast rhythms. So I was getting really good at lead guitar, and we had a saxophone that did all the lead stuff so I was very much supporting the lead. I also play the kick drum so again that really locks in the rhythms so you’re doing the kick drum parts which locks onto your low end of the guitar which is meant to take over the bass, then the rhythmic stuff. With Bella, it was great, I ended up going back to lead guitar and completely rediscovering all kinds of lead guitar tricks that I hadn’t even touched in years. Suddenly a whole new way of expressing myself came into play and I’ve loved it ever since.
Is that your favourite to play or do you like to mix it up a bit?
At the moment yeah, it was a whole new door opened to lead stuff and I’m still finding new tricks, I’m getting better all the time I think, and I hope. But then again with playing bass in Dark Moon, it’s a whole other mind frame and I love that as well. I get to enjoy the other guys’ guitar solos so that’s fun.
Would you say that your knowledge of that affects how you write and play lead guitar?
Yeah, my guitar solos are very rhythmic. Hopefully there are nice melodies there too but I could jam with a couple of notes and just play off rhythms which I think is a really simple way of doing it. People overcomplicate the guitar sometimes. My playing is very very simple, I don’t really know the ins and outs of everything so I take a couple of little things and just go with it. The rhythms really help, you’ve got endless possibilities.
How long have you known you want to do music?
Since I was a kid, I never really questioned it. I was really getting into music at what must’ve been nine or ten, then I got a guitar when I was eleven. I guess there was a point somewhere along the way where I realised if this is going to be more of a career path I’ve got to do other things that I wouldn’t otherwise do. All the admin, basically. You have to cross over from being a hobbyist to taking it on professionally. It’s been tough. Only really since starting this band, Bella, I’ve really been getting my hands dirty on the other side of it as well. A friend of mine helps us manage it, we’re co-managers almost. Very hands on.
Do you have to put a lot of effort into things such as marketing, as with the internet there’s now so many bands out there?
Definitely, yeah. You’ve got to really push to get noticed a little bit. It just takes a lot of time, and we’re working as hard as we can every day, it’s a real obsession. I’m starting to enjoy things like the social media side of stuff.
It must be nice to be able to get in touch with people as well?
It’s great, we’re getting more and more people getting in touch and having conversations about even which songs they like the best or whatever.
Does that help you shape your setlists and releases?
Yeah! If we’d not been on this tour, the first song I played tonight actually was called ‘All We Are’ and it’s an old song from before the band started. We tried it as a band then kind of moved on again. Somebody got in touch on Facebook and said that song was the best one. That’s encouraging, if one person likes it then that means someone else must do as well.
You’ve got a few EPs up online, what made you decide to choose those ones?
There are two on Spotify and a new single and a b-side, the third one is on the way. We’re really happy with the third one, lots of new material and brand new stuff. When we were first recording, take the first EP, two of the songs were existing ideas that we arranged as a band and two of them were brand new. A few of the older ones fell by the wayside a little bit. I guess we just recorded what we thought would be the best at the time. We went for the more rocky tracks so only now considering the softer tracks again, the older ones I was talking about. But you can’t record them all, it takes time and money to get in a studio, so we can’t really handle much more than those four tracks at a time. We’ve got loads more material though, we’ll just keep recording as much as we can.
Any plans for an album after the EPs?
We’d love to do an album but it’s just time and money. If we did an album we’d want it to be noticed, you’ve got one chance at a first album. There’s less pressure on the EPs as well, you could not like one of them and still have a couple that you do like. They’re kind of little tasters, and even for us as a band to test things. We’ve got an album’s worth of stuff online it’s just not called an album. Just holding off, and who knows, maybe we’ll go and re-record a bunch of stuff down the line. We’ll just keep moving forward. It’ll be funny if some really old songs end up on the first album, who knows. It’s just a constant process really.
Back to live performances, you played a few festivals last year, how were those?
Really nice! We were lucky enough to be on a couple of main stage slots. It just really suits our sound I think because it’s slow rock, you can just lie on the grass and let it wash over you. Some of the newer stuff is more driving and people boogie a little bit but a lot of the time it’s slow build stuff. It’s perfect for that afternoon festival slot.
Do your festival slots vary a lot from your own shows?
It’s always a different crowd. A lot of the time nobody knows you at the festival, people just wander past and stop in, have a listen and then they might move on again. As opposed to all of us getting all of our mates down for a London gig where you know everyone and it’s a bit of a party. It’s different in a nice way, you’re playing to new people, they hear things in different ways and they respond differently.
You said in the performance earlier that you were touring in April?
April, yeah. We’re still finalising the details, we’re just trying to play as much as we can all over the place. We’ve been really getting into the circuit in London so it’s a good time for us to branch out a little bit. We’re coming to Leeds, we’ll be announcing all the details on Facebook shortly.Upcoming Events