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Jackie Ojeda, lead vocalist and ivory-tickler for Long Beach’s Bella Novela, definitely calls to mind the adage that dynamite comes in small packages. During the band’s performances, the diminutive 30-year-old (who doesn’t look older than 17), belts out impassioned indie-metal anthems while pounding at her keyboard with staggering conviction. Backed by guitarist Jacob Heath, whose Latin-metal riffs ride with drummer Jannea McClure’s galloping rhythms, Bella Novela deliver a distinctive sound teeming with verve. Drawing on such epic performers as Queen and Iron Maiden, this trio are on a mission to make music that’s as big as it is explosive, all done with cinematic flair.
OC Weekly: You guys don’t play with a bassist. What’s up with that?
Jacob Heath: We wanted to keep it real simple as a three-piece.
Jannea McClure: It’s just more efficient with the three of us, and it’s so much easier to coordinate schedules and write songs.
So how do you feel not having a bass player affects your overall sound?
McClure: Well, [Heath] has the bass lines prerecorded.
Heath: You’re hearing bass. We bring a specific amp up that feeds the bass through, and most people don’t even notice.
McClure: I have an iPod shuffle that has the bass-amp click track, and I have inter-monitors. So I have to hit play, then I hear the count-off sound, the bass is to the right, and the click is to the left.
So, what happens if you miss the count?
McClure: Keep playing. Hope that no one notices that the bass cut out.
Heath: It added a new fear factor onstage. It made us all really nervous because we’re under a lot of pressure.
You guys have done some touring, yes?
Jackie Ojeda: Our longest tour was last summer; we went all the way to Michigan and the Midwest. And in the fall, we did about two weeks. And then we’re going in March on a local kind of run, about four or five shows, with a band from France called L’Orchidée d’Hawaï, and they are so good.
How does playing shows in Long Beach rate compared to shows, in say, Los Angeles?
Ojeda: I think the people in Long Beach are a lot more about music than perhaps LA. Just people go out to shows here more. Everything in LA is so saturated, and it’s harder to build a following. But I think in Long Beach, because there is a small amount of venues, it’s easier to build a following.
Heath: I think we would take a Friday or Saturday night in Long Beach over a Friday or Saturday night in LA any time. Everyone here are also in bands, but they still come to your shows.
Despite being a three-piece, you guys have sort of a grandiose sound.
Ojeda: I think it’s because of liking big music. Everyone I like have giant voices and giant songs. I can listen to little folk singers, but it’s just not what I prefer.
Heath: I think that’s kind of how we bonded. We were all going for this dramatic, cinematic sound.
Jackie, when you were playing piano as a kid, were there any artists you emulated?
Ojeda: I really liked Elton John when I was little. [Laughs] I don’t know if I necessarily wanted to emulate him when I grew up, but I was really into him. If I wanted to be anyone when I grew up, it was Blondie. I really liked Debbie Harry.
What about now?
Ojeda: Freddie Mercury! He’s amazing. Everything he writes is so big and giant and anthemic. It’s really funny that you can go to a sporting event, and everybody is screaming Queen [songs], and the band is like the most flamboyantly homosexual band. I think it’s awesome.
Bella Novela perform with L’Orchidée d’Hawaï, the Soft Hands and Free Moral Agents at Alex’s Bar, 2913 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8292; www.alexsbar.com. Wed., 8 p.m. $5. 21+.
Hey, Orange County/Long Beach musicians and bands! Mail your music, contact info, high-res photos and impending show dates for possible review to: Locals Only, OC Weekly, 2975 Red Hill Ave., Ste 150, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Or e-mail your link to: email@example.com.
This column appeared in print as "Ms. Dynamite."