We'd love to tell you all about the plot twists contained in Long Beach band Bella Novela's forthcoming album, the Archeress–but our words will definitely fail us. It's probably better to let singer Jackie Ojeda handle the specifics in the interview below, but let it be said, it's fucking ambitious. Building on the classic rock elements laid down in the band's last album Battle Lines, their latest effort features bigger vocal arrangements and a mind-bending narrative involving a zombie apocalypse, drifters, vampires and archery.
But the core Bella Novela sound is there with arena sized, '70s-inspired guitar work courtesy of Jacob Heath, vicious skin-splitting percussion from Jannea McClure, and Ojeda's PA-shattering bellow. The title track presents an operatic climax brimming with unabashed rock pastiche that's both charming and chill-inducing.
The band will be celebrating the release of their latest creative endeavor on Friday at Alex's bar with local super group Buffalo Stance. Ojeda made some time to chat with us about the band's creative process, working with a producer for the first time, and the decisions one makes when trying to kill an unholy warrior from the army of the damned.
So before we get into the narrative, what prompted you guys to go the concept route?
We love movies and we love cinema and are really into stories. All of us are really big on '70s anthem rock stuff like Queen Night at the Opera. Even stuff like Jesus Christ Superstar or Ziggy Stardust–those albums are really big influences on us and we were like, “Let's try our hand at this, let see how this works out.” I'll tell you what, it ended up almost writing itself. Once you get going with a good concept or a good story and you have the experience of songwriting, it kind of starts flowing in a way that writing singles doesn't.
Let's talk about the album's concept.
It's basically the future-ish and the world is being taken over by a zombie apocalypse. And this woman, our heroine, is named the Archeress. She comes home and finds that her family has all been murdered. Long story short, she decides to join up with this resistance–all the humans that are against the zombies.
And the vampires that have always existed start infiltrating the resistance basically posing as humans because they're fighting the zombies for a food source. Zombies need to eat people and vampires need to eat people–stay with me here–so I know it's pretty ridiculous but we love all things ridiculous.
Long story short, the resistance leader is turned into a vampire. And she decides to leave the resistance because she sees that all hope is lost and she wanders the desert searching for meaning and a drifter comes up tells her there is a spaceship that is leaving earth and is going to take survivors over earth until everything on earth dies out. She goes with the drifter and they get in this huge fight at the end, and that's the last song “The Last Act” and they get in this fight with the Zombies and Vampires. And as they're getting shot into space and as he's dying in her arms she has to decide if she's going to shoot him in the head or the heart because he's either going to be a zombie or vampire.
Whew! So was this story something you cooked up alone or did you work it out with the rest of the band?
All three of us, a lot of cheap wine and bad movies.The three of us actually have a music publishing company called Hive Mind music and we kind of share a hive brain when it comes to creative juices. We get together and go with it.
Did you guys do the producing and engineering too?
We actually went to a studio down in San Diego called Black Box Recording. The engineer/producer guy is named Mario Quintaro and he is amazing. He was like a fourth member in some parts. Four of the songs were written in the studio and he kind of helped us flesh them out because they hadn't been performed live. We had to come up with “how are we going to make this as big are ideas are in our head. What kind of elements can we add to it?” He was just great. Being the outside influence and saying “well you know guys that's a little ridiculous” or he'd be like “fuck yeah let's go with that.” I loved working with a producer it was great.
What local bands are you listening to right now?
The two bands that I'm really excited about right now are Buffalo Stance. I saw them the other day and they blew my mind. It's a couple guys from The Valley Arena and one guy from Telomere Repair. They're going to be playing or release party. The other band is Restaurant. Oh my god, they're great. I'd say of the bands I've seen on the local level lately, those are the ones to watch.
So are you nervous about taking these epic studio songs into a live venue?
At the CD release party we're going to have some guest vocalist come up and help us with some of the vocals and since we do play to a click track we can use some of the tracks live to fill out the sound. But yeah it's going to be a little more stripped down and we're going to play it all the way through.
Bella Novela play Friday October 14 with Los Mysteriosos, Spare Parts for Broken Hearts, Buffalo Stance and the Studio Fix at Alex's Bar 2913 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach 90804. http://www.alexsbar.com/. Show starts at 9 p.m., admission $5.