Educate Your Ears: Bells and Robes

Bells and Robes will lead you on a refreshing electronic journey through time and space, combining elements of live improvisation with synth-heavy sounds of the future. Fusing ambient chillwave and high-tempo bass music, Bells and Robes aims to create dynamic energy while simultaneously lulling listeners into fantasy-like dream state. Performing over self-produced electro-soundscapes, Luke Sipka plays live keyboard while Dean Spaniol triggers samples and percussion, adding licks of live instrumentation into energetic electronic sets. The duo have been working hard this year on their recent 5 track EP “How Could We Have Known?”. Each track is a  representation of their individual production talents; ranging from Hip-hop to ambient wavy tunes. Self describing their EP as “exploring the vast ocean of sound and it’s connection to all human senses”, we spoke to Luke and Dean a little more about the crisp electronic sound of Bells and Robes.

KALTBLUT: Let’s start from the top – how was it that you two came to produce music together?
Bells and Robes: We were neighbors in college and ended up splitting a record player. We started building a collection, had similar tastes, and decided we should start making our own music. I (Luke) was in a band at the time and Dean had been producing on his own for a number of years. We ended up signing a contract with each other under penalty of death that stated we would complete an EP by the winter solstice of that year. We finished it on time, and thankfully we’re both still alive.

KALTBLUT: Did music play a big role in growing up?
Bells and Robes: Yes, definitely. I (Luke) was initially forced into signing up for piano lessons by my parents. I hated it for two years, discovered jazz, then totally fell in love with everything music related. Improvisation had a big role in helping me to love music as much as I do now and that all started as a kid playing in jazz bands. We try to incorporate a good amount of improv into our live shows now. Dean also grew up with music as his uncle was a professional songwriter and was in his school band courses since elementary school.

KALTBLUT: Could you tell us a little about your EP? What are its main influences and general process?
Bells and Robes: The EP was attempting to express a hypothetical or not so hypothetical sensation of feeling everything, all the highs and lows, the good and bad, the pain and joys in one single instant. Of letting the sorrows of your life overcome you and letting the joys overtake you and feeling it all more than you ever had while avoiding nothing. The rare feeling that makes us feel fully alive. The EP is a collection of short stories from some of those moments that are hard to feel. We wanted to use features from some of our good friends to make the album a bit more personal.

It was written/produced using a combination of samples and synthesizers. We wanted to create a sound that fused some retro style sounds with the more futuristic sounding tones that can be achieved with modern software synthesizers. The samples included come from a combination of an underground 70’s psychedelic folk album, an 80’s Italian soft-core erotica film soundtrack, and a modern singer songwriter. A nice melting pot of sonic ingredients.

KALTBLUT: How did you meet your vocalists?
Bells and Robes: 
Swain is our roommate. We met him when we were living in Gainesville, FL attending the University of Florida. The song with him was written and recorded, both beat and lyrics, in under 90 minutes. We had been working on the track, walked upstairs, showed it to him, and within 30 minutes he had written what would be the final lyrics. It was a crazy and magical experience.

Fae of Flat Land is a good friend of ours we also knew from Gainesville. We had started a music education non-profit with her band, Flat Land, and won $15,000 to get it going. After that, we were all spending a lot of time together working on the company and chatting often. We had written the initial music track and sent it to her. At the time, we had all recently quit day jobs to pursue music in a full time manner, and we wanted to write a song that would express that feeling. Latchkey was the result, and we were incredibly happy with how it turned out.

Miranda was a childhood friend of Dean’s whose voice we thought would fit perfectly for Dreamin’. She ended up writing the lyrics for it after we sent her the track and it resonated with the story of the album.

KALTBLUT: Where or when have been some of your most inspiring moments?
Bells and Robes: Standing on a dock in Switzerland, naked, at 4 AM, admiring the distant mountains and stars and jumping into cold water with four other, equally naked, friends.

The first time at Bonnaroo which was also my first music festival has inspired a number of songs.

I went to a Phish show in Miami a few years ago. After the show, at 4 AM, I realized that my hotel booking did not start until the next day. Left essentially homeless, I was forced to sleep on the beach. After a terrifying night that left me feeling like a bum, I got a call from one of my friends. He picked me up, and he proceeded to take me to the place we were staying that night. It ended up being a 3 story penthouse in the tallest building in Miami. Everything was white or marble. In less than 6 hours, I’d gone from being a homeless man to being in one of the most expensive condos in the city. Strange experience, and definitely gave me a lot to ponder and put into music.

Starting a music education non-profit and winning $15,000 in an intensely trying competition.

Breaking up with a long time girlfriend definitely inspired a few songs.

Seeing one of my oldest friends laying in a hospital bed in a coma evoked more emotion that flowed into music than I ever could have expected.

Random, un-important moments that mean almost nothing. Looking at a flower, taking in a painting, walking down the street. These are where most of the ideas come in. To be honest, most of our songs are started without an inspiration. The creative flow takes hold and then you look back on what you created, analyze your life, and understand whatever thing you were subconsciously trying to express.

KALTBLUT: Do you find that you’re able to adapt to your surroundings when producing, or does it have to be a particular environment?
Bells and Robes: Can totally adapt to surroundings. We’re almost never home, so we’ve learned to produce anywhere. You’ll find us nodding our heads in coffee shops, living room floors, and parks all over the place. Some of our best work has come from foreign environments and different settings.

KALTBLUT: The EP imagery fits perfectly with your sound, was this something created by yourselves?
Bells and Robes: We’ve been working with Katie Ladd for all of our album artwork since our first EP; ‘One Should See Sound’. She was a good friend and really took the time to get to know us and understand our music which is what makes the visuals mesh so well with the audio. Before even starting on our first EP’s artwork, she did a pretty thorough interview and got deep into what makes us tick. The collage element has been present throughout all of our work. Over the next year, we’re going to be developing some more live/music videos that will also be in the collage style. So far, they’re super trippy and beautiful. Keep an eye out for those.

KALTBLUT: Who would you most like to work with as a collaboration / side project?
Bells and Robies: Flying Lotus or Damon Albarn

KALTBLUT: What is the perfect scenario to listen to your music?
Bells and Robes: It’s 3 AM, you’re either on the beach, in the woods, or on top of a mountain. You’re either solo contemplating your place in the universe or making love.

KALTBLUT: Ultimate chilled summer tracks?
Bells and Robes: Rebirth – Shingo Suzuki
TM Juke – Knee Deep
LCD Soundsystem – Dance Yrself Clean
Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
Herbie Hancock – Chameleon
The Temptations – Smilin Faces

KALTBLUT: What is next?
Bells and Robes: Next is a way of looking at the world, but probably not the best. The important thing is to enjoy whatever you’re doing at the moment. Take the time to actually taste what you’re eating, look at all the details of a tree, recreate it in your mind, listen with every ounce of your consciousness to what the person next to you is saying without needing to come up with a response, feel the lips of the person you’re kissing without worrying how long the kiss will last. These are where the most life-altering moments happen. When we pay attention to what is happening right now, not what is next. That’s what our music is about.

But we’re currently working on a full-length album as well as a number of singles. We’ve got a big October planned. We will be touring around Florida and playing two big festivals, Suwannee Hulaween and Luna Light Festival in Maryland. Hoping to make it to Europe as well. Stay tuned!

‘How Could We Have Known?’ is out now