The group of South Carolina college students (currently attending USC and Winthrop) that call themselves Bellavida formed only a couple short years ago but possess a positive musical vision that belies their youth. The 2016 EP Letters To Rose contains the seeds of what has grown into a formidable live act with a full-length recording in the works.
There are echoes of the eclectic pop-rock of Dave Matthews Band in the various twists and turns of “Look At How She Lays,” which features singer/guitarist Logan Baldwin, while “Fool” shows off the Amy Winehouse tendencies of singer/keyboardist/violinist Cat Galan. While the group lists those two acts along with Grouplove, Moon Taxi, and more as musical touchstones, there is no clear style being proffered by the band’s output to date. Every song has its own feel, and the concepts are simple while the structures are musically complex. The result is an expansive acoustic/electric hybrid that’s equal parts indie rock, classic songcraft, and groove-laden experimentation.
If there’s a secret to the band’s songwriting process, it may be in the place they retreat to concentrate on it. Baldwin’s family owns a cabin in what the band describes only as ‘a secluded location in the middle of nowhere’, and it is there where the group can focus on shaping their myriad ideas into musical compositions without distractions.
“Everyone has a say in what our music is,” Baldwin says. “It takes all of us together.”
In addition to Baldwin and Galan, the band includes Evan Hooker on lead guitar, Jake Parler on bass, and Blake Hunter on drums. In various combinations, the members have known each other for years and played acoustic gigs, church gigs, and more before settling into the current collective arrangement of Bellavida.
It is the common currency of their friendships both in and out of the band context that informs the Bellavida experience live. Easygoing, relatable and instantly engaging on stage, the interplay between Baldwin’s focused, serious nature and Galan’s soaring harmonies and solo vocal turns is at the heart of the Bellavida sound. Instruments swirl in and out of the mix as each arrangement requires, with the violin, keyboard, and saxophone cutting through the usual guitar-bass-drums lineup to offer a different sort of pop-rock.
Even the band’s name can be interpreted on different levels; it translates directly to “Beautiful Life” but it is meant to signify the music as being something more meaningful and uplifting.
Baldwin explains “We don’t want to make pointless, pretty pop music."
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