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12 May 2015

Meet the Band Part 2 – Chris Bell

Please find an interview of Chris Bell, the ever talented and hilarious lead singer of the Alpine Camp below,

Tell me about when music became a part of your life.

I have always had melodies come into my head from when I was a kid up to the present and I am constantly humming.  At first I started messing around on an electric piano my step mom had (it didn’t take – see my piano skills today).  Then when I turned 14 or 15, I got a Mexican Stratocaster and that’s when I really started documenting those melodies and turning them into songs.  I had it in the wrong tuning for about 3 months when I first got it, but eventually I figured out the correct tuning when I started taking lessons.  Depending on who you ask, those didn’t take either…

Who are your musical heroes?


The last half of my life has been devoted to improvisational bands, so you can kinda guess who my musical heroes are.  That being said the first two CDs I ever got were The Spin Doctors and Das EFX.  That was kind of a crossroads for me.  I could have either gone down the rap/hip-hop road or the rock road.  I chose rock, not that there’s anything wrong with hip-hop, as I still listen to it a lot with Jurassic 5 being a consummate favorite, but a white rapper from Connecticut..well, maybe the world wasn’t quite ready for that.  If you think about it though, The Spin Doctors, as goofy as some people consider them to be, were a part of those first H.O.R.D.E. Festivals which included Phish, Widespread Panic, ARU and the likes so maybe it wasn’t such a reach after all. 

How many bands have you been in and what were they like?


The Alpine Camp included, I’ve been in only three bands.  Hacha; the love of my life was the band that Charles and I were in, and really shaped my entire being.  Look it up on Spotify, I’m still pretty proud of those albums.  It’s the whole reason we’re even out here in California.  That band was friends first and we just happened to play music.  Unfortunately or maybe inevitably, life happens and that band ended.  Struggling with the thought of not being in a band for the first time in at least a decade, I begged Charles and the late Michael Murphy (really sad and weird to say that) to form a new funk rock outfit with me called The Sextet Trio.  That was really fun and we actually had a few memorable road trips to the Bay area and Arizona, and it was the first time we had girls in the band.  Maybe it was because Mike didn’t want to gig anymore, but that band also ended after about two years.  He was so likable and magnetic, that without him, things just kid of dissipated.  I still had that musical itch and at this point the melodies I continued to get in my head were almost like a hindrance.  I begged Charles to work on a new project with me. I always tell people that I come up with the melodies, but Charles turns them into songs.  I had been out to Nashville and had also started to spend a lot more time outdoors (I didn’t have a band to mess around with) so those vibes seemed to permeate into the music.  This was the first time we employed outside musicians for the recordings.  After we heard it, I think we both knew this was going to turn into a band.  Luckily, not only were the new musicians great at their craft, they were also super cool, so we’ve become friends.  Sounds like a band to me…that’s The Alpine Camp.  

How many bands are you in now?


Just one.  This one.

How do you like playing with The Alpine Camp?

I love being in this band, and I will happily accept my role as the worst musician in  the band.  It’s an honor to have such great players interpreting our songs and bringing them to fruition.  Plus, they don’t give me too much shit about it.  

What instrument do you play?


Acoustic Guitar.  I also play harmonica, but we haven’t used that in any Alpine Camp songs yet.  I don’t have much to go over gear-wise because I usually go direct into the house PA.  I did just get my own direct box, but that’s a far cry from when I was in Hacha and had a pedal board.  This is a lot easier.  I’ll let the other guys take care of that stuff.  Plus its a lot less to carry.

What are your favorite venues that you’ve played.


Probably the best venue I’ve played in my life thus far was The Webster Theatre in Hartford, CT.  This was well over a decade ago in the band Hacha, and at the time, it was a pretty huge venue for us.  We got to do that a couple times, opening for Blue Floyd once (Members of the Black Crowes, Gov’t Mule and The Allman Bros. playing Pink Floyd tunes) and then JGB featuring Melvin Seals.  Those were the moments that gave us the confidence to pack up and head west!  Now once we got out here to California it was pretty cool to play iconic clubs like The Whisky A Go Go and The Troubadour knowing what legends had already done their time there.  Of course now the Whisky is kinda like a pay to play venue, so that sucks, but the Troubadour is still an awesome spot.  

What are your favorite venues to experience live music in LA?


I go to a TON of shows, so I love this question.  I would say my three favorite venues in LA are The Mint, The El Rey Theatre and The Troubadour.  Obviously there’s a lot of other great spots, but as far as consistently bringing in the type of acts I love, those places can’t be beat.  The Mint is great because it’s so small and yet everything is top notch and like I said I sometimes can’t believe the acts that get booked in there.  Plus you can leave at set break and walk a pretty low key residential neighborhood to “refuel” or whatever it is you need to do.  The Troubadour is also pretty small, but still probably 4 or five times the capacity of The Mint.  Again, their booker is just constantly on point and there’s also a tangible vibe of the history (at least for me) of all the amazing artists that have played there over the years.  Finally, the El Rey Theater in mid-city has been getting some of the best shows over the last two years.  There’s like three bars, awesome chandeliers and it’s kind of becoming The Fillmore of LA.  It just has that same feel to it.  Of course there’s places like The Cinema Bar (free live Americana 7 nights a week) all the way up to the huge places like Hollywood Bowl that certainly are experiences all their own, but those three spots I mentioned before are my favorite in the city.  

Please include anything else you would like people to know about you.


 The main thing that I’d like people to know about this band is that at least for me, it’s a necessity. As I mentioned earlier I continue to get melodies stuck in my head to this day. Without Charles and the guys there to help me bring the songs to life, I think I might actually go insane. That being said, I know that as we get older everybody’s got their own lives going on, and a million different things on their respective plates. So I just want you to know, that every time you go to a show, we (and me personally) truly appreciate you being there. We want to thank you for your time and make sure that it’s well spent.  Thank you for your continued support and we can’t wait to see you at the next show!

  

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