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It's All or Nothing with Bel

Artwork by Yarissa Luna @yarissa

Name/pronouns/home town/current city:

Isabel, she/they, Fairfield CT, Philadelphia

Listening to your discography, it's easy to peg you as a talented young folk artist. Or Nothing is a fun switch up from what you usually put out. What inspired the shift in sound and arrangement?

My parents played us a lot of different kinds of music growing up-- everything from reggae to prog rock to 90's hip hop-- and I finally feel comfortable enough with my musicianship to start emulating all of those influences in my songs. Writing this record, I wasn't consciously trying to break out of my old genre, but I did want to push myself in terms of arrangement. Working with my brother was a huge part of that; Eli co-produced the record and played a big part in creating the sound of "Or Nothing". Eli's an incredibly versatile producer and musician, and he brought this song to life with the drum track he wrote. Once that was laid down, everything fell into place, and I'm grateful that we weren't thinking too hard about genre when recording it.

Although the instrumentation gives a fun and playful impression, the lyrics seem to actually be calling someone out on how they treated you. Do you usually pull from real life experience when writing lyrics?

It's a challenging balance for me. On the one hand, I want to write songs that connect with people emotionally, and that requires some degree of honesty and vivid accuracy, which is best pulled from memory. On the other hand, women songwriters are often pigeonholed into this perception of their music being diaristic and confessional. Part of me always wants to push against that stereotype and try to create imagery that's more imaginative and surreal. I don't think either way is right or wrong, but I do generally start from a real life experience and see how I can distort it or play with it.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while recording the song?

I had no idea what to do with this song! In the original voice memo that I sent to Eli the day after I wrote it, I was playing a really old classical Yamaha nylon string guitar. In that recording, you can hear my hand scratching against the wooden body of the guitar as I strummed (which wasn't intentional-- it was like 8 a.m. and I was playing kind of lazily). Eli heard that scratching as a shaker, and that gave him the idea for the feel of the song. But until we got to the studio and he recorded the drum track, I wasn't hearing what he heard at all. A huge challenge for me was going into the studio without a cohesive vision for this track and allowing myself to be okay with the ambiguity and trust in the process.

What was your favorite memory of recording the song with the band?

We had a LOT of fun with the synth solo. That was an idea that came on the last day in the studio, I think. Eli found this weird, "2001: A Space Odyssey" type sound and we were laughing about it. And then he turned it into one of my favorite pieces of the whole record. It's so good, and a little campy, and I think it represents me being able to take myself less seriously in my music.

What can we look forward to from you in 2022?

My debut full length album is coming out March 25th! Aah!!! If you like this song, I think you'll like the record a lot. There's something on there for everyone.

Anything extra you want readers to know?

Thank you for reading!

All photos by Alex Riesberg

Full names of anyone who played on the song:

Isabel Furman - music, lyrics, vocals, guitar

Eli Furman - drums, bass, guitar, keys

Johanna Baumann - keys, engineering, mixing

Carl Johnson - trumpet

Listen to Bel’s latest single Or Nothing here and catch her performing at The Fire on March 25.

by Danielle Johnson

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