The Belle Sounds
Synth-pop quintet The Belle Sounds have been called “one of the best pop bands in Austin” (Austin American Statesman), “Best New Band” (Austin Chronicle) and have their own day named after them in their hometown of Austin, TX. Led by the husband-wife team of Noëlle Hampton and André Moran, they have been developing their evocative sound and each year the synchronicity between all five musicians shines through more and more. In 2020 they shifted gears from a more guitar heavy band to a synth-pop/alt-pop band with Hampton and longtime band member, Emily Shirley on synths and keys. Hampton also took on the role of producer, creating all of the musical parts, melody and lyrics for each song in highly detailed demos and then taking them to the studio to finesse with Moran. They released one song per month that year, making good use of the grant awarded to them by Black Fret by creating videos and new content. The momentum continued in 2021 with a brand new EP, All About Love. Their work garnered them a coveted spot on The Austin American Statesman’s Best of 2020 and Best of 2021 list, multiple spots on the KUTX Song Of The Day and a placement in the popular Netflix show, Outer Banks. In 2022 André took over the long established Cedar Creek Studio as head engineer/manager and they eventually began work on their newest EP, Four Fathoms Deep (out 6/30/23). It’s a lush and vibrant set of 6 songs, which includes their cover of the Talk Talk song, "Life’s What You Make It." They celebrated with a wonderfully successful show at Pershing in Austin, TX on July 8th with Sabrina Ellis (Sweet Spirit/A Giant Dog) on the bill as well.
The band has yielded incredible opportunities onstage too, playing some of Austin’s finest stages including ACL Moody Theater, 3Ten ACL Live, Cheer Up Charlies, Empire Control Room, One-2-One, Pershing Hall, Scholz’s Garden, Saxon Pub and more, including opening for Bruce Hornsby at Kirk Watson’s Pre-ACL Fest Under The Stars Benefit in Zilker Park in 2019.
All the accolades are due to an ever evolving sound, now rich with lush soundscapes intertwined with effervescent harmonies and poignant lyricism. All the textured guitar sounds and layered synths are anchored by a reverence for good old fashioned hooks, a trait they share in common with their influences, which range from harmony-driven bands like Fleetwood Mac to 80s icons like Kate Bush, Depeche Mode, Tears For Fears, Peter Gabriel, Blondie and more.
While the creative duties are the domain of songwriter/producer/lead singer Hampton and co producer/engineer/guitar player Moran, they are joined by longtime band members Emily Shirley (keys/vocals), Greg Hagen (bass/vocals) and newest member Danny Piccuirro (drums/samples).
Noëlle and André met at a club in their then-home of San Francisco and it was love at first sight. Their personal and artistic chemistry flowed abundantly, so playing together came naturally and they quickly landed song placements and slots opening for everyone from Wilco, Chris Isaak and Pat Benatar to the great Bob Dylan on top of being featured in the very first iTunes commercial along with Iggy Pop, Jeff Tweedy, Ziggy Marley and Aimee Mann.Though the duo had considerable success playing their own brand of Americana both in California and their adopted hometown of Austin, where they moved in the early 2000s, Hampton yearned to create music inspired by her 70s/80s pop leanings and so The Belle Sounds was born in 2013. The band released an eponymous first album, then the EP Black Stone, followed by 2018’s The Sea Within. The recent releases are introspective journeys through Hampton’s inner psyche. “The difference between our woes and other professions is that we get to write our anger, sadness, love, fear and everything else into song. It's the best therapy ever.” Praise for the group’s new sound began to roll in, including admiration for their “brilliant atmospheric guitar soundscapes” (Austin American Statesman) and “soaring synths and vocal harmonies” (Glide Magazine).
Instead of taking a breather during the pandemic, Hampton dove deep into creating music, culminating in the release of 12 singles, compiled into a Bandcamp album titled, Stay Alive- The 2020 Singles. She took advantage of the extra time and isolation the lockdown provided to work on her production skills which led to the band’s more current glossy alt pop sound. Tapping into André’s years of engineering and production experience, the couple fine tuned each track, showing once again what great chemistry can do. Multiple videos followed, including the stunning animation/live concept video collaboration with local musician/visual artist Seela Misra for their single, “NOW YOU SEE ME” and a dazzling roller skating collaboration with Sarah Haywood for the “ALL ABOUT LOVE” video. They collaborated again in 2022 with Seela for a beautiful animated video for “UNSPOKEN.”
With a history rich with accomplishments and growth under their belts, the band looks forward to 2023 and beyond, as they continue to develop their evocative sound and get back into live shows. Four Fathoms Deep is released 6/30/23 and they have new material that will be released in single format following the EP.
FOUR FATHOMS DEEP:
"The shorthand is that Belle Sounds is Austin’s Fleetwood Mac, built around two very talented women singer-songwriters plus an inventive guitarist and studio wizard. But that doesn’t really explain the singular sound they’ve carved out as a top-notch synth-pop band in a town better-known for Americana and blues. The five originals here are written by Noelle Hampton, who also produced the EP, with support from keyboardist/backing vocalist Emily Shirley, guitarist/keyboardist André Moran, and the rhythm section of bassist Gregory Hagen and drummer Danny Piccuirro. A closing cover of Talk Talk’s “Life’s What You Make It” pales in comparison to Hampton’s own compositions, which underscores how compelling her songwriting is. Though they’ve been putting out records for a decade, they’re mostly unknown outside Austin. But if they keep making music as good as Four Fathoms Deep, that really needs to change.
(Peter Blackstock/No Depression)
"It's beautiful, just beautiful." (Kevin Conner/Sun Radio 100.1)
"Hampton and husband/creative partner André Moran knew an evolution was brewing in the band’s style. And since Hampton took on the role of producer, it’s expanded further into a synth-pop realm that compliments the band’s shimmering melodies. The new EP Four Fathoms Deep is the latest to show off the exploration of electronic layers with a vibrant ‘80s-inspired palate of synth-and-hook pop." (Laurie Gallardo/KUTX 98.9)
"It's my favorite new album this year" (Johnny Goudie/How Did I Get Here Podcast)
LIGHT IT UP SINGLE RELEASE:
"It’s been a surprisingly short amount of time since singer Noëlle Hampton and guitarist André Moran first met in San Francisco, became partners in marriage and songwriting, and moved to Austin as The Belle Sounds. And it’s just as impressive that in the five years since then they’ve become a treasured indie pop rock mainstay, to the point that the City of Austin has declared April 13th as “The Belle Sounds Day”.
Now equipped with some at-home digital production software and producer Danny Reisch (Shearwater, David Ramirez, Erika Wennerstrom), The Belle Sounds are venturing further into the pop realm, while still retaining the vivid soundscapes and infectious harmonies that made us fall in love with them in the first place."
- Jack Anderson- KUTX
THE SEA WITHIN:
"Centered around singer-songwriter Noelle Hampton and guitarist Andre Moran, the Belle Sounds have become one of Austin’s best pop bands since forming five years ago. “The Sea Within” has been a long time coming: Their last release was a 2014 EP that followed 2013’s self-titled debut. Working with producer David Boyle at his Church House Studio in East Austin, the band recorded 11 original songs that reach back to the classic sounds of 1970s FM radio, an approach that stands out today precisely because they’re not trying to board the indie bandwagon. The album’s title comes from the mesmerizing track “Innsaei,” an Icelandic word that translates to “the sea within” but connotes a deeper, zen-like sense of intuition and empathy. This is a very well-constructed and sequenced record: Five tracks build up, and then down, from “Legend of the Silver Moon,” a masterful eight-minute centerpiece that luxuriates in Moran’s brilliant atmospheric guitar soundscapes. Throughout, contributions from keyboardists Boyle and Emily Shirley, bassists John Michael Schoepf and Kris Nelson, drummer Evan Hutchings and cellist Brian Standefer make “The Sea Within” sound very much like a band record, not simply a duo project." - Peter Blackstock (Austin 360) 7/19/18
“ Absolutely fantastic! It’s fucking awesome-super dreamy!” Johnny Goudie (musician/songwriter/How Did I Get Here podcaster)
“Excellent record! Every song is good. A superior recording. Everything on this record is just placed perfectly.” Tom Tranchilla (musician/songwriter/DJ on KPFT Houston)
“Austin’s The Belle Sounds are back with a new gripping album that weaves together everything from overcoming some of the weaker points of the human condition, and the struggle to take on others.” - KUTX (Austin, TX)
The soaring synth and vocal harmonies for the chorus definitely give the song a Fleetwood Mac vibe, but The Belle Sounds take things in their own direction as they craft their own dark and jagged pop sound.
- Glide Magazine 6/6/18
“KUTX is proud to premiere their latest music video “Like A Villain,” a stunning, all-visual vignette and an absolute playground of textures to evoke the duality of anxiety-driven suffocation and the strength found from putting that baby in the corner.” - KUTX (Austin,TX)
"Needless to say, The Belle Sounds are a group well worth knowing – especially as they gear up to release their highly anticipated sophomore album. The Sea Within is, as its name suggests, a provocative exploration of internal turbulence full of introspection and emotion. Finely balancing darkness and light, “Like a Villain” exemplifies the band’s depth with an intimate portrayal of anxiety and inner strife.
Hampton’s incredibly moving words speak volumes to the intensity that is “Like a Villain”: The band set out to make a statement with this video, and they ended up with a true work of art. “Like a Villain” explores some of our darkest personal spaces, unearthing our innate fragility and emotional extremes. It’s a think-piece, a conversation-starter, and a defining moment for an emerging rock band as they prepare to burst out of Austin." - Mitch Most (Atwood Magazine)
It’s tempting to draw parallels between Belle Sounds and Fleetwood Mac, given the triple-threat interplay between band leader Noelle Hampton, masterfully atmospheric guitarist Andre Moran and keyboardist-vocalist Emily Shirley. They play sophisticated pop originals and have a great rapport with the audience."
- Peter Blackstock - Austin360
"Helmed by superb songstress Noëlle Hampton, The Belle Sounds navigate the difficult divide between seductive folk pop and the sterling accessibility that successfully prevents them from ever becoming too self-absorbed."
- Lee Zimmerman/No Depression