Facebook likes Bell x1. The omnipresent social-media stalwart handpicked the County Kildare quartet to perform over Memorial Day weekend on the rooftop of its Dublin headquarters for a handful of lucky employees and a worldwide audience transfixed by their computers. CEO Mark Zuckerberg even dropped by to check out the band’s outdoor preview of its latest release, “Bloodless Coup” (Yep Roc).
Soft-spoken frontman Paul Noonan recognizes the historic ramifications of an event such as this, even if it’s above Zuckerberg’s head. “I think people are conscious of a certain lineage there from the Beatles playing the roof of the Apple building to U2 on the roof of the liquor store in downtown L.A. and us on a windy, spitty rainy evening in Dublin on the roof of Facebook,” he says over the phone from Toronto awaiting the first date of the band’s North American tour. “We met Mark Zuckerberg… and he was like, ‘what do you mean the Apple building? Apple weren’t around in the sixties.’ Different Apple, my friend. Ahh, children of the eighties.”
Once known as the band Damien Rice left before hitting it big, Bell x1 steadily garnered a reputation over the course of five albums for combining witty lyrics peppered with a dash of hopeless romanticism and beats schooled by the Talking Heads. “Bloodless Coup” expands the electronic palate of 2009’s “Blue Lights on the Runway” without sacrificing or overshadowing the songs’ inherent structure.
“What’s often important to us is that the songs, the underlying songs are there and they work in an acoustic setting,” Noonan explains. “Using grooves and synthesizers, you can kind of mistake a groove and a feel and a jam for a song and it isn’t.”
From the cascading mantra of holy matrimony undulating in a dervish of blissful beeps of album opener “Hey Anna Lena” to the C-3P0 chatter and light-saber swooshes populating the background of “Sugar High” and an ivory-tinkling crisis of faith in “The Trailing Skirts of God,” Noonan, along with guitarist David Geraghty, bassist Dominic Philips, keyboardist Marc Aubele and drummer Rory Doyle took a different approach to the recording process this time around.
Inspired by a conversation with U2 knob-turner Steve Lillywhite and the proficiency of Motown session players The Funk Brothers, Bell x1 made a conscious effort to eliminate the myriad options bogging down twenty-first-century bands armed with essentially portable recording capabilities by hiring producer Rob Kirwan to weed out the good ideas from the bad and rehearsing the kinks out to make way for a speedy session.
“Most bands, including ourselves, have built up a recording studio or the equipment to record and we’re now a lot more knowledgeable about that end of things and we’re very much self-sufficient…and while on the one hand that’s great and empowering, on the other hand it often can end up in this endless spiral of options and there’s no one there at the helm to say stop,” Noonan relates. “Also, the fact that it can breed laziness whereas in the past you had to be a great musician because studio time is expensive and was a luxury so you went in there and you did your work quickly and got out.”
Just don’t expect Noonan to take pleasure in hearing his own voice blaring out of a shop’s speakers in public. “I hear something wrong… every time,” Noonan admits. “I just feel very self-conscious and there’s always something too loud or too fast. It’s quite self-indulgent probably, but I can’t help it.”
June 11 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 North Lincoln, 9pm. $15.