Bell X1 In-depth Biography
Irish indie rock four-piece Bell X1 call to mind pre-electronic Radiohead and the more sedate side of Coldplay, crafting tight, melodic pop with introspective and witty lyrics. Having recorded albums with the likes of Nick Seymour (Crowded House) and Roger Birichiam (Elvis Costello), the band is best known for its ability to craft infectious yet durable radio-friendly hooks with strong production values. Though "official records" place Bell X1's date of formation to 1999, the Celbridge, Co. Kildare group's roots stretch back a further eight years to the birth of Juniper. Formed straight out of school by eccentric singer Dodi Ma, better known by his given name Damien Rice, drummer Paul Noonan, keyboardist Brian Crosby, and bassist Dominic Philips, Juniper started out playing classic rock and pop covers at weddings and other private functions around the nation's capital. Soon, with the addition of another school friend, guitarist David Geraghty, the band's focus shifted toward original music. Noted as one of the most exciting live acts around, Juniper's reputation grew rapidly and, following the release of two self-financed EPs, they signed a staggering six-album deal with Polygram Ireland in 1997.
Two commercially successful singles followed in "The Weatherman" and "The World Is Dead," however all was not well within the band. Disagreements over the choice of the second single (Rice wanted a number titled "Eskimo"; Polygram overruled) brought to a head long-standing tensions between Rice and his bandmates, Rice and the label, and between Rice and his own creative ego. On the eve of recording Juniper's debut album in late 1998, he jumped ship, moving to rural Tuscany to tend sheep and rediscover himself as a songwriter. The remaining members regrouped; Paul Noonan assumed lead vocal and rhythm guitar duties, and Bell X1, (named for the first plane to break the sound barrier), was born.
Switching to Universal Music Ireland following Polygram's acquisition by the Universal Music Group, Bell X1 recorded their debut album, Neither Am I, with producer Nick Seymour, but it fell well below commercial expectations upon its release in early 2000. The critical reception was equally unenthusiastic, with many noting that the group's dynamic hadn't been fully repaired since Rice's walkout. The singles failed to take off, and the album wasn't released outside of Ireland, however they managed to build upon their reputation as a live band of note, amassing a fiercely devoted following. Follow-up Music in Mouth reversed the trend, garnering rave reviews at home and in the U.K,, and producing the hit singles "Tongue" (Rice's final contribution to their recorded catalog) and "Eve, The Apple of My Eye."
The release of Flock in late 2005 marked a new beginning. More confident and assured than either of its predecessors, Flock debuted at number one in the Irish album charts and won triumphant reviews at home and in the U.K., following its overseas release in March of 2006. Pre-release singles "Flame" performed much better than expected, while "Rocky Took a Lover" was chosen as the third single on radio requests alone. The end of Bell X1's most successful year to date was documented with the CD/DVD set Tour de Flock in June of 2007, the first release on the band's newly established Bellyup Records label. ~ Dave Donnelly, Rovi