by Carly Shields
The end of 2016 saw the end of an era for Richmond, Virginia’s The Southern Belles, as they closed their 4-year run of First Friday shows at The Camel. As they step into 2017, the band is ready to make moves and seize the opportunities before them. We’re about to embark on a new chapter in Belles’ history in a few very exiting ways. Live Music Daily sat down with lead guitarist Adrian Ciucci and the newest member of the Belles team, Mikey Sallemi on bass.
(Former bassist Andrew Carper was given an amazing opportunity to be the musical director of a new touring group and couldn’t pass it up. It was a bittersweet departure, but everyone wished each other well knowing future hometown jams are imminent.)
Mikey comes to The Southern Belles from the north, joining drummer Aaron Zarrow in their Philly representation of what it means to be a Southern Belle. Mikey embodies the whole thing: he’s a gentleman with his own style, kind and easy to talk to, brewing with musical energy.
His enthusiasm for the Belles was instant, he’d been a big fan for a few years and prepared better than anyone when he was called to audition. “He already knew some of the most recent jams by heart, he had down chord progressions for the newest songs, I mean, he really had to work hard to figure all this out on his own and he nailed it,” said Ciucci. “We talked to a few other people but this kid had it right away, it was gonna be an easy transition with him and he’s ready to tour, so he’s the perfect fit.”
As to what he thought of relocating to RVA and joining the band:“I’m extremely proud to be following similar paths as the musicians I have been inspired by and continue to be more and more every day, and to have this opportunity as a traveling musician,” Mikey said. “The Belles are a really motivating group of guys to play with.”
First things first though: The Belles had an album to record. Before they locked in Mikey for the bass role, they had studio time already planned and paid for so they turned to their RVA family who stepped up to the plate and filled in right away. Ciucci, Zarrow, and keys player Tommy Booker tracked for a solid week, recording the newest songs like “Everywhere” and “Déjà vu,” which, as many Belles fans may have noticed, all have a similar structure and feeling of interconnectedness. The band has been working all hours of the day and night in The Ward with Bryan Walthal, taking it back to his studio to refine each song and make it perfect for the forthcoming album.
Shortly after announcing plans for the new album, “yet unnamed,” said Ciucci with a chuckle, the Belles announced their first PledgeMusic campaign, offering a pre-order of the album with other great limited edition collectables, like signed posters, a prop from their “Getaway” music video, vinyl and more.
“We went with a pre-order campaign instead of a crowd funding campaign because we wanted the finished product to be tangible- like, you’re not getting a home cooked meal from the band when we reach our goal, you’re getting an actual album, as soon as it’s done, we’ll ship it to you and by contributing, you’re helping get it done faster. There’s no silkscreen trying to make it seem like we’re doing anything else; this is for our fans that want the new music as soon as it’s ready and are willing to help us get there. And tell you what, we love ‘em so much. Our fans are really the greatest,” said Ciucci.
In addition to a new bass player and a new album on the horizon, the Belles have joined the Omni Arts Group booking roster. For the first time, the band will have an official booking agent, Matt Kolinski, and Ciucci says it’s already paying off in way they couldn’t have imagined. As for future plans: “Look out for a heavy touring schedule in the spring and summer, hopefully a lot of festivals,” said Ciucci. Mikey chimed in, “I think the plan is to play music until we die. That’s what I’m gonna do!”