Amelia Bushell and Thomas Servidone, the duo behind Brooklyn dream-pop outfit Belle Mare, think it’s funny when I ask if they’re romantically involved. Walking through the Brooklyn Flea Record Fair on a crowded Saturday afternoon, they insist they’re more like siblings. Though you (correctly) wouldn’t infer family resemblance by looking at them — Bushell dresses in all black and speaks with a charmingly muddied accent; Servidone is built like a hockey player, decidedly American.
Belle Mare’s debut EP The Boat Of The Fragile Mind, which came out on April 9th, feels like a full-length record: eight songs of minimal melancholy inserted into pop structures. When Bushell sings “We could make it out alive” on the title track, you can rest assured survival comes with along with some scars. It wounds and attempts comfort in the same breath, exhaling tones of Mazzy Star, but is less anthemic, more restrained, and filtered through the moan of an English accent. Bushell is originally from London — she says people often mistakenly think the entire band hails from that side of the pond.
She and Servidone actually met at an open mic in Park Slope, where Servidone offered to record a demo for her. Their musical chemistry was immediate: they wrote two songs in their first practice session. “I couldn’t have asked to meet anybody better,” he says in a brotherly tone. They’ve only been a band for about a year, but have already expanded to a full five-piece for their live shows.
Back at Record Flea, men with pushcarts hawk water bottles and musicians like Thundercat walk by. Servidone collects a stack of records and begins explaining their significance to him as a musician. He holds up Filigree & Shadow, an album by goth-pop supergroup This Mortal Coil. “I picked this one more just because of the Cocteau Twins,” he says. “That’s a big inspiration for our album, some of our vocal effects were really inspired by what the Cocteau Twins were doing.”
Next up is David Bowie’s Lodger, the last album in the storied “Berlin Trilogy.” Servidone says those records, especially Low, have been a near constant source of wonderment. “I must have listened to [Low] more times than any other album,” he says. “That, to me, on a production level whenever I’m doing songs, it’s always in the back of my head. Brian Eno and David Bowie made a masterpiece with that one.”
Servidone is talking about a Buffalo Springfield record (Neil Young is the first musician he ever really got into) when Bushell appears. She’s holding a weathered Wanda Jackson LP, but soon begins talking about her dream vinyl find: Colour Green by German folk singer Sibylle Baier. Baier recorded the songs of her only record in the ’70s, but they weren’t unearthed until 2006 and have since become something of a cult classic. “She was a huge inspiration for me,” Bushell says. “A woman who isn’t afraid to have her own sound. It’s so bare minimal, so quiet. There’s a lot of sorrow there. I really look up to her for being able to write such a haunting album.”
She turns to Servidone to see if he agrees. Same page, per usual — sibling vibe in full swing.
Belle Mare perform tonight at the Studio at Webster Hall.