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Article posted: 2/27/2013 6:00 AM

As Wild Belle, Barrington siblings' worldly sound creating buzz

By Matt Arado

Listen to the music of acclaimed new band Wild Belle -- infectious pop featuring prominent doses of jazz, reggae and African rhythms -- and you probably wouldn't guess that the band's roots are in the Northwest suburbs.

Siblings Elliot and Natalie Bergman spent part of their formative years in Barrington. But they were exposed to music that went well-beyond the pop and rock that suburban young people typically latch on to.

Elliot Bergman says both their parents were music lovers, especially their mother, the noted author Susan Bergman, who passed away in 2006. Elliot, Natalie and their two other siblings all were encouraged to learn and play music.

"Yeah, music was a big part of our family and our house growing up," said Elliot, 31, a graduate of Barrington High School who now lives in Brooklyn. "Miles Davis and John Coltrane were daily listening for us. Then from there I started to explore African sounds, world music. It seemed like a natural progression."

Elliot first explored those interests in his band Nomo, which formed when he was studying at the University of Michigan. His sister Natalie, who's eight years younger, sang with Nomo for a time, but then she and her brother decided to form a separate band together. Just like that, Wild Belle was born.

"She had different ideas, different things she wanted to do, musically," Elliot said. "Stuff that wouldn't necessarily fit with what we'd been doing in Nomo."

The band released a reggae-infused single last year called "Keep You." They also appeared at the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas -- a performance that got them notice by music writers and helped them land a deal with Columbia Records. Their debut album, "Isles," comes out on that label on Tuesday, March 12.

The album displays a startling array of influences, from the aforementioned reggae and jazz to 1960s soul and contemporary electronic dance music.

Natalie provides the vocals and lyrics on the record, while Elliot handles much of the music. (When performing live, he focuses on saxophone and keyboards.) Natalie's voice can sound sweet and flirty, but there's a toughness behind it, too. Many of the songs deal with heartbreak and loss.

"One thing I like about her singing, and the band in general, is that there's a hopefulness to our sound, even though the words go into some dark places," Elliot said. "I think that mix is interesting."

Wild Belle has a European tour scheduled for soon after the album comes out, but right now the band is excited most about the prospect of their songs actually being released.

"The record's been finished for a while, actually, so it will be great to finally get those songs out to the world," Elliot said. "And then we're eager to start writing and recording some new stuff. The touring we've been doing is great, but sometimes that makes it hard to maintain a creative mindset."

Overall, the Bergman siblings couldn't be happier about where Wild Belle is right now, Elliot said.

"When we step back and think about how fast things have gone for us, it's pretty amazing," he said. "We've gotten so much support, especially from Chicago. Now we just have to keep that going."

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