The Relationship | Music Pros Who’ve Earned Their Stripes

prof relationship_75There’s something really fun about rolling into a small little gas station with your band at crazy hours of the morning.




prof relationship_250What if I told you there was a band with members who have played with Morrissey, the U.S. Bombs, Weezer, and the Bravery, and written songs with Albert Hammond, Jr., of the Strokes? Interesting combination, don’t you think? What if I told you they’re a really high-energy power-pop—which is actually upbeat catchiness mod (not to be confused with modern) rock, with the energy of punk and garage rock—band that plays like it’s having the time of their lives? What if I told you there’s a reason why, and it’s the kind of thing any music fan should check out, especially if they have gotten lackadaisical over the years and let their music consumption be curated by math equations in an app you trust isn’t actually from a spreadsheet put together by label accountants? If that interests you, read on.

If there’s been one thing I have really enjoyed since the end of the ’90s, it’s been seeing bands I enjoy pull a Voltron, or dare I say Wu-Tang, and do various projects outside of the entity we came to know them for. This hasn’t been like the KISS solo albums I was too young to experience firsthand; this has been something different. I mean, in this age of ravenous music consumption, it’s an act of commitment to even know the names of band members—in most cases, apart from the front person, or the member most likely to give interviews. For music lovers who use bands as points of departure rather than destinations, getting to experience the creative sides of people you wouldn’t normally consider the focal point of attention has been an opportunity to indulge. Thanks to technology, it’s a lot easier for these musicians to find an audience for their projects without having to compromise in order to secure some sort of contract with a major corporation so their work can see the light of day.

All that said, I get a kick out of knowing one of the biggest bands of my freshman year of college, one of the biggest bands to emerge after 1994—which, for me, was a pivotal year for “alternative rock” that heralded a 180 in the direction of what popular rock music and the related culture would sound like—is one of those bands that has members comfortable enough with themselves and each other, that they can do their own thing and not feel compromised by, or perceived as a threat to, the band. That band is Weezer, who along with Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Green Day and Foo Fighters, ruled 2005 and made music I don’t look back on with a grimace.

I have to admit I wasn’t aware of a lot of Brian Bell’s work outside of Weezer, and most of the press I have seen about his band the Relationship qualifies it as a “new” band. As the Relationship, Bell and his friends Nate Shaw, Jon LaRue, and Anthony Burulcich—music pros who’ve earned their stripes with the aforementioned acts— are genuinely a new band to a lot of people who aren’t as hip as we sometimes feel we are, or long to be. That said, I had to do some investigating about this band—and what better way is there to learn about an artist and their work than to ask the artist themselves?

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When did you first get the notion that you’d want to start a project outside of Weezer and everyone else’s professional commitments?

Brian Bell: I’ve always had a project outside of Weezer. I had a band called Space Twins during the beginning stages of Weezer and all the way through the early 2000s. We put out a couple 7” singles and a full-length CD entitled The End of Imagining. Then, in about 2006, I started the Relationship with my longtime friend Nate Shaw.

When the Relationship’s first album [self-titled, 2010] came out, it had been a long buildup that coincided with a crazy run of successive releases by Weezer. At that point, did you think the Relationship was going to be a band, or more of a vehicle for solo songwriting or with different collaborators?

BB: Everything was very organic, and nothing was ever planned to coincide with anything else. I have always thought of the Relationship as a band since day one, because Nate and myself were in it, and performing music live is what we do best.

Did having a break between Hurley and Everything Will Be Alright in the End make it easy to get the ball rolling on this next album?

BB: We actually didn’t have much of a break between those albums. I’m always working toward something. Nothing comes easy in life or anything else without hard work.

Do you guys write as a band at this point, or write independently and then flesh out the ideas as a band?

Jon LaRue: Usually someone brings a song in, and then we collaborate from that point forward to build on the idea. We usually write our own parts, and then bounce ideas around until everyone is happy with it.

What’s the timetable on the release of this new album, and the touring before and after its release?

JL: That’s a good question. We would like to think before the end of the year, but we won’t cut any corners to meet a deadline or anything. At this point, we have quite a bit of material recorded, and Brian worked really hard with our engineer to be able to finish the rough mixes before the tour so we can listen to them all together and sit with them for a bit. The album is definitely starting to take shape and now we just have to get it over the finish line.

What’s it like headlining shows outside of the major markets in the Midwest region? What are some of the positives you’ve found about getting away from “industry towns” and into parts of the country where there generally aren’t any national celebrities other than the ones passing through for engagements and shows?

JL: I’ve noticed that audiences seem to be more willing to move around and have fun. We have had some amazing hometown shows, but I think that there is so much entertainment focused in a handful of major cities that the people outside of those places seem to really appreciate us making the effort to come to their town. We were playing a show in a smaller town a few days ago, and between songs an audience member yelled out, “You know that it’s okay to dance.” I thought that was great.

Any fun plans while you guys make your way across the country?

JL: We will see how much free time we have. We have talked about some movies and museums we would like to see if given the chance. For some reason, and I don’t know what it is, there’s something really fun about rolling into a small little gas station with your band at crazy hours of the morning. A lot of times you can see some of the older people with a, “Where do people like that come from?” expression on their faces. The answer is Los Angeles.

For fans who haven’t had a chance to see you guys play live, what should they expect, and what are you hoping for?

JL: They can expect to see a band that genuinely enjoys playing music. We are all good friends and have so many little inside jokes and stuff. I don’t think I’ve made it through a show without laughing yet. I’m hoping that people at our show will have as much fun as we do. And a mistake. You can expect me to probably make one mistake per show. But just one. | Willie Edward Smith

Catch the Relationship on tour; visit their Facebook page for dates and details.

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