Interview: Bell X1 on 15 years of gigs, airport woes and album number seven

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As originally published in the Irish Daily Star on October 24th 2014 //

Their recent tour took them to the sunny climes of America and Australia but Bell X1 are still looking forward to a gig on home soil – even if it is during a drab and dreary Irish October. Later this month the acclaimed Kildare trio return home to play the Sligo Live festival, as part of its 10th anniversary celebrations. “It’s always nice to play at home,’ Dom Phillips, the band’s bassist, explains. “It’s our first one in a while and those smaller, more boutique festivals are my preference – as opposed to the massive ones with all the madness that goes with it…”

Having been together for almost 15 years, Bell X1 are an assured live force at this stage and a welcome addition to any festival bill. Still, while pre-gig nerves may be a thing of the past, picking a set-list from such a considerable back catalogue is another matter altogether. “There’s a bit of doing what we want and also being conscious of what people expect,” Dom admits. “There are some songs that people would be disappointed not to hear. You don’t want to be just crowd pleasing but that’s what the job is: crowd pleasing. At a festival there’s an element of euphoria and some songs fit that bill more than others.”

Their Sligo Live slot takes place in the Knocknarea Arena, located in Sligo Institute of Technology. On paper it’s an unusual venue for a band of BellX1’s stature but the Dublin trio are not averse to mixing it up. In 2011 they played a special rooftop gig in Facebook HQ with none other than Mark Zuckerberg for company. More pivotally, it was around this time that they embarked on a stripped back, acoustic tour which has grown to become an important vehicle for the band. “It was just something different to do, initially.” Dom reveals. “It worked really nice so then we started to use it to road test new material while in the process of writing it. There’s no test for a song like playing it in front of people. It then came full circle in that we recorded the last album like that.”

This will to experiment and push beyond traditional venues and confines has helped keep the band’s spark alive over a decade and a half of live performances. “We wouldn’t be doing it if we weren’t excited about doing it,” says Dom, when quizzed on whether they still get the same buzz out of playing live. “Anything you can do to stay out of a rut is a good thing. We got to go to Australia recently which was interesting – you wouldn’t want to be doing the same tour year in, year out.”

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