Bellatrix was the world beatboxing champion in 2009 and performed with vocal girl group, The Boxettes.
She is now branching out on her own with a unique solo project which is packed full of inspiration and experimentation.
Bellatrix talks to us about primal vocal stirrings and the importance of being the real deal.
Have you been inspired by any particular vocal styles or traditions?
I’ve checked out a load of different traditional vocal music from around the world, and have really felt a sense of connection to the ancestral lineage of the people. There is something that stirs deep inside me; a sort of nostalgia and longing that I find it hard to put my finger on, like I am tapping into an ancient wild reservoir of human feeling.
It is less the specific styles of these musics that might influence my music, but more this feeling that it inspires in me. I guess my aim is to tap into this reservoir in my own music.
What can vocal based music provide that instrumental music can’t?
I reckon there is probably some scientific reason that vocal music seems to resonate so powerfully with humans; somehow like how a baby’s cry can capture our attention on a primal level. If one of the main reasons we make music is to connect with each other, and a feeling or intention is honest in the voice, it has such a capacity to strike a direct chord in people.
What kinds of voices really connect?
Sincerity is the thing. It isn’t always the most acrobatic, accurate or even dynamic voice that gets people. That isn’t to say that these types of vocalists can’t also be sincere and reach people, I just find that technicality actually comes second to feeling.
Recently I’ve been in the studio recording my debut EP, Real Stuffed Owls, and I always end up choosing the sincere vocal takes over the most in tune ones.
How can an acapella group provide all the musical layers that a band usually would?
For me, trying to sound like an instrumental band is the short-falling of many a’cappella groups. It’s important that I mention how this is down to personal taste, but to my ears people trying to sound like guitars by saying “deow deow” is a bit naff.
What really excites me is when vocal groups really explore what is unique to them rather than trying to be something they’re not. ie. a guitar. Instead of comparing a vocal group to a band and striving to achieve an instrumental band sound, I’m more excited by exploring the subtleties of the voice that make a’cappella groups special.
I feel the same about using technology with the voice; there are a load of effects you can use to improve your instrumental simulation, but personally I don’t really get the point. I much prefer to use technology to enhance the voice as a unique instrument, in search of new sounds.
How important is technology for a singer then?
I swing like a metronome between wanting to get fruity with the knobs and buttons, and just getting completely fed up with technology and wanting to chill with my bare feet on the earth, play my double bass and sing.
But actually, I do find it useful to have a basic technological understanding and often find myself wishing I knew more. The truth is, there are only a certain amount of hours in the day so it’s about choosing where you want to invest your time.
How can singers maintain a ‘human’ or ‘imperfect’ element whilst honing their craft?
We are like sponges constantly influenced by the sounds around us. At the beginning of our musical lives there might be certain people we take influence from that we start to sound like, until we gradually find our own sound. Although there is quite a standard sound that people gravitate towards that isn’t completely true to the potential of the individual. A LOT of British singers sing with an American accent, because that’s what we hear a great deal of.
What I’ve been doing, whilst finding my voice (which by the way I am still doing) is listening to how I talk. How I shape each word when speaking; my accent, my inflection, my personality. Then I try and sing like this. At first it was strange and I sounded really weird, and to be honest I still sound pretty weird, but I actually sound like me and it feels right, and it means I can really connect to my singing.
Regarding imperfection, I think that’s just about connecting to what you’re singing rather than trying to get it right. We wanna practice getting stuff right, but when we’re performing you have to put that stuff aside and just sing from your guts. Personally, I sing from my womb.
Bellatrix is a musical explorer and songwriter from the UK. Primarily a bass player and vocalist, she also holds the titles 2009 world beatbox champion, 2014 UK beatbox champion, 2015 beatbox team world champion and 2015 beatbox team UK champion. Known for her work with independent power-house girl band The Boxettes and psychedelic hip-hop outfit Dizraeli and The Small Gods, it is only now after years of extensive collaborations and international performances that Bellatrix reveals a new slant to her identity as an artist with her distinctive singing voice and a whole load of kookie kaleidoscopic songs. Bellatrix is using live looping with her voice, bass and synth to conjure images of and everything it is to be human. www.bellatrixmusic.co.uk