Echobelly performing in January, 2017.
|Genres||Indie rock, alternative rock, Britpop|
|Labels||Fauve, Epic, Fry Up|
|Curve, Sleeper, Calm of Zero|
Echobelly are a British rock band, debuting in 1994 with their album Everyone's Got One. They were often compared to Blondie and were influenced by Morrissey, who himself was a fan of the group.
The most prominent part of Echobelly's success formula was vocalist Sonya Madan, who was also the group's primary lyricist. Born in Delhi, India, before moving to England at the age of two, Madan had an unusual background for a pop star. Her rigid upbringing made rock music taboo for her as a youngster and she did not attend her first rock concert until she was in college. In 1990 she met Glenn Johansson, a guitarist from Sweden. In a radio interview with Janice Long, on BBC Radio Wales, in December 2017, she admitted that her parents had initially found it hard to accept her choice of career.
In 1992, Madan and Johansson first met in a pub, with Sonya expressing her desire to sing in a band "I used to sing a lot as a child. I suppose I had a secret desire to sing", They soon teamed up with bass guitarist Alex Keyser and drummer Andy Henderson, who had previously played with PJ Harvey's band. Guitarist Debbie Smith, formerly of Curve, came on board in 1994. According to the Epic Records' website, the group came up with the name Echobelly from the notion of "being hungry for something". With Madan and Johansson serving as songwriters, they recorded their debut EP, Bellyache, on the independent Pandemonium label in late 1993.
The favourable response to Bellyache helped Echobelly secure a recording contract with Rhythm King, which was then part of Epic. Once on board the label, the group released the "I Can't Imagine the World Without Me" single in June 1994. The group then recorded the album Everyone's Got One, which included the single "Insomniac" and reached number eight on the UK Albums Chart. The single was featured in the movie and soundtrack of "Dumb and Dumber".
As their music received more airplay, Echobelly won admiration from other artists as well. Madonna expressed interest in putting them on her Maverick label (existing contractual arrangements prevented that), and R.E.M. requested the group as the opening act for their upcoming tour. The band returned to the studio in 1995 to create their next album, On, produced by Sean Slade and Paul Kolderie, who had also produced Hole and Radiohead.
Madan's lyrics often ventured into the seamy side of life, such as the milieu of prostitution and homelessness addressed in the song "King of the Kerb". "I wanted to challenge myself as a lyricist on a different level on this album," Madan said in Rolling Stone. "I want people to tell me what they thought the lyrics are about. I'm not a politician. I'm not interested in changing everybody around me. I'm interested in myself."
While many of the songs lamented the state of things, others on the On album celebrated the endless possibilities of the human spirit. In "Great Things", Madan sang "I want to do great things / I don't want to compromise / I want to know what love is / I want to know everything." The album's mostly optimistic feel provides an intriguing contrast with its serious subject matter. As Pareles wrote, "Both music and lyrics examine the tension between order and liberty". Listeners in the UK responded favourably to the album, driving three singles from the release into the Top 30 of the UK Singles Chart. Sales of the album rose to over 150,000 in the UK, nearly double that of Everyone's Got One.
Health and legal problems interrupted the success of Echobelly in 1995 and 1996. Madan had a serious thyroid problem during her world tour that was potentially life-threatening, but was later cured. Bass guitarist James Harris joined after Keyser defected because of personal and artistic differences. The group also had disagreements with Rhythm King after the label moved to Arista. The band chose to stay with Epic. In 1996 Madan also ventured away from the group when she sang on a recording of the club band, Lithium. Smith left the band before the release of Lustra, which was issued in November 1997. A single from the album, "The World is Flat", was released in August of that year.
A four-year hiatus was brought to an end in 2001 when the band returned with the Digit EP and their fourth album, People Are Expensive, which were released on their own Fry Up label. Two further singles, "Tell Me Why" and "Kali Yuga" (a remixed version of the album track) followed.
In 2004, Echobelly released a fifth album - again through their own Fry Up label, Gravity Pulls.
Madan and Johansson performed an acoustic show featuring brand new songs and older Echobelly songs in Manchester on 9 July 2009 at MoHo Live, supported by Spyglass. New material was demoed during this show which turned out to be part of an upcoming album that had already commenced recording which was to be co-produced and mixed by Jono Buchanan. "Silence on the Radio" and "Mind over Matter" were two songs previewed on the producer's website. The album was given the name I Seek Identity and was initially recorded under a new band name of "Calm of Zero". Alex Reeves was brought in to record the drumming and percussion for the album. Jono Buchanan later reported on 1 December 2009 via his Twitter account that he had spoken to "Glenn of Calm of Zero fame", who revealed that the new album was to be released under the band name Echobelly after all, to save potential confusion amongst fans. On 23 January however, Jono Buchanan advised - again, via his Twitter account - that the name "Calm of Zero" was to remain after all, making I Seek Identity the new venture's debut album. Although this album was yet to be released, Sonya and Glen released two EPs entitled Acoustic Sessions 1 in January 2011 and Acoustic Sessions 2 in October 2012. Another song, "Molotov", became available for playback on Echobelly's official Myspace page during January.
On 21 July 2014, British independent record label 3 Loop Music released two CD expanded editions of Echobelly's Everyone's Got One and On albums. The re-releases included b-sides, live recordings, radio session tracks and unreleased material. A limited number of signed copies were also made available on the label's official online store.
In October 2015, Echobelly made a successful return to stage, playing a sell-out gig at the 1,500 capacity Scala venue in London.
After Echobelly's second album, Keyser went on to join Dragstripper and was replaced by James Harris. Harris was soon swapped in for Ruth Owen, after their third album, when Debbie Smith also left; Smith is now a DJ on London's gay scene, and has also played in Snowpony, a supergroup containing members of My Bloody Valentine and Stereolab. When the band reformed in 2009, only Madan and Johansson performed in the band under the name "calm of zero". In 2015, they reformed as Echobelly with Madan on vocals, Johansson on guitar, Oliver McKiernan on bass and Ash Hall on drums.