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POP BEAT

Bell Jar Merges Diverse Influences

May 02, 1986|RANDY LEWIS | Times Staff Writer

Virtually the only time the four members of the Bell Jar will be found in the same nightclub at the same time is during one of their own performances. But it's not because the musicians don't enjoy one another's company.

"We don't go to concerts together because none of us like the same music," said bassist Anastasia Moskewich during an interview in Huntington Beach this week.

If the wide range of individual musical tastes and influences provides for little common ground, it also contributes to the diversity evident on the group's first record, the recently released five-song EP "Beginnings of Ends."

"We all have in common a certain chemistry, but we each have a different concept and different influences," said guitarist Brian Way. "It fits like a puzzle and keeps the music diverse as opposed to everyone having the same desires and goals."

Way cites R.E.M. and the Church among his favorites acts, while lead singer Gregory Yalch prefers dour musician-poets like Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave. Moskewich's taste leans toward such seminal underground art rockers as Patti Smith and Velvet Underground, but drummer David Settles enjoys the more commercial music of performers including David Bowie and Tears for Fears.

Oddly, one of the few sources all agree to liking is Led Zeppelin. "We're all rockers at heart," Moskewich, 18, said with a smile.

"We didn't set out to do a particular style," said Way, who founded the Bell Jar in January, 1985, with Yalch. "We just put different things together and tried to see if it sounds good."

The band's personnel went through several changes before Moskewich and Settles joined the band last fall. In a relatively short time, the group, which will play Safari Sam's in Huntington Beach tonight, has become one of the fastest-rising bands in Orange County.

Yet while Way said he is "proud of being from Orange County," he added that "we don't want to be identified with any particular scene. That's one of the reasons we have our mailing address in Midway City. It's this little three-block area that nobody knows where it is."

On record, the most immediate feature of the group's music is Yalch's monotonic drone that shows the Lou Reed influence. To a lesser extent, bits and pieces of the Doors, X and Joy Division can be heard in the Bell Jar's music.

Yalch takes a generally dark lyrical view that is typified by "Jimmy's Cold December," a character study about a teen-age suicide.

His literary interests are responsible for the band's name, taken from Sylvia Plath's novel. But he also demonstrates lighter moments like "Kid Talk," a song about gossip. Way described the band's overall viewpoint as "the politics of self."

In concert, however, music and messages frequently become subordinate to Yalch's exotic stage delivery, which involves crane-like, sweeping arm and leg movements as the lanky singer contorts his body with the music. It's an unconventional approach that can put viewers off as easily as captivate them. But either response is fine with the band members.

"It's just another way of trying to reach the audience," Way said. "People can love us or hate us. But we'd rather have them hate us than to just sit there, watch and think, 'OK--next.' "

The band members, ranging in age from 18 to 21, seem caught between youthful exuberance and an other-world intensity, and when Yalch failed to arrive at the interview after getting stuck in Los Angeles, Moskewich said matter-of-factly, "We can speak for him because we're really just one person."

Because progress has come relatively quickly for a band whose lineup has been in existence for little more than six months, the members of the Bell Jar are starting to raise their sights beyond the local scene.

"We think we could go over big in L.A. and New York, but it's so much harder for an Orange County band," Way said. "If you're not from L.A., you're not taken seriously."

They are almost fanatically opposed to getting caught up in any trend, even if it should achieve the quick success that might come with it.

"Trends fade in and fade out," Moskewich said. "The '60s revival scene is already dying. Next it'll be the '70s, but that will fade too."

"To get lumped in with the '60s revival would be death to us," Way said. Instead, their lofty goal is to create music that is timeless.

"Personally," Way added, only half jokingly, "we want to be the Who."

HEARD THE NEWS?: The "America Rocks" live satellite concert on May 18 with Huey Lewis & the News and Hall & Oates will be shown in Orange County at UC Irvine's Crawford Hall, one of 104 cities in the United States to which the concert will be beamed.

The event is part of a national all-day festival organized to benefit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island restoration effort. The concert, scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. on the West Coast, originates from the New Orleans Superdome and will also feature performances by the Hooters and the Neville Brothers.

Tickets are $23, which includes admission to the transmission, participation in the "1986 Kodak Liberty Ride" bicycle ride at 9 a.m., a T-shirt and box lunch. In Los Angeles, the concert will be shown at the L.A. Sports Arena.

For registration or ticket information, call (800) 262-1163. Tickets are also available locally through a charge line at (714) 634-1300.

LIVE ACTION: Robin Williams will play Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre on June 8. Tickets go on sale Sunday. . . . Tickets go on sale Monday for Eddie Murphy's June 13 show at the Pacific Amphitheatre. . . . Level 42 will perform at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on May 25. . . . T.S.O.L. will be at Garfield's in Huntington Beach on May 15.

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