Inspirational Space Cadet; An interview with Paige Beller

Have you ever loved a movie but struggled to articulate why? Maybe you had a hard time labeling it with a specific genre; it’s like twenty different types of movies blended together in a weird but enjoyable way. You’re not exactly sure what the moral of the story is either, but you’re acutely aware of how sad it is…like, really, really sad. Suddenly, it hits you. Bingo! This works so well because it’s a character piece. I love this movie because I love the protagonist. I feel bad that all of these seemingly terrible things are happening to her, but holy crap do I love how she reacts to them. I would happily sit through a hundred more movies about her.
That’s kind of what it’s like describing the style of Paige Beller’s solo works.
Beller proves time and time again that she has a knack for producing music that is both beautifully melancholy and endlessly imaginative. While she doesn’t limit herself to any particular genre, she demonstrates that country music can apparently blend perfectly well with experimental noise rock in her latest EP, Paige Beller…Space Cadet. That’s just one of the many delightfully bizarre sonic cocktails you’ll be enjoying throughout this five-track collection.
Working actively in Dayton, Ohio’s music scene for well over a decade, Beller has earned a much-deserved and respected reputation as a songwriter, a member of many of the city’s raddest bands, activist, and overall delightful human being. The live set of her solo work is equally dynamic, as Beller deploys everything in her instrumental arsenal, from acoustic and electric guitars, to drum kits, a tiny piano, and of course, her iconic voice.
This fall has a lot in store for Beller, as she prepares for her first major tour as a solo-artist and simultaneously works to coordinate LadyFest Dayton. Ghettoblaster’s Andrew Humphrey caught up with Beller to discuss her newest release and upcoming plans.
Congrats on completing another great EP! How has the response been so far?
Thank you! I’m really happy with how the release show went. I have a ton of support in Dayton and I’m very grateful for it. I managed to sell a good chunk of the first run the night of, and I’m looking forward to an autumn full of shows. I’m excited to hear what people think.
Space Cadet is a great follow up to Sad Sack. Was there anything in particular you wanted to do differently or expand upon for the latest release? 
Space Cadet is the first EP I’ve put out that includes a full band of other musicians (Nick Kizirnis – electric guitar, Patrick Himes – electric guitar, Chris Witham – Bass, Kelly Morelock – Drums). “Uncontrollably” is the newest song and is just me and Patrick making noses. The rest of the songs are from a series of recordings that we did as a group a couple years ago. The guys were backing me up at live shows under the name “The Belairs” and we had begun working on a double album in studio. Unfortunately life got in the way and they sat for a while. Patrick and I dug them back up and started to reshape what we had. There are still probably 10 or 11 more songs that we will eventually do that to.
Tell me a bit about the production and writing. It seems like you expanded some layers and even genre elements compared to Sad Sack?
Sad Sack had a more stripped down element because I played all the parts, with the exception of cello (Peter MIlls) and trumpet (John Bir). The addition of the full band on Space Cadet gave the whole thing a much bigger feel. Working with Nick, Chris, and Kelly was a breeze. We had been playing live together for a while so tracking was a quick process. It also helps that they are real musicians that understand my nonsense.
One of the standout tracks (my humble opinion) is “Just Like The Movies.” Can you tell me a bit more about its origin, inspirations, etc.?
Nick was instrumental in bringing that song to life. “Just like the Movies” was one of a bundle of tracks that I had sent over to him that I didn’t know what to do with. I knew I wanted it to be loud and weird, which Nick is excellent at. Once on the production side of things, Patrick and I had a lot of fun making as much noise as possible. Tucked in there is a bleating goat sound from a toy keyboard ran through a microphone and a distortion pedal. We also ran an over driven Rhodes through a Bass Balls pedal. Recording at Reel Love (Patrick’s studio) really gives me an opportunity to experiment.
Were there any particular songs that were harder to write about then others?
I’ve found that the songs that are hardest to write are the ones I like the least. I end up keeping the ones that feel the most natural and raw to me.
Your EPs all seem to have a nice cohesion, despite how eclectic they are. What, if any, are some of the central themes (sonically, lyrically, or otherwise) that best distinguishes a Beller jam?
I write bummer songs about girls, drinking, quitting drinking, and being sad. Musically I just write what comes to me. I have so many different influences and I try to stay open to all of them. That being said, I feel that I am constantly ripping off Rilo Kiley. I am not mad about this.
You juggle a ton of different responsibilities from event planning to multiple bands, jobs, etc. If you could focus on any one project, would you? Or do you prefer the multiple-hat lifestyle and hustle? 
I like too many different things to just do one. I think that shows in my writing and it definitely shows in my various musical endeavors. I am lucky to have a pool of talented friends that allow me to play with them. That being said, at this point in my life I have been focusing on myself, both professionally and personally. Traveling alone is much easier, and I am at a point where that is all I want to do. I’ve gotten to do some touring with bands in the past, but I want to be out a lot more in the coming year.
How’s LadyFest planning going? Any nifty announcements you’d like us to know about?
LadyFest is a labor of love. This year is no exception. It’s a task that makes me miserable right up until the day of. Seeing people enjoy an amazing line up of incredibly talented women makes it all worth it. This year’s line up is full of familiar faces but I also managed to sneak in some first timers. Moira, SKRT, and Jasper the Colossal will be there. GRLwood from Louisville will be joining us as well, which I am very excited about.
Any particular dates booked in your upcoming tour for which you’re the most stoked?
I am stoked for the whole thing! This will be my first major trip out as a solo artist, and I couldn’t ask for a better person to be tagging along with. Greg Rekus has been touring full time for a number of years. I’m looking forward to learning from him. It also helps that he is just about the friendliest person you could meet. He’s got great songs and is a total ball of energy live. I’m honored that he asked me to come with him.
You’ve been writing, recording, and performing live for years now. What advice could you offer to those singer / songwriters out there that are just getting started? 
I personally wish that I would have been better about recording potential ideas. I’ve lost more than a few lines because I didn’t hit record fast enough. I would also recommend playing open mic nights. It’s great way to try out new material and meet new people. I’m a big fan of playing in unfamiliar environments. I like being uncomfortable.
Photo by Bobby Tewksbury.