I first heard Sean Desiree, AKA bell’s roar, almost a year ago from a friend who was trying to get me into SoundCloud. I heard her song “One Shot” and was drawn in by the clarity of her voice and intent of the lyrics. It’s so rare to find queer-conscious singers and songwriters, and bell’s is definitely one of them. When it came time to plan out Southern Fried Queer Pride, bell’s name was listed constantly as someone people wanted to come perform and I knew I had to have her at SFQP.
Between then and now, a few things have changed: bell’s roar has signed to Firebrand Records, the name label from Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, and she’s also gearing up to release her next EP, Second Chances Vol. 1. I recently got to ask bell’s about her upcoming projects and background.
Where did your name come from?
It started with my love and respect for the Black feminist writer bell hooks; I wanted the name to reference what I stand for. Roar represents the fight / push back against white supremacy and speaking my truth.
What inspires your work? Do any musicians or certain influences stand out?
Musically, the guitar and voice is my biggest inspiration. I love layering guitar and coming up with rhythms and harmonies that fit together. It's been a journey to find my singing voice, but I've been fortunate enough to have the time and space to experiment and figure out what works best for me. As far as my words, they speak to my experience and identity in the world. I feel moved and influenced by the melodies in Negro spirituals and the Blues. I don't have a direct contemporary musical influence, but acts I like are Little Dragon, Radiohead, Bjork, and TV on The Radio.
You recently signed with Firebrand Records. How has that experience been?
The experience has been great. In my opinion, it's always a bit stressful to sign to a record label because you lose a bit of control in hopes of gaining more exposure. I don't feel like I have to sacrifice much and I get to control how I'm represented. It's more of a political artist collective that supports each other.
You're prepping for the release of your next EP, titled Second Chances Vol. 1. Why title it "second chances"?
My drummer/keyboardist Joshua Gruft and I started experimenting with songs off my self-titled EP and we loved the different sounds we created. It's essentially a remix album that I saw as a way to give myself another go with some of the songs creatively, hence the title. There are four remixes and two originals that came out of it. I want to keep making remixes of each album I do and build up a collection of volumes. I really enjoy the different directions music can go in depending on who you're working with.
Do you have a favorite track from the album?
Hmm, it's hard to say. I guess I would pick “Black Lives” because of the content, and it expresses the pain and anger I'm feeling about the current social and political climate for Black people in this country. It's been helpful to articulate those feelings and share it with others. I'm releasing it as a single on October 23rd.
Besides gearing up to release Second Chances, what else is on your plate this month? I understand you're doing a tour.
My tour begins with a queer New York Fashion Week event at the Brooklyn Museum. I'm not performing, but modeling for the designer Sun Sun. I've never modeled before, but I thought it would be a good challenge for me and a place where I can feel comfortable expressing my gender. After that, I'm heading to Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Winona, Bemidji, Minneapolis, and Boston to play actual shows. . . Also, I just finished the music video for the first single, “Slow.” I'm working on one for “Black Lives.” The album comes out on November 6th.
Check out her video for “Slow” below!