The Van Allen Belt experience
The Van Allen Belt will make its way back to downtown Youngstown amid a kaleidoscopic prism of lights and video images for a third performance at the Lemon Grove on Friday.
Group members are celebrating their first vinyl recording, “Songs,” from their label, Nonstop Everything Records. Together, the four performed 75 shows in 2012, sharing the stage with Stereolab and Atlas Sound.
“We love Youngstown. The community at the Lemon Grove is so supportive, and every time we come back, it feels great,” drummer Scott Taylor said. “It’s a rare moment to find such great people, and we’re collectors of strange artifacts.”
Lead vocalist Tamar Kamin said the band came together “like a pinball machine,” citing the chain reaction that brought the musicians together.
While living in a seven-person house on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus, Kamin and Taylor met Tom Altes and Benjamin Ferris.
“Tom [Altes] worked at a corner store on campus that we visited almost every day. We threw the best parties on campus, and with so many people living in the same place together, the place was quite the hub,” Kamin said.
Altes and Kamin began performing together with a blues band and as a duo. In 2001, Ferris paid a visit to Kamin and Altes’ place, where he asked Kamin to begin recording with him.
“I said ‘yes.’ After the cops got called, we decided to continue recording at his house,” Kamin said.
The two began recording together, resulting in the Van Allen Belt’s debut album, “Meal Ticket to Purgatory.” The band’s members shifted several times before arriving at its present lineup.
Group members decided to name the band after the three radiation belts surrounding Earth.
Kamin said she loves every show the band plays, but admitted that leading the Van Allen Belt’s performances can be a tall order.
The members of the four-piece band wear many different hats. The final product results in otherworldly sets with live visuals, beats and, of course, instruments.
Ferris said the band’s textured pop sound is “very eclectic, yet fairly consistent” and can be appreciated after multiple listenings.
“It’s a melting pot of sorts. Everything we listen to ends up in the music at some point,” Ferris said.
Ferris acts as the primary songwriter, keyboardist and producer. Ferris collaborates with Taylor, who controls the electronic elements, beats, visual and sound effects.
Altes slaps both the guitar and bass.
“He makes those sandwiches,” Taylor said. “Kamin creates harmonies and works closely with Ferris in shaping the lyrical structure, and, actually, I think she makes the sandwiches.”
Kamin said improvising away from her course hasn’t always gone too well, but added that the only way to find yourself as a performer “is to stick it out, suck it up and continue to improve, unless you’ve got famous parents, of course.”
“Our songs require me to be very strong, consistent and reliable. Those qualities are very important as a group member, I think,” Kamin said. “For me, I love all the shows we play where people are into what we do. That’s what performing live is all about.”
The band’s long-term goal is to take talents across the Atlantic to see friends and perform in Europe.
The Van Allen Belt’s album is available for presale at Bandcamp.com. The album will ship beginning on Thursday.