If we could briefly describe the philosophy that embodies the work of London-based singer-songwriter and performance artist Belle Scar, it would be the old adage “its not about the destination, but the journey.” The Canadian-born artist, real name Geeta, has just as much of a visual identity as sonic one, crafting elaborate and avant garde stage shows to match the ambiance of every song in her catalogue. Obsessed with space and time, Scar ruminates on our relationship with the universe as humble humans, and our constant yearning for meaning in the world around us. Nowhere is that sentiment more apparent then on her newest single “The Eeriness,” the first from her upcoming second album in 2021.
“The Eeriness” music video takes the listener on that titular journey through spacetime, posing surreal questions about our existence through a series of costumes and symbolic movement, each with a specific purpose. Scar is deeply rooted in the worlds of performance and visual art, but makes point to describe herself as a musician first. Known for her raw emotion on stage and elaborate live shows, she channels her anger towards the injustices of the world into her voice, and produces fascinating and contemplative work in the process.
We chatted with the emerging UK artist about her latest track and music video, as well as her background and varied influences. Check out the full interview below, as well as “The Eeriness” music above.
Where did the stage name Belle Scar come from?
Our lives seem to always go back and forth between good and bad experiences. “Belle” represents something beautiful and “Scars” represents something painful and or traumatic which defines many things about ourselves. Sometimes they are totally separate experiences and other times they are all connected.
Let’s talk about your new song “The Eeriness.” What would you say is the song’s main message?
It’s not so much about a message, it’s about a journey; a journey of transformation through time. From the strangeness of all existing things to the amazement and beauty of life as well as the sadness, confusion and pain. It’s about not having any filters and experiencing, observing and feeling everything and trying to make sense of it. This constant yearning to understand what life is about.
You’ve stated that all your music and visuals tell a story. Walk us through the story of “The Eeriness” music video.
I wanted the theme of transformation to be expressed through an aural and visual journey which is represented by rituals, symbols and movement in a different lighting, with various costumes, installations and set design for each transition. I wanted to carry the audience into a surreal strange world and emphasize the different stages of the metamorphosis of a creature. For certain types of insects like the caterpillar which then goes into the chrysalis stage, to its transformation into a butterfly…Nature is truly fascinating. For us humans, it’s not as drastic and we transform gradually everyday, and we go through many extreme emotions mentally, spiritually and physically. So that was my inspiration for the artistic direction and production of the video.
“The Eeriness” is the first released track from your upcoming album in 2021. How far along is that LP?
I’m in the process of recording the album and have had delays because of the current situation related to Covid, but it will be ready by the end of 2021.
You describe the producer of the song, Marc Olivier, as your partner in crime. What is that creative partnership like?
Marc O is my husband, he’s always been very supportive and believes in my work. I have a chaotic way of working when my ideas are chasing after another in my head. I need a lot of time on my own to develop those ideas, melodies, words and arrangements. Once I have written the music and am ready to get to the next stage, Marc helps me bring all my ideas together in a coherent way and makes it sound really powerful. He understands where I want to go. He’s sense of music is very wide and diverse and he is super talented in so many things so I’m really grateful to be able to work with him.
Tell us about your background. What came first for you creatively: visual art or music?
I started playing piano when I was 5 years old, then I was writing poems as a teenager. Afterwards, I went to College in film studies and fine arts then back to music. I was a figure skater as a kid so I was very much connected to movement and dance. It was a very organic process to combine the visual art/ performance to music. But I do consider myself mainly a musician, as that’s my core, my root and my main focus before anything else to cope with everything.
Are you classically trained in any of your instruments? How about vocally?
I learned classical piano at a young age but I wouldn’t say that I’m classical trained as I did not pursue that direction, I was more interested in writing my own songs and poems influenced by alternative, rock’n roll, dark pop music I was listening to at the time (The Doors, The Cure, Sonic Youth, Pink Floyd, Joy Division, The Smiths, Nick Cave). I started training my voice later on, exploring many textures and emotions that can come out of the voice; operatic sounds to rougher soulful blues jazz tones. I really got into Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Yma Sumac. I’m a bit obsessive, so I just trained my voice and practiced long hours everyday. I loved making all these crazy sounds with my voice.
Your live performances are known for their raw emotion and power. From where do you channel all that energy?
I started to be aware of many injustices at an early age. I was very sensitive and couldn’t understand why people hurt and behave in certain ways, that overwhelmed me with sadness, anger and confusion which just grew more and more intense, so for me, releasing all these emotions as a performer helped me stay sane and still does. It’s just a survival mechanism, a release. I do the same at home when I rehearse. I really get involved emotionally in what I do, it’s just the way I do things. I don’t plan it or anything, I just ride along the wave.
You produce your own shows with a full lineup of musicians at your side. What goes into planning a single show?
A lot of work, organizing, practice and stress. Not much sleep but it’s a really exciting process and an amazing experience when it all comes together. I enjoy collaborating with other obsessive creative souls.
Light Bulbs, your first album back in 2015, weaved together elements of electronica and trip-hop. Will your new album tackle any new genres or sounds?
This new album has more organic sounds from instruments that go from piano, organs, glock, harp, music box, cello, violins, percussion, drums and choir arrangements. I wanted to go for something grand. I have reconnected with some of my classical roots so the overall sound is more orchestrated compared to the electro album but what they have in common is a cinematographic atmosphere. Except, this time it’s more epic with all the strings and choir arrangements so it requires a lot more work. I always need to push myself and I want to produce a body of work which I will be proud of.
Your work is quite experimental and avant garde visually, but melodically actually quite accessible. Is that intentional?
I never really intend on anything, I always try and go with the flow and stay true to myself. What I do is a mix of so many things I like and feel. I’m an observer so I like striking and interesting visuals whether it’s fabric textures, installations, costumes, staging, projections and dance….I like creating singular and surreal atmospheres for the visuals and I write the music as an extension to how I experience, see and feel things.
Sci-fi themes like space and time are constant throughout your music. What fascinates you so much about those topics?
Our connection to space and time is pretty much everything, it’s the essence of life and us being here at a specific place and time which only lasts a brief moment on the scale of the universe. How can it not be fascinating, interesting and so curious. I don’t think there’s a day where I wake up not thinking or reflecting about it. The sci-fi aspect intrigues me as I can just invent atmospheres, dimensions, forms, shapes, textures. It takes the imagination into different places: into the future, into the past, different types of creatures. I just find it fun to explore visually as there’s no limits to what you can invent.
What pulled you to London, UK from your hometown of Montreal, Canada?
My husband mainly, but also the wonderful artistic world which London has to provide as well as the richness of all the many cultures around. I have seen some incredible exhibitions, shows and performances here and continue to meet so many talented people from all over the world. I love walking in Hampstead Heath, the parks here are really beautiful. I had pretty much done what I needed to do in Montreal and was ready to move on. I feel at home in London and there’s always something new and exciting to experience here.
Your music is very much informed by the worlds of performance art and fashion. Who are your biggest inspirations in this area?
I like rebels. Artists that don’t follow rules and that create a distinctive universe. I’m not really into fashion that much honestly, but I do love costume designs and people that have a strong artistic direction like Kansai Yamamoto, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Marina Abramović.
When crafting a song, what comes to you first: the lyrics and melody or the visual component?
My approach is always different. Sometimes it’s the music first whether I’m sitting on the piano just exploring and improvising or just singing ideas out loud. Other times, it can come more as a mood, an atmosphere that I hear already, the arrangements and several musical instruments. Other times, the visual can inspire a direction for the music.
Do you have a chief philosophy as a performance artist?
Justice and equality, freedom of speech, peace, love, education, critical thinking, feeling more connected within yourself and embracing what makes you different and unique rather than trying to fit in a mold.
What can we expect from you in the near future? Any more exciting projects or releases coming up?
More music to come, new videos and new visual collaborations all in the making. The release of an album at the end of 2021. I’m also recording a few classical compositions I’ve been writing recently so will be releasing that at some point too.