There’s something to be said for a good story. According to their official Third Man Records bio, the Black Belles met at the boarding school where each member had been sent by their despairing parents. The bio shares the reasons why each girl was the black sheep of the family (sample: “Kicked out of girl scouts for poisoning cookies. Allegedly.”), before stating that the boarding school was where she “found others just like her.” Of course, given Third Man Records founder Jack White’s propensity for mythology, the bio is just good (un)clean fun.
In actuality, the Black Belles are Olivia Jean, Shelby Lynn, and Ruby Rogers, who were introduced to each other by Jack White. Olivia Jean, the group’s lead singer and primary songwriter, met Jack back in their Detroit days, where she formed and fronted a surf rock band. Combining the aggression of garage rock with a “friendly goth” sensibility, the ladies of the Black Belles recorded their debut in 2011. With their trademark hats and dark clothing, their look caught people’s attention right away, but their musical talent runs far deeper than their image ever could.
Songs like “Honky Tonk Horror” and “Wishing Well” deliver the hard-rocking sound Olivia Jean developed through years of playing live and as a studio hired gun. The album is uniform, but sets a mood—specifically, that it was recorded at a dance hosted by the Addams Family (a compliment if there ever was one!). The girls have toured extensively in the U.S. and England, where audiences are treated to originals and an excellent selection of covers, including the Sonics’ “The Witch”, a song that allows Shelby Lynn’s drumming to shine.
The Belles have been (mostly) quiet since the release of their album two years ago, but let’s hope they release a follow-up soon.