Like Bells
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Like Bells

Oberlin, Ohio, United States | INDIE

Oberlin, Ohio, United States | INDIE
Band Pop Alternative


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Like Bells @ Bushwick Music Studios

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Like Bells @ Rhode Island School of Design

Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Like Bells @ Bowdoin College

Brunswick, Maine, USA

Brunswick, Maine, USA

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Ahhh, Like Bells. The Oberlin, Ohio trio’s new self-titled album plays like an indie experimental lullaby. Or a mute’s best attempt to convey his emotions without zany gestures, clothes, or face paint. Lyrics have never been the first thing I gravitate to in music, so I’m just guessing that Like Bells made this (nearly!) lyricless album specifically for me. I’m not disappointed.
For being three (very) young guys, this release has a sage wisdom within its folds that cannot be gleaned from just one listen. From vocalist/violinist Garret Openshaw’s sulking strings on “Can I Say Something To You” to the highly personal, up-front drums tooled on by Will Mason on “Nothing Collapses,” the album leads a double life – half of its time spent lounging about very obviously carefree, the other half spent with a realized forward aggressiveness.
It is only towards the middle of the album that the monotony of no human voices sets in – and only for a moment – but its long enough to realize that Like Bells are no perfect song-writing progeny. So, once the last violin note squeezes out of “Certain Types of Conversation,” you KNOW you haven’t heard one word on this album, and yet you have heard (and comprehended?) ten beautifully choreographed stories. This exact point begs the question: would Like Bells be more, less, or exactly as enjoyable with a complement of lyrics alongside these compositions?
As is, the album is a brilliant first attempt from the Ohio trio, which is more than even can be said for most major label debuts. With that, Like Bells is ahead of the curve. The guys would do well to return to the the drawing board, with these few mistakes in mind, and come back with a polished second release that can be guaranteed to buck the “sophomore slump.” - Comfort Comes

Like Bells drummer Will Mason and violinist Garrett Openshaw entered the Oberlin Conservatory of Music with every intention of becoming professional musicians capable of playing with a major orchestra. Those plans haven't entirely changed, but the guys now have another priority.
Like Bells, the band they formed a little more than two years ago with Gabe Baker (a classical-studies major who moonlights as an experimental guitarist), releases its self-titled debut this week. A collection of mostly instrumental tunes, the album is an esoteric work that has more in common with contemporary instrumental groups like Do Make Say Think and Sigur Rós than it does with post-rockers like Tortoise. Yet Like Bells still sounds distinctive enough that they can't be dismissed as derivative.
"While a lot of people at the conservatory are gung-ho about practicing Chopin 10 hours a day to go play in an orchestra, there are other people interested in eclectic music and in participating in as many projects as possible," explains Mason. He and Openshaw, scruffy guys who wear flip-flops and jeans, were at Exit Stencil Studios in Cleveland's North Collinwood Waterloo neighborhood, prepping for a series of record-release parties. "That's what the climate is today. We're not living in a time where you can just go a major- city orchestra. You have to be versatile and embrace that versatility."
Openshaw and Baker originally started the band with another friend who played bass. They performed a couple of shows as an acoustic trio before deciding they needed a drummer. That's when they recruited Mason.
"Things started slowly transforming from an acoustic trio to more amplified sound," says Openshaw.
And when their bassist decided to take a year off school and quit the band, they decided to continue without a bass player.
"We thought the live shows would be more dynamic with just the three of us," says Openshaw. "Each of our roles is heightened, since there are only three of us onstage. We were the key people writing the material, so it gave us a little more freedom and more control over how we put the pieces together."
The guys started recording what would become their debut, producing the album themselves as they laid down tracks at Cleveland's Ante Up Studios, where Openshaw had interned the previous summer.
"Every weekend, we would just go up to Cleveland and get in as many hours as we could," says Openshaw.
"We were there over Thanksgiving break, eating nothing but bagels and not sleeping," adds Mason.
The hard work paid off. The album has a delicacy to it on songs like "Atlas" and "Yeti," which have a bit of a folk flair. While all three members plan to graduate from Oberlin next year, they think they've gotten enough momentum behind Like Bells to keep the band going no matter what happens post-graduation.
"Garrett and I are in music school, and that means we're interested in being professional musicians," says Mason. "So it's something we're interested in pursuing...We're definitely in it for the long haul." - Cleveland Scene

"The first half of the disc delights and challenges with peaks and valleys found in the Takk-like "Atlas," "Yeti" and the highlight "Can I Say Something To You?" all speak to the universal language of music and its innate ability to move the soul. But stick around for "Fragments" and the set-closer "Certain Types of Conversation" and you'll find yourself having something of an orchestral rock bliss-out. As a fan of electronica and minimalist soundscapes, I don't think I've been this happy (on a personal level) with a record since last year's Muttering Retreats record. This is deliciously brilliant, ambient-minded stuff. Tune in and soar off." - Cool Cleveland

"The latest signing to Cleveland's Exit Stencil Records, Like Bells, aren't your typical band of instrumental rockers. They do more than pair a simple melody with effects pedals and stacks of amps to create dynamic moments of tension and release. On a number like "Yeti," this Oberlin trio is just as likely to follow a tense moment with a serene string movement as they are to flood eardrums with a flurry of loud. So when the big banging, clanging moment does come, it doesn't feel like predictable post-rock, but the just culmination of patient, piercing introspection." - I Rock Cleveland

"Ohio's Like Bells have found the formula to break the boredom and expand the genre...they have created an indie gem full of life, Americana, thought, and movement." - Orange Alert

Sure, it’s great to go out and see a concert for the main headliner; but as a music reviewer, it’s the opening bands that get my attention. If you don’t take the time to listen to opening bands, you may miss out on that next band that will grab your heart and give you that thrill you get when discovering new music.
On November 5th, I was in the audience for the Helen Money concert. One of the bands there to open the show was Oberlin, OH’s Like Bells. Like Bells is a trio made up of Garrett Openshaw, Gabe Baker and Will Mason.
Garrett Openshaw, Gabe Baker and Will Mason met while they were attending classes at Oberlin College. As the trio of Openshaw, Baker and Mason were taking the courses needed to complete their studies at the institution, they were also busy creating a new band that features an Indie/Experimental Rock style. With Openshaw on Violin/Viola/Vocals, Gabe Baker on Guitars, and Will Mason on Drums/Keyboards, the band already had an unusual combination of musical instruments to make up their sound; so when the band started creating their music, the music being created was different and fresh. It’s that sound that was captured on Like Bells’ 2008 self-titled release.
The self-titled release from Oberlin’s Like Bells is instrumental; the music contains only the viola/violin of Garrett Openshaw, the guitar of Gabe Baker, and the drums and keyboards of Will Mason, with only a little embellishment from the vocals of Openshaw. As the band contains both guitar and violin, the music from the band has both rock and jazz qualities in it at the same time. When Gabe Baker and his guitar are the main focuses of the music, the band’s sound is based in the indie-rock mode. And when the band isn’t focused on the guitar playing of Baker, the band’s sound is a little bit more experimental in nature.
The CD from Like Bells contains 10 tracks. The best thing about the album is that you can just put the disc in the player, press play, and just let the album play out.
The album starts out with the track “Atlas,” one of the songs the band played live in concert. It is a great song that allows both Baker and Openshaw to take the spotlight and give the song a feel of both indie-rock and jazz at the same time. The next song on the album that caught my attention was the song “Can I Say Something To You?” The song is a three-minute slow jam that almost has a folk feel to it. Even though the self-titled album from Like Bells is an instrumental release, the band keeps the pace moving and keeps the music from getting stale by changing their direction from song to song. Openshaw, Baker and Mason, the three members of Like Bells, really know how to keep its audience entertained……….and their 2008 self-titled release proves it.
Many bands have been created from students that have attended Oberlin College over the last two decades, or so. Some of the bands that Oberlin College has produced have been: Package From Sally, little things, Circle With a Smile, and one of my favorites- Lovin Ripe Haggis. While these groups were good, not one did anything outside of the Oberlin area. Like Bells, the latest band from the Oberlin area, has done what very few bands from the school have done: They’ve started having a following in the city of Cleveland; and for good reason: The band has talent and their sound is very listener-friendly.
As has been said before, the best way to listen to the self-titled album from Like Bells is to place the disc in the CD player, put your headphones on, turn out the lights, and just let the music surround you. The music created by Like Bells is perfect for those times when you just want to enjoy some good music and relax. And what better thing to say about someone’s music than to say that it makes you feel good. - Rock and Roll Report


Self Titled (2009) Exit Stencil. cd lp

Palma (2010) Exit Stencil. lp digital-download



In 2009 Like Bells released their debut LP (Like Bells), an ambitious and meticulously executed work that showcased the young band's ability to create melodic, dramatic, and primarily instrumental pieces. Rated "very impressive" by the music blog Coke Machine Glow, Like Bells was full of lush soundscapes that enabled listeners to project their own feelings and interpretations onto the music.

On their second album, Palma, Like Bells continue to deliver emotive and engaging songs, but from the opening notes of "The Gentle Light" the growth and maturity the band has undergone is palpable. Garrett Openshaw's violin alternately wavers gently, adds atmosphere, and drives the direction of the songs and melodies. Gabe Baker's guitar work, at times delicate and at times full of fire, intertwines with intricate and inventive drumming from Will Mason.

But perhaps most significant to the evolution of Like Bells is the prominent role vocals and lyrics play on this record, adding a new dimension to the band's complex, melody-driven music. Thematically, Palma deals with loss and rediscovery. The songs themselves often reflect this: first presenting material, then diverging from it, morphing it, and reintroducing it again. This idea is reflected in many of Openshaw's lyrics, such as: