Bel and Nicole

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Nicole wears top and pants Marques’Almeida available at Thea Basilou Shop

Nicole: Do you wanna start off just by explaining a little bit about how you came to write your music and what inspires you to write the kind of music that you do? Because it’s so unusual and I think it resonates with a lot of people emotionally, particularly the lyrics which are really well thought out and definitely touch on an emotional side.

Bel: I suppose most of my songs come from personal experience or at least a moment in time or a situation that I can relate to. I’ll never write about something that seems completely out of place to me, so most of my work comes from the perspective of feeling like an outsider or feeling like I don’t necessarily fit in anywhere. Lyrically, I try to keep it fairly metaphorical and fairly open to interpretation.

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Bel wears jacket Benjamin Alexander, necklace stylist’s own. Nicole wears shoes Proenza Schouler, jacket Claire Barrow available at Thea Basilou Shop.

I think I’ve heard people talk about your music in a way they can actually take from it what they want at the time that they’re listening to it and make meaning of it for themselves. So, there’s a suggestion of what you might be trying to say but people can really use it how they like and I certainly see a lot of your music almost in a way to explain emotions but also to be used in an emotionally healing way with people.

That’s definitely a focal point for me. Everyone’s got there thing, and everyone, particularly in the music industry as artists have their selling point and I think for me growing up I loved music and I listened to a lot of different artists but I never really found an artist who was purposefully trying to make music that was both interesting and artistic but also highly relatable and actually a direct message to people listening, actually like ‘This is for you, listen to this, internalize it and potentially get some help or feel anything from it.’ Because I just felt like I missed out on that. Growing up, listening to music, I just didn’t feel-

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Well, I know a lot of the music that you’ve grown up with, and that certainly on the popular radio stations, you’ve often made comment about how vacuous it is. That it’s about ‘Hey baby, I want your body, your booty looks like this.’ A lot of it, and I know you’re very passionate about feminist issues, is that a lot of the music is really disempowering for women, and it also places a lot of emphasis on women’s bodies, and I know you’ve had a lot of struggle listening to the a lot of the current music out there today because of what it represents.

I don’t wanna bag pop, because essentially my music is pop structure, so melodically, harmonically, I use pop rhythms and theory with alternative and electronic production and instrumentation, but essentially yes. I turned off pop music when I was young because I found the messages in it absolutely revolting and I personally just couldn’t bear it and still can’t. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many artists in so many genres that have the most powerful and empowering and beautiful and loving- I would say that there are more artists today by far than not that are writing about absolutely beautiful things but I suppose what took me into my own journey with music is the fact that I just got sick of pop, sick of the messages particularly in American pop, and kind of carved my own way with it. I consider myself—as I know you do, am I right?—a very strong feminist.

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Bel wears tights Claire Barrow at Thea Basilou Shop, Nicole as above

What’s been fascinating for me to watch you growing up is that you actually didn’t grow up in a musical home.

No, I certainly did not, as you would know.

You had no formal musical lessons until your later teens. Sixteen, you decided this was a route you wanted to go down. I could see the passion in your eyes for something for the first time. That you were able to bring your beautiful writing into the world of sound. You taught yourself instruments, you taught yourself production.

You’re feeding my ego, mom!

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Bel wears pants Benjamin Alexander, jacket Marques’Almeida available at Thea Basilou Shop, shoes KingKang Chen. Nicole as above

Well, it’s been remarkable to watch how much you’ve learned in such a short space of time.

I think especially watching you and dad and your work ethic, how crazy that’s been, for me is a huge reason to why I’ve tried to work so hard. Growing up there’s not been an option to work any other way, and that’s a driving factor, it keeps me.. you know?

Well I’m glad we’ve been good role models for you.

Having two highly academic parents has been interesting as a young creative, but I know I’m not the only creative in this household.

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Nicole wears top Claire Barrow and pants Marques’Almeida available at Thea Basilou Shop, shoes Maison Margiela. Bel wears top and pants Kingkang Chen, shoes Maison Margiela

Well, yes, I do have a creative bent. As you know, I love to write, and I’ve been involved in dance for many years, initially in ballet, but in my latter years very heavily involved in the latin dance scene. Dance has meant a lot to me, it’s been a wonderful creative outlet. It’s been interesting thinking about making a career out of a creative art form, because although I was a dancer from a young age, it would never have occurred to me to be a professional dancer or to be a professional writer because in those days people were much less likely to take the creative route than they are now. I think even today it takes an awful lot of courage to make creativity your livelihood. You’ve got to be pretty sure of yourself and you’ve got to be able to hold onto quite a bit of anxiety of uncertainty regarding your future. I think you’re incredibly courageous. It’s certainly something I could not have done.

You know for me it was such a fucking hard thing to do, and it gave me so much anxiety, particularly going to such an academic school where the only option was to be a lawyer or a doctor really, to embrace that career. It took a lot of time. I feel happy with my decision now, but I feel partly, I mean just to give context here do you wanna quickly say what field you’re in?

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Well, I’m in medicine.

And so is my dad.

The both of us are in medicine. We’ve had, I guess, a wonderful life helping other people, but it has been a life of academia and study, and I guess that’s why for me that dance has been such a joy and provided me with a passion and a creative outlet that has enabled me to give so much more to my patients because I have fulfilled the creative side of myself.

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She’s not going to say on tape just how talented and good she is. When she dances, it’s ridiculous. She’s unbelievable, passionate, very, very gifted. Even the fact that you’re my mom and you’re a million times more flexible than I will ever be- that in itself is very inspiring to watch. I remember saying this a couple days ago that I find it really beautiful that as a middle-aged woman that you do something that is so embracing of sexuality and being comfortable with your body. Not a lot of women as they get older have the guts to do that, either. That’s something that I very much admire about your personality. Having parents as medical professionals was tough, but I will say that considering the fact that they are such academics I am extremely lucky because they have never once doubted my decision to pursue music as a career. They’ve supported me every possible way the entire way through, despite the fact that a lot of people around us have discouraged both them and me from doing this. They’ve completely stayed strong in belief. I actually don’t think that a lot of very close parents and children, that that kind of agreement to stick with it would stand, because it has been very tough. I suppose it’s at the point now where it’s starting to grow and we’re happy that we’ve stuck it out together.

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Nicole wears jacket Claire Barrow available at Thea Basilou Shop, dress Kingkang Chen, shoes Maison Margiela

There was no question that we knew we had to let you pursue this dream. At the end of the day, the happiest people in life are those that are truly authentic to themselves. I often talk in my work about the inner compass, and that the inner compass is something that we all have that guides us in the direction we need to be going in. Now some people have a weak inner compass, so they’re not going to work out their direction, and they get lost along the way. Other people’s inner compass has been damaged through trauma, through inappropriate parenting, and other people decide not to listen to their inner compass because they’re scared, or they’re told to go in another direction. What I see is that you’ve had a very strong inner compass that is taking you in the direction of a creative life, and you’re following it and it’s making you happy and it’s where you need to be.

I didn’t really feel like I belonged anywhere else, and it’s nice to feel like you’re a part of something, but I just want to stress to whoever’s reading this the rarity in what my mom just said- I think it’s a testament to how close we are and how our relationship has always been very authentic and very close.

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Bel wears top Kingkang Chen, pants Claire Barrow available at Thea Basilou Shop. Nicole as above

Bel and her mother Nicole

photography Agnieszka Chabros

styling Jamie-Maree Shipton

grooming Tara Lama