For brothers Jared and Michael Bell, it’s not just blood that connects the two. It’s music. The two siblings, who initially hail from Tempe, Ariz., started post-rock band Lymbyc Systym in 2001 and–in spite of being involved in other projects along the way–have stayed together namely because of the music.
Of course, given that the two are family, they admitted they grew up with bouts of sibling rivalry. However, their secret to keeping the band intact is to approach their project like it’s work, putting their occassional differences aside and treating one another like they would a co-worker.
Naturally, it also helps that the two both feel they play music better with one another than with other musicians, adding to a deeper level of connectedness. And one only need hear or experience the music live in order to see that coherence in play.
Just over a year ago, Jared and Michael released their third full-length, “Symbolyst,” on Western Vinyl, an album that showcases the multifaceted musical approach of the two. In particular, this album was created using some new ideas and strategies, however unconscious they might have been at the time.
“One thing we did, and…it wasn’t anything where we were like, ‘let’s make the following decision,’ is, like we used, like, sort of, not different instruments, but we sort of like didn’t use instruments that we always used on other albums,” Michael explained.
As an example, he noted that his brother had used a clavinet for most of the songs on their first couple albums and EPs, but that “Symbolyst” boasts songs that don’t rely on the instrument as heavily.
Meanwhile, the experimentation was not only in the instruments used; it was also in the way things were written, with the two exchanging ideas and building off of one another for the songs. For the majority of the process, both brothers were living in Brooklyn, but even so, they wrote separately, sending music to one another online, a system that bands like The Postal Service are well-known for.
“The [process consists of] me starting some things and him starting some things, and then swapping and building off that,” Michael shared. “I had this nice phase, for like two months…where I just like made a ton of beats…for fun, knowing that in the end, it would be useful for something.”
He then shared a folder of ideas–both barely developed and thoroughly explored–with Jared, who picked through the ones he liked and began to elaborate on them. In turn, Jared took some of his songs from more than a half decade ago, ones that were “fully formed but really minimal,” and played around with them until the became more realized.
The result is an album that is filled with more traditional pop structures, boasting, among other things, a hi-fi quality and the incorporation of more rhythm.
“It’s just a lot more upbeat,” Jared said. “For us, upbeat is still kind of slow, like the tempos are still slower, but…it’s a little less prog, a little more, like, beats.”
Additionally, because of the nature of how it was made collaboratively but independently, the album is the first release by Lymbyc Systym that consisted of songs that hadn’t been played and fleshed out live prior to recording.
“We hadn’t jammed on anything. “[We] were, like, literally recording, you know, the melody and the bass and like the chords and everything completely separately,” Jared said. “I think it was, in a way, the most complicated record for figuring out how to play it live.”
But in putting in the effort to translate the music from the recorded to the live format, the brothers admitted that it opened up possibilities, the least of which was that it added 10 new songs to their performance repertoire.
“After, like, taking that challenge and then accomplishing it, I think, like, for every record that we ever make now, I would love to be able to play the whole album live,” Michael shared.
However, as is the tendency of artists to want to continue evolving, the two also did express a desire to mix things up and not just do a repeat of “Symbolyst,” instead implementing a different conceptual process in the future.
Regardless of what that entails, Jared said that “it would hopefully just be a really natural process.”
Lymbyc Systym plays tonight at Privatclub in Berlin. The show begins at 20.00.