B’ehl run for the folk-pop border

By Garreth Reeder

They’re in Billboard magazine, have CD distribution in Japan and England and they’re from Winnipeg. Confused? Meet B’ehl, a four-piece band who’ve been around for close to five years now, and is returning to the Night Gallery for the third time on Saturday to promote their sophomore effort, Bright Eyes.

"We’re essentially a pop band I guess. I don’t know… I should have thought about this one more," vocalist/guitarist Melanie Barnes says, laughing. "It’s not too driving or heavy, it sort of bops along. That’s a pretty bad description."

B’ehl is pop, but shows a folksy, up tempo side as well. Their current drummer, Chris Heibert, has a punk rock background, bringing what could be slow folk music up to a catchy speed. Coupled with bright harmonies from Barnes and co-songwriter Alison Brown, B’ehl’s sound is both traditional and original.

The band lacks the sugar coating typical with pop these days, and their new release has a very genuine and heartfelt feel to it; the honesty of the songs is refreshing.

"Everything we write is an expression of something that happened to us, or something that we’re going through. So there is really no pretension," says Barnes. "In a lot of ways Alison and I have trouble expressing ourselves in other ways… songwriting is the best outlet."

Carving a niche in Winnipeg is a difficult task with a small interest in live shows.

"There really isn’t much of [a scene]. The whole thing about going to see shows kind of peaked in 1994, and that’s when we knew only about three or four chords," she laughs. "Now they won’t come back and see us again now that we’re getting better. It’s kind of a bad time for us to finally reach the sound we’re looking for."

Part of the reason for Winnipeg’s stagnant live scene is the lack of good venues. Calgary, on the other hand, offers many.

It seems the lack of local support only makes the international recognition more exciting.

"It’s weird… we get mail from all over the place," Barnes shares.

"We actually sell better in [Japan] than we do here… in Winnipeg it’s nothing like what we’re selling in other places, so it’s nice to know if things are slow here it’s still happening in other areas. We might be able to set up a tour [in Japan] this summer. That would be incredible," she says excitedly.

B’ehl will play with Plumtree and Porterhall Jan. 29 at the Night Gallery.

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