Punk, hard rock band Bellwether Sirens release four-song EP

Punk, hard rock band Bellwether Sirens release four-song EP

Not a single member of Bellwether Sirens knew one another before moving to Northwest Arkansas from different parts of the country.

Guitarist Sean O’Brien jokes that he met drummer Geoff Atkinson through “missed connections” on Craigslist. Both moved here from the Chicago/Detroit area and were looking for like-minded musicians to jam with.

“The first thing I noticed was that the majority of the recordings he sent me were recorded by my [former] roommate,” O’Brien says. “We had run around in the same circles in Chicago, but we never actually met.”

Sharing a love of punk rock and early emo, the two started jamming with O’Brien’s co-worker, Dave MacLeod, who moved to Northwest Arkansas from northwest Indiana in 2018.

“Ever since I moved here, I wanted to get back into music, but I just couldn’t find the right people,” MacLeod says. “So it was a blessing to find Sean and finally find somebody who was on the same page as me, and then getting to meet these guys. It was pretty awesome.”

O’Brien says his wife suggested that he meet one of her co-workers, Kevin Rej, who had similar tastes in music. O’Brien says he was hesitant until he actually saw his kindred spirit.

“One random day after the three of us had started to play, we were at Pedalers Pub — my wife and my son and I were having lunch — and she looks over, and says “That’s Kevin! That’s the guy was telling you about!’ I look over and see his sleeves of tattoos, and said, ‘You didn’t tell me he was punk!”

Once they all played together, O’Brien says Rej “started soloing over all my songs, and I said, ‘This is the guy!’”

Rej hails from South Carolina’s low country but spent 30 years playing in bands around Atlanta. “In the past 30 years, I was probably in three bands at a time — never not being in a band. And then [I] moved here right at the beginning of the pandemic, so it was a really tough time to relocate and not know a single person.”

Still, something was missing. None of the guys considered themselves singers, so they placed an ad on Facebook looking for vocalists. Enter Anupriya Sharma, who answered O’Brien’s Facebook ad that she says “went into a little too much detail, but was funny and quirky.”

“We’re loud, and we auditioned a handful of people before she came out, and you could barely hear them,” Rej says. “Then she comes in to sing, and she gets on the mic, and her voice is so strong and piercing and loud. I had earplugs in, and my ears were ringing just from the singing.”

“Music is serious medicine for me,” Sharma says. She jokes that she sounds like “one of those old people like [O’Brien]” but after a rough two years, she feels like “the universe brought me to these guys here” and allowed her a place to express herself without shame or inhibition.

“Before I joined these guys, the last time I had ever played music and performed with bands was 15 years ago — before I was married — and a lot of it was in India and Olympia [Wash.] and then I had this like really amateur thing in New York that was more casual.”

Although she was more than loud enough, her background was based more on classic rock rather than punk.

“They called me one weekend and gave me this song by the Misfits called “Skulls.” I’ve never heard the song, right? And I’m listening to it with my kids in the car, and the lyrics are outrageous,” she explains. “Then I said, ‘OK, can we also do one song that I’m comfortable with?’ And it’s quite a different genre — ‘Zombie’ by The Cranberries — that these guys had never played before. So we just got to meet and tried a few things. And then over time, I think it just started meshing.”

After securing a practice space in Bella Vista, which was no small feat, the quintet started writing music.

“I got a sense during the pandemic that a lot of people were stuck in their houses writing great music,” says Rej. “I’m still waiting for all that to be released into the world, and I think it’s gonna happen. Musicians and bands had two years, a lot of them in isolation, so there’s going to be some great work coming out. … We really had a lot of quality time to kind of write the songs, while we couldn’t really play out. Which I think is a positive because we really were able to gel with each other and really work through the songs. I feel really good about what we’ve written.”

“We played together for almost a year. We had an entire set of new songs written before really any bars were even open again with any regularity,” O’Brien adds.

The result of that work is “Hella Vista,” a four-song EP that’s streaming across multiple platforms and on Bellwether Sirens’ Bandcamp page.

“We have more than four [songs]. We’re still working. We still have new music in the works; we probably have close to 12 or 13. But these are the first four that we worked on together,” Sharma adds.

“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” O’Brien adds about the name of the EP. “When it comes to artwork, and naming songs, and I mean, we can go into stuff that probably shouldn’t go into print.” He says that the back cover is a collage of the band’s collective injuries. The front features Burt Reynolds enjoying a hot dog.

However, it’s hard to be punk rock and not have something to say.

“We’re living in a very interesting world,” Sharma adds, saying that even though they don’t take themselves too seriously, “the words are still very intentional. We have one song that addresses mental illness. There’s one that talks about wars and shootouts and can even be applied to women in Iran or abortion rights … We didn’t want just to create fluff.”

“And she’s a good lyricist,” Rej adds.

Bellwether Sirens will have an EP release show at Nomad’s Trailside on Jan. 14 with Fleure out of Tulsa and Protohive from here in Northwest Arkansas. Rej says that they are meeting other bands and forming networks.

“That’s such a big part of being in a band. You build these friendships and relationships. You play shows together, and you travel together, people from other cities come in, and we go out and play their hometown, things like that. And that was something that was lacking for the past two years.”

“We’re still trying to navigate the scene too. We’re an older group. We’re new to the scene. We know that it’s a new, different time,” O’Brien adds. He says while the group is trying to find their place. “We just keep pushing ahead, doing what we do and keep writing good music and trying to form the relationships, trying to set up shows, keep playing and have fun.”



Bellwether Sirens

EP Release

WHAT — Punk, hard rock band Bellwether Sirens out of Bella Vista celebrate the release of their first EP, “Hella Vista,” with special guests Protohive (Van Buren) and Fleure (Tulsa, Okla.)

WHEN — 8 p.m. Jan. 14

WHERE — Nomads Trailside, 1863 N. Pluto Drive, Fayetteville

INFO — facebook.com/Bellwethersirens

BONUS — Digital copies of “Hella Vista” are available for download at https://bellwethersirens.bandcamp.com/album/hella-vista and songs can be streamed on all major platforms. CDs will be available at the show.

Categories: Music, Uncategorized