Belle Haven – You, Me, and Everything In Between (Review)

What you need to know about Belle Haven is that they do REAL very well. These guys from Melbourne are genuine; making music because they love it and acknowledging every person they engage with along the way. They value the fact that music has power, and speaks to people as well as being cathartic for themselves. The band are Christopher Vernon (guitar), Daniel ‘Mara’ Marinakis (guitar), David De La Hoz (vocals), Jake Zammit (drums) and Tom Mitchell (bass).

The creation of their brand new album You, Me, and Everything In Between is in response to Belle Haven’s professional and personal experiences over the past two years (and then some). Belle Haven have shared specifics by way of being taken advantage financially, and of being promised things as a band without follow through. There’s something impressively touching about the pouring of raw emotion into an artform, and You, Me, and Everything In Between is the ‘container’ into which Belle Haven have poured a whole lot of emotion about mistreatment and experiences of broken trust.

Heart and attention to detail have gone into this album. You can already see this by looking at the album cover. In the process of creating the songs about their experiences over the past two years, Belle Haven have created a mythology that Belle Haven fans (aka the Belle Haven family) can dive into to understand what has inspired their band’s new music. Take a closer look and you’ll see the images, articles and other items that the band have used to physically represent their experiences; tangible objects and creations that reflect the songs on the album, as well as the state of the band at the time. (Kill Your Stereo dove deep into these details with the band in an interview, which you can read here.)

This cluttered cork board of maps, notes, images and objects looks like a focused attempt to make sense of something that’s exceptionally messy. And from having absorbed David’s description of the last two years of interpersonal chaos leading up to this album creation, ‘mess’ is accurate. These songs aren’t just standalone pieces, they’re all interconnected and telling a story on behalf of Belle Haven.

And so with the review of the album, I start with “You.”; the first track of You, Me and Everything In Between. It’s a killer way to start off an album, hitting hard musically as well as lyrically. Belle Haven described the track as “Sister-In-Law part 2”, which gave greater depth of meaning as to what is going on within this song. Where “Sister-In-Law” describes the torture of a mental cage of self-blame without any possibility of resolution, “You.” expresses a demand for answers, making the song a statement of empowerment. “You.” is going beyond self-blame and asking (read: demanding) for responsibility from the other party.

“They say that all we should fear is fear itself
So starting now
My fear for you is going back on the shelf”

“You.” feels like sweet revenge in itself, even just vocalising the truth and making direct statements and doing so from a place of clarity and power. It’s a perfect way to start this album which was borne from constant victimisation. Belle Haven aren’t taking mistreatment anymore, and this is just one chapter of that.

 

“The Carving Knife” is second on the album, and anyone who has been in an emotionally abusive relationship will resonate with this. When I soaked up this track I was both saddened that someone else out there knew what I’d known, and also appreciative of it being so brilliantly expressed and given air. Belle Haven have captured the suffocation, the monotony, and the realness of being invested in someone despite how they are treating you. This is the power and catharticness I am referring to in the band’s music. This is truthful expression, not just fancy wordwork.

“I spent a year of my life
Under your carving knife
And nobody ever knew
I had surrendered control”

As in “You.”, “The Carving Knife” is another powerful statement of ‘Enough!’ and breaking free of a situation which meant an unspoken acceptance of poor treatment. This empowerment is expressed beautifully in the music video, where the members of Belle Haven demonstrate a clear a turning point from uncomfortable containment and blinded love, out into freedom and a quest for accountability. “The Carving Knife” is brilliant musically; heavy and with moments of chaoticness before breaking out into clarity and feeling hopeful and soaring.

 

 

David has opened up about some of the specifics behind You, Me and Everything In Between and one of those specifics is that “Selfmade” refers to a manager that worked on behalf of the band (or was supposed to). Sounding like a fictional character (I’m picturing him with cigars, gold chains, and a giant gut), Selfmade took the band for a ride financially, getting all that he personally could out of the ‘rockstar’ experience that the band unwittingly gave him, trying to do the right thing. Selfmade prioritised himself over the band, to the point of attempting to turn the band members against each other.

“I’ve never had anything to lose
How did you manage to take from us?
Chopped out and lined up all our trust
As if the blow was not enough”

The term Selfmade becomes mocking (Did you notice those quotation marks on the song title? This label this person has given themselves), when it’s made clear that this man only got to where he is because of his self-importance: His ‘hollow crown’ as Belle Haven word it.

The music video shows that sense of being under control and thrown into unnecessary chaos, with the band members doing things against their will, at the enjoyment of others, continuing even though uncomfortable. In keeping with the theme of empowerment, direct questions are asked ‘Why did you bring this about?’ instead of falling into self-blame for allowing Selfmade into their world. The new chapter, and closing of the old, is that Belle Haven became free from Selfmade’s jaws. Just as described in “The Carving Knife”, they have let him go, feeling like a shedding of skin.

 

Where “You.” was “Sister-In-Law” part 2, “Burn The Witch” is “The Carving Knife” part 2. They go beyond breaking free from the claws of the suffocating relationship into intense hatred. David described “Burn The Witch” as an ‘exaggerated idea’, where he was left so bitter that this depiction of a ‘witch’ being called out and burned alive was enjoyable. The concept of burning someone that you hate alive comes along with an emotional heaviness, and it’s also musically brilliant in this way. A stand-out for me on this track is the drumming.

“You built a coven of lies
To hide inside
Bleeding all trust from my world dry”

Belle Haven have been playing “Burn The Witch” on their “Selfmade” Australian Tour, having us all join in with the chant to ‘BURN THE WITCH!’. When you’ve come from a situation where you’ve felt powerless (not only to break free, but also to change anything), creating a fantastical image of a gang with pitchforks and torches hunting down this person is indeed satisfying. The witch-burning image holds a sense of confrontation with the perpetrator feeling the full force of what they’ve done. It also offers a belated sense of empowerment for the version of David who had ‘surrendered control’ for one hellish year. The gang vocals also add to this collective retribution.

“Little Polaroid Boy” is fifth on the album and takes an intricate/complex sound by way of timing. But the melody (piano) of this track adds something really tender, despite being a calling out of someone. From the vibe, sound as well as the lyrics, I get the impression that as far as relationships go, this has greater potential for repair.. in comparison to enjoying being warmed by the ‘witch”s death-glow, anyway.

“Wake up, wake up
But don’t choke
Don’t choke on your words for too long”

In terms of being a chapter of the mistreatment of Belle Haven, the lyric reference to ‘colour grade’, ‘lens’, and ‘lighting’ creates the assumption that this is about a photographer/videographer, who ‘severed the ties’ and acted through ego and greed.

The sixth track, “Hollywood”, is an incredible song: rough, gritty, heavy and chaotic. The bass raunch, raw drum sound and breathy and distorted vocals made a potent combination that I got hooked on. “Hollywood” feels like it’s the product of an intoxicated yet frustrated jam session where everyone was told to just go for it. Hand claps, feedback squeals and screams. Christopher shared with me that on this track there are two live drummers on this track, one in each ear!

The track has one lyric, “Let’s hope Hollywood cares.” This is repeated with escalating fire, from a sombre statement through to an intense scream. To me, it’s sarcasm set alight, with the rawness and chaoticness of the track at total odds with the idea of impressing Hollywood with unnatural perfection. I couldn’t get enough of it and am a huge fan of unique creations like this.

“Egophobia” may be the heaviest track on You, Me and Everything In Between. It goes blisteringly hard for its one minute, 24 seconds length. Is “Egophobia” perhaps considered to be “The Carving Knife” part 3? Regardless, it’s directed toward someone ‘self-centred, psychotic’ who stole David’s life from him. It feels frantic as well as furious and full of indignation. Realising now what should have been realised some time ago. This is such an impressive track, dropping down deeper and deeper and the guitars expressing that.

“You used to cut yourself
Because your ego wouldn’t fit into your body”

The next track “HighfLIAR” speaks again about ‘colour grading’ and we’ve also read via KillYourStereo.com that this track relates to the process of having a video created for their track “Closet”; one of the experiences where the band were messed around and left with something unusable. “HighfLIAR” takes hits at a person who was said to have changed, and was trusted again and again, only to continue to be deceitful, taking money, lying, and thus killing a friendship.

“No, no, no
There are stones that have changed more than you, my “friend””

Musically this track is cool, taking more of an electronic edge (especially toward the end of the track) while still having impressive breakdowns, brilliant vocals that veer from clear and factual to furious growls, and epic bursts of drumfire. The electronic pulses feel like a moment of seeing all that is happening/has happened and feeling stunned by the gall of this HighfLIAR character. The song as a whole feels like a sigh of relief, to be done with this chapter which was taxing and a mind-fuck.

“By Hook or by Crook” kills me on every listen. It’s David and a piano and it’s beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. It’s so intimate that it almost feels wrong delving into it. “By Hook or by Crook” is very visual as a song, very clearly depicting an experience. It’s the processing of something that makes no sense. David is at the bedside of someone he loves (and someone that loves him) in a hospital, silent aside from a drip. This someone (his grandfather/Pa) is apologising for dying of cancer, a moment that sounds to have hit David hard, seeing this gracious and loving person be taken away and it not making any kind of logical sense.

He turns toward God, and heartbreakingly shouts out his questions, in pain and confusion. If God is real, why did he take his Pa? Why not take David instead, in all his perceived imperfectness and negativity, instead of this great man, now absent from his life.

“I hate myself.
I hate you.
You’re taking the wrong one.
Don’t take him.”

“By Hook or by Crook” is a tough listen, but do listen. It will resonate powerfully with anyone that has lost a beautiful person from their lives.

The tenth track is “Ghost”. The bass and drums of this track have it feel like a stand-off and a call for attention. “Ghost” seems to be expressing a sense of bending and adapting so much that their identity and realness was lost, leaving them feeling controlled. The distant-sounding and echoing vocals at the start of the track reinforce that experience of non-existence. But it doesn’t last long before powerful vocal fire and heaviness kicks in.

“Is this what you want?
This house is haunted
Is this what you want?
Don’t ignore me
You were supposed to fall for me”

The track is a strong standing up for oneself, affirming that they do exist, despite treatment otherwise. They are ‘not a ghost’ and won’t be treated as such anymore. “Ghost” would be a great song to experience live.

Last on the album is “Me”. It’s a strong track (hellooo, guitars), but with its piano melody, it seems far more upbeat than what it’s expressing. “Me” is describing a state of being pushed to extreme limits, at the hands of a metaphorical brick wall of a person; full of lies, wishy-washy with their attention, and putting David/Belle Haven through a gruelling experience.

“I’ve spent a lifetime saving myself
Now I’m broke
One day I’ll save enough to buy a rope”

It’s capturing that even though experiences may be done and finished in terms of physicality, they still left/leave an impact upon someone who was already struggling. It’s a powerful snapshot of the intensity of someone that feels so broken and done and powerless. The breakdown section is intense; there’s no ambiguity here.

You, Me and Everything in Between as an entity is a powerful, raw and real soundtrack of David’s heartache, as he had described the album on the “Selfmade” tour. He’s bravely processed pain, confusion, hatred and defeatedness in these exceptional pieces of music, as a means of empowerment as well as (hopefully) moving into a new chapter for Belle Haven. Honest emotion has been amplified by music that expresses the same sentiment, making for strong tracks that clearly get the point across. May these outward ‘exorcisms’ of mistreatment and broken trust mean that Belle Haven are headed toward higher ground, supported and strong.

YOU can be part of Belle Haven’s future story. The album is released on June 16th by Greyscale Records. Support this incredible band by pre-ordering You, Me and Everything in Between right here: https://artistfirst.com.au/collections/greyscale-records/artistbelle-haven

Edit: Happy release day, You, Me and Everything in Between! Stream it now.

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