It may be the first day of autumn, but Philly modern rock four-piece Bel Heir are firm subscribers to Brian Wilson’s “endless summer” school of thought. In other words, today’s Key Studio Session does not shy away from sunny vocal hooks, energized riffs and rhythms and breezy hints of reggae, and it’s all the awesomer for it.
The regional band first caught our ear in 2013 when brothers Paul and Patrick Mencel began dabbling in a new studio recordings after the dissolve of their previous band Find Vienna. Where that crew aimed for Kings of Leon-style arena rock stratospheres, Bel Heir takes a more contemplative and laid-back route — “beachy,” as the kids like to say, and very much in step with the globally-informed electronic pop tones of Vacationer and Vampire Weekend.
As its initial singles began to trickle out, the band was just a studio project with an air of mystique about who the actual humans behind it were. As they recorded and released more, developing a string of singles on Bandcamp, a live band took shape: Find Vienna bassist and old high school friend Ian Walsh joined the team, as well as Jersey drummer Ryan Smyth, who brings a punk rock flare to the proceedings.
The band goes through varying degrees of high activity and reclusiveness – the Mencels also stay pretty busy working with rising EDM scene star ROZES, who you might know from The Chainsmokers hit of a similar name – but in the midst of the all, they managed to link a deal with RCA Records, who will release their debut LP (working title: Philadelphia English) early next year.
Today’s Key Studio Sessions performance gives you a taste of the record: the hammering drums of opener “Beachside” give way to the sprinting pop licks of “Light at the End of the Tunnel.” Before you can catch your breath, we’re into “Basement Sex and Weed,” a nostalgic party anthem that’s both celebratory and self-deprecating, laughing at the simplicity of youth. Also in the mix is the last wave before the sunset, “California High AF” – which, looking at the outdoor temps, seems about right today.
Bel Heir will keep the summer raging at Ortlieb’s during their Thursday night residency which continues tonight (with Grubby Little Hands) and next Thursday, September 29th. It’s a pretty sweet deal: late show, $1 cover and vibes on vibes. Get more information at the XPN Concert Calendar, watch Bel Heir perform “Light At The End of the Tunnel” live in our studio below, stream the band’s full Key Session (shoutouts Chris Custer for the assist on the mix) and grab a free download at Soundcloud.
Bel Heir, The Key Studio Sessions