THE SOUL FOR MUSIC: For all the entertainment a musician brings to the room, she or he also brings a hidden history of losses or setbacks, with each song a testament to the struggles that buffered the musician en route. It’s one reason why music is so powerful: It is a renewable medicine for the soul, a reincarnation and reformulation, a casting of light upon shadows. This weekend, a few homegrown acts will raise the roof of their respective rooms with vivifying soul-funk and invigorating rock that builds on a place of loss: Bella and the Heart and Soul Band, who play this Sunday, September 4, at 5 p.m. at High Sierra Grill & Bar (521 Firestone Rd.) in Goleta, and Beware of Darkness, who plays Velvet Jones (423 State St.) with U.S. Elevator on Saturday, September 3, at 9 p.m.
LA VIE EST BELLA: “I’ve always been songwriting and singing since I was a baby,” says Erica Dew, aka Bella, the firebrand singer of the Heart and Soul Band. She recalls making up lyrics to cassette B-side instrumentals and singing Madonna while standing on a table.
She sings loud and proud now, with spirited renditions of soul and funk tunes, and with originals up her sleeve. In her daily life as a manager for Pier 1 Imports, Bella enjoys a sense of competitive achievement; besides music, business is her other passion. “I like the challenge of reaching sales goals and really beating them,” she said. Musically, Bella has her eyes set on a prize, with Grammy dreams squarely in sight, and the future is just beginning to blossom, step by step. The Heart and Soul Band’s recent Fiesta show at De la Guerra Plaza was the best they ever had, she says. “It really was a dream come true for me — I’ve been in Santa Barbara for so many years, and all I ever wanted to do was perform on that stage — my prayers were answered,” she said. Though she plays covers with the Heart and Soul Band, she is soon to launch her Bella and the Originals project, where she can come into her own with songwriting.
There was some loss on the way to these dream realizations. The name Bella — and her presence onstage — would never have happened without the support of her departed music partner, Micah McCabe, who helped develop her original sound and suggested the name before passing away in 2013. She carries the name in his legacy, and her performances are a way of bringing light to the darkness of his loss. “I feel like he has guided me divinely,” she said. Lost though he is, his spirit fills her with faith. “I’m going to keep pursuing my dreams; I’m gonna be an old lady in a sparkling dress, and I’m really excited.”
AWARE OF DARKNESS: “There is a season for every part of life,” sings Beware of Darkness singer Kyle Nicolaides in their newest song, “Muthafucka,” off their soon-to-be-released album, Are You Real? The song is a paradoxical powerhouse of Zen enlightenment, part badass “I’m back” anthem and part serenity, even with the crunching guitars. But there is stillness in this big move, with Nicolaides reflecting as he rocks. The lyrics were born during the turbulent phase following the band’s first album, when he fell into deep self-doubt. “When you’re young and stuff happens to you, you don’t know how to deal with it, and everything’s the end of the world,” he said. As he’s gotten older, he’s come to accept “there’s an ebb and flow to everything,” and meditation has allowed him to reach for a brighter phase of life. “It’s saying, yeah, we all have dark seasons, but we don’t have to let them define us. That song was a conscious choice of saying, I’m not who I used to be, I’m not the sad guy, I’m going to overcome this, and I’m going to thrive.”