At one point, Jake Bellows gave up on music.
Bellows did one last tour with Neva Dinova and, though he performed somewhat regularly at the Barley Street Tavern open mike, he wasn't sure why he was still making music.
Since he was 17 years old, Bellows had been writing songs. He toured all over the world, and his band was a nationally recognized group, but he never sat down and thought about why he continued to pursue writing and performing.
“Some people, they love standing onstage or they love rocking out or something,” Bellows told me. “I still like all that stuff, but it seemed like I needed a better reason.”
Thankfully, he found one. Bellows is back with his first solo record, “New Ocean,” out on Saddle Creek Records this week.
On the record, Bellows has some jangly indie rock, an acoustic ballad and even a doo-woppy kind of song in “Drinking With Dad.”
I especially love the title track, a slow-building rocker that starts with some lightly strummed guitar and ends with full-on pulsing energy coming from your headphones.
Bellows, who has lived in Los Angeles for three years, wrote lots of songs in his spare time and recorded them at the beckoning of a friend, musician and producer Ben Brodin, who figured Bellows should commit some to tape if he was going to give up on music. If he didn't, the songs might be lost.
Brodin booked Bellows studio time at ARC in Omaha and made him record the songs.
“I had this overwhelming outpouring of goodwill from these friends that I respect so much,” he said. “Ben just made that happen.”
Bellows involved Brodin, Todd Fink of The Faint, Heath Koontz of Neva Dinova and Ryan Fox of The Good Life in his band, which has also played a few local shows.
I really enjoy the album, which has Bellows' songwriting and (other than a few slower songs) a really rocking nature that is akin to his live performances.
I'm also happy that Bellows, a great guitar player, made sure to outfit “New Ocean” with some guitar solos, which aren't always a part of indie rock.
“Don't tell anybody, but I dig that (stuff), too,” he said. “On 'Frequency' (the final track on 'New Ocean'), everybody gets a pass. Todd (Fink) laid down a guitar solo. Fox laid down a Fox-style solo. Brodin knocked out one, too.”
You'll notice some spirituality and mythology in the songs on “New Ocean,” which comes from Bellows' answer to why he plays music.
His philosophy comes down to a few basic ideas: Frequencies have a physical effect on the world, and music is just sound frequencies put in a certain order.
“If I could do whatever I wanted to do with music, what would I do?” Bellows said. “I decided I wanted to project the world I'd like to see. I can drop these ideas and these vibes into people's minds and psyches and see if that can have some positive effect.
“That's the idea,” he explained. “That's why I'm making music. That's why I'm excited about it.”