Hearing Aide: The Southern Belles ‘In the Middle of the Night’

The sort of plasmic, shape-shifting rock and roll spawned by The Southern Belles of Richmond, VA, has been released to humans everywhere for their listening and dancing pleasure on August 5. Their third album, In the Middle of the Night, is oddly akin to Willie Wonka’s three course dinner chewing gum, in that, through the consumption of one product, several flavors can be indulgently experienced in a brief period. At least by listening to this album, no one will need a swarm of oompa loompas to roll them to the juicing room… that we know of.

This album dives deeper than their previous release Close to Sunrise, offering heavier jams, tighter instrumentation and an overall more spacious and grandiose sound. The Southern Belles is Adrian Ciucci (guitar), Tommy Booker (keys), Aaron Zarrow (drums), and Derrick Englert (bass). In the Middle of the Night was recorded at The Ward recording studio in Richmond.

“Everywhere 1” floods the eardrums with runaway guitar like an antsy racehorse exploding out of the starting gate. In under a minute the tune relaxes before getting groovier, continuously arousing the listener’s curiosity. Ciucci’s vocal tone is a crosshatch of Motion City Soundtrack’s Justin Pierre and Jimmy Eat World’s Jim Adkins. The song culminates with an uplifting message of gratitude: “Everything I try to be, there’s someone there reminding me/ Life is grand, we’re so lucky/ And it’s amazing everywhere it takes me.” This closing sentiment is a suiting cap to the opening song of an album, almost an anthem to their success, four musicians converging, playing their brand of music together in a way no other combination of musicians could exactly replicate. Something to be thankful for.

“Deja Vu” offers a more somber beginning, with higher octave backing vocals that emulate The Flaming Lips with a sea of airy voices echoing Ciucci. It shifts from whirring organ to bouncy guitar, offering an uplifting release from the heavier tone. “L.A. Moves” opens with delicate guitar and elements reminiscent of NY synth-rock band Jimkata. “Tryin” promptly brings the Vulfpeck vibes with playful keys before escalating into a rock-opera ballad replete with gospel-like vocals and undulating tempos. The album closes with “Everywhere II,” trickling in with calming water effects, muted organ and vocals with Pink Floyd connotations before Ciucci utters the heartening sentiment, “Just know in the end you’re gonna get where you’re goin, so take good care of your friends/ They’re the only ones who know you and the only ones who care so be kind and fair.” The song then picks up tempo and finishes on a high note with a cathartic swirl of guitar and pounding drums, bringing it full circle to the beginning of the album.

In the Middle of the Night was officially released on August 5 at The Broadberry in their hometown. The single is being streamed via Soundcloud and their website, and can be heard on SiriusXM’s Jam On. The Southern Belles have been touring the East Coast leading up to the album release, and will hit the road again for their fall tour. They will be playing Saturday August 12 in Capon Bridge, WV at La La Land, followed by the Peace of Mind Fest in Halifax, PA on August 31.

Key Tracks: Everywhere I, Tryin, Everywhere II