by Chanelle Adams
Black Girl Dangerous’ Artist of the Month is a feature where we choose a QTPoC artist who has the power to make us feel both grounded and inspired to grow. Then we interview them for you to learn more about the people behind the tunes that set us free.
This month’s artist is Sean Desiree and her singer/songwriter project called Bell’s Roar.
A Bronx native, Sean Desiree started her music project with just her voice and guitar. Over the years she has developed into a multi-talented singer, drummer, bassist, producer, and songwriter. Lucky for us, Sean has started recording as Bell’s Roar, under which she has released an EP and one album of remixes called Second Chances Vol. 1. Each of her songs are deeply intimate and political because the two are inseparable spheres. Sean’s calm, collected voice demands a presence over layered beats from hip hop, soul and synth-pop. Sean knows the power of collaboration. The EP features Kiran Gandhi on the drums, also known as MIA’s drummer who ran a marathon while menstruating, and Sean’s partner Alisa Sikelianos-Carter does all the cover artwork for Bell’s Roar.
Today marks the release of the new Bell’s Roar video, “I Know (Remix)”!
Chanelle: The name Bell’s Roar alludes to Black feminist bell hooks. Can you talk about the significance of the name Bell’s Roar? Does it have to do with how you came to find your voice as a singer-songwriter?
Sean: The name bell’s roar represents a focus and an attitude. Intersectionality is a main component of bell hooks’ writings. Being a queer, gender nonconforming person of color I cannot isolate oppression. I wanted my music and name to reference my experience. The goal of my music is to reinforce solidarity between genders, between people of color and allies, and between classes. The roar is significant because silence is crucial to the ongoing practices of domination. I am using my creative voice for social change and the movement.
Chanelle: The lyrics you write are so powerful and yet accessible at the same time. What is your writing process?
Sean: Writing lyrics is the hardest part for me. I take every word too seriously and really want it to mean something so I get caught in the process. I’ve come up with a process that takes the pressure off. I start by humming a melody and then filling in words that mimic the sounds. I try to keep it as freeform as possible and it often makes no sense. Within this stream of consciousness, I’m able to organically locate the direction I should take the song in. I start to build ideas and take the time to develop the lyrics without feeling stressed. For the next album I plan to keep this process and be more purposeful about themes or topics I want to discuss. I’m making writing a part of my everyday life to strengthen my weakness.
Chanelle: Music has the power to allow us to express ourselves in new ways. On your album, the song “I Know” (which you just released the new video to) bravely talks about experiences with abuse. Do you find music to be a healing space to discuss our lives?
Sean: Music is the only way I’ve publicly spoken about my own abuse. I write music to further discover things about myself, challenge my withdrawn nature and connect with people. It’s hard for me to trust people and feel comfortable speaking about my experiences. With music I’m not relying on the feedback or reaction of others as I would in a dialogue. Therefore, I’m not afraid to take more risks than in my interpersonal relationships. A heavy topic can be delivered in a therapeutic way through the melody and rhythm of song.
Chanelle: Let’s talk about the video for “Slow” for a minute. I love how you documented you and your partner performing bedtime rituals before going to sleep at night. Where did this idea come from?
Sean: My partner, Alisa, came up with the idea. I ask for her opinion on everything since I don’t have band members to brainstorm with. I wanted something simple, intimate and real. I did the filming and editing myself, which I think contributed to the intimacy of it. I plan to keep doing documentary shorts for music videos and to collaborate with people.
Chanelle: Second Chances Vol. 1 came out this fall. Will there be a Vol. 2??
Sean: Yes! I plan to keep Second Chances as a remix series. I want to work with various producers to rework the albums I release. My song-writing process is primarily solo, so I’m making a way for me to consistently push myself to collaborate with other artists. I’ll be releasing my first full length album later this year or early 2017 and plan to follow it up with Second Chances Vol. 2.
Chanelle Adams is Managing Editor at BGD and freelance writer interested in marginalized forms of healing and care. You can find Chanelle on twitter @nellienooks.
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