Localized: Bellrave and Valerie Rose Sterrett
This month’s Localized will leave you swooning under Cupid’s spell with some seriously magical ladies. Opening the night will be Officer Jenny. Bellrave and Valerie Rose Sterrett will both be gracing the stage with their beauty and some goth/pop glamour. Bring your babe down to Urban Lounge this Valentine’s Day at 9 p.m., help support Uinta Brewing Co., KRCL 90.9FM and Spilt Ink SLC, and share in the love fest for just $5.
It’s rare to come in contact with a human that’s brimming with so much sparkle and light. Such is the case with Allison Martin, a prominent member of Austin Merkley’s brainchild, Bellrave. I had the immense pleasure of sharing a coffee with this beam of sunshine and was instantly drawn in by her cool, confident aura—well, by that and by an apparent shared love for facial jewelry and hot pink lipstick. Bellrave’s style is reflected in Martin’s attitude: high energy with a healthy dose of a “don’t fuck with me” beat. I know I’m gonna like this girl.
She starts off by filling me in on how Bellrave came to be, in 2012, after Merkley contacted Martin’s then- boyfriend for a professional favor. Martin offered to help as well by doing Merkley’s makeup for a photoshoot. They had known of each other, and “Austin and I had tried to play together in the past, but it never worked,” Martin says. “I went and helped him do his makeup, and he was just like … ‘Why don’t we?’” Currently, Merkley resides in D.C., and their drummer/programmer Nathan Merkley is in Boston. Generally, they collaborate on their buzzy, electronic sound long distance. “I swear, it’s the easiest thing ever ’cause I’ll call and tell him, ‘I’ve got this thing,’ and he’s like, ‘Play it!’ and I’m like, ‘Do you like that? Yeah? OK, bye.’” Somehow, it works for the band. Martin admits that she doesn’t like performing on her own, though. “I’m out here in Salt Lake with nobody, and I’m like, I can’t get onstage by myself with a backing track,” she says. “I might as well sing karaoke!” So she’s begun to enlist the help of Canadian goth Stephen JP Comeau, who runs her light show. She pulls out her phone and shows me some videos, and I’m blown away. She’s a real modest dame about it all—nothing like the costumed diva I’m watching on the tiny screen in her hand.
She seems genuinely hyped. I ask her how she maintains that energy on the regular. She tells me that she “met a really great cellist who said to me, ‘If you don’t do your best and give the audience everything, then it’s a really selfish act to even get up [onstage].’” That’s the response I would hope any musician would give. I ask Martin what she hopes to accomplish with Bellrave. Her eyes light up as she admits that she wants to compose film scores, work with children, bring music back to the schools, play at big EDM shows and break into acting. Just hearing her list is exhausting. “I like to play weird characters and dress up,” she says. She then breaks into a little jig and rasps out a line of “Easy Street” in a perfect Hannigan voice, and we’re both giggling.
The mood begins to shift, and I can tell that we’re starting to touch on a more personal side of this story. “It’s hard to be a woman in a male-dominated industry,” she says, “but I fucking love it. I’ll beat myself to death with tambourines [at a show] and wake up with bruises all over. I hope it makes people feel like they wanna shake their booty and jump in the air, or cry if they want. I want to give people something to connect to.” She stops and takes a deep breath before admitting to the fact that she hasn’t always been this driven. “I’ve dealt with everything from abuse to addiction,” she says. “I’ve seen death and life—but music is in me, and I don’t know why … I guess it’s what I’m supposed to do with my life.” Her voice shakes, and I’m surprised to see that she’s tearing up, and—more surprisingly—so am I. “I thought music was gonna kill me,” she says. “It turns out I just had to dive in.” Maybe Bellrave’s synth-pop dance ballads are exactly what some kid needs to give them the energy and courage to fight off their own demons like it seems to have done for her.
There are a lot of exciting things on the horizon for Bellrave. “I love to network,” Martin says, and she flashes a wide grin. From her first show at Burt’s Tiki Lounge, where she shared a stage with Neon Trees, to Bellrave’s more recent collaborations with the infamous Bad Kids Collective, Martin’s just enjoying the journey. “I could die tomorrow, so why not go big?” she says. “That’s one thing I want people to realize—you can do what you want—and if someone tells you that you can’t … just do it anyway.” I like her style. Bellrave is definitely a force to be reckoned with. “I shoulda been dead by 25, and I’m glad I’m still here,” she says. “I feel honored that anyone would want to do an interview on me. You’re part of the fuel to the fire.” Come burn up the dance floor with Bellrave. I promise they’ll give you something to love.