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Bell X1: Resisting Silly Green Hats and Guinness on St. Patrick's Day
Posted Mar 16,2009

While New Yorkers put on all their green and stake out a prime spot on the parade route that is stumbling distance to an endless supply of Guinness, the Irish band members of Bell X1 will indulge in a diner breakfast, prep for an appearance on David Letterman, then jet off to Boston for a St. Patrick’s Day gig.

Bell X1 is perhaps best known for providing the soundtrack to a scene with two girls kissing to “Eve, the Apple of My Eye” on the teen drama The O.C., “We’ll take our breaks where we can get them,” said lead singer, Paul Noonan, at a recent show. The crowd sang along to their quirky lyrics and beats, which have been compared to Talking Heads and Coldplay.

Growing up in the suburbs of Dublin, Noonan says that on March 17th he would usually pin some clover on his jacket, watch the capital’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, and go home before the streets became “awash in vomit.”

What is St. Patrick’s Day like in Ireland?

It’s a quiet day in. Maybe read a book.

Actually, it’s a very exciting day. Every town has their own parade. Even the tiny provincial towns will have tractors pulling the local ceili-dancing girls on a trailer.

There’s a strong heritage of music in Ireland. Has it influenced your work?

In Ireland you do soak up traditional music growing up. The rich oral heritage, clichéd as it is, does exist. And it definitely informs our writing. Where we’re from has had a big influence on our music. But I don’t think we sound particularly Irish.

You call your group a “progrock” (progressive rock) band. Can you define progrock?

We’re a bunch of guys with keyboards, guitars, and singing. It’s been done before.

Your band’s name — Bell X1 — refers to the first plane that broke the sound barrier, your latest album is called, Blue Lights on the Runway, and you have a song about Amelia Earhart. Do you have a fascination with aviation?

There are a couple of frustrated pilots in the band that are pushing their agenda.

There’s a reason for all these things. Having read the book The Right Stuff and watched the movie, I felt there’s a spirit of optimism and ambition and reaching for the stars in that era with those cleancut heroes. There’s an innocence and a naivete to that time that is very attractive. It resonates with us as a band. We’d like to associate with that sort of spirit.

Speaking of spirit, can I ask about your reaction to the spirited American celebration of St. Patrick’s Day? Do we seem like bunch of drunken idiots?

I do not think that anyone’s an idiot.

As is often the case, it’s more Irish than the Irish themselves. It seems to happen all over the world. It’s a bigger deal than in Ireland. I think that it’s kind of human nature when there’s a connection to a place by a community that is no longer in that place. They tend to celebrate more than had they not left in the first place. It’s quite a thing to watch.

It’s a marvel. The scale of the St. Patrick’s Day parade here is like nothing we have back home.

You were in Barcelona the year before last. Do they do anything special there for St. Patrick’s Day?

It’s a big deal there. There are silly green hats. It was a good gig. We ended up wearing said silly green hats towards the end of the show.

And this St. Patrick’s Day you will play in Boston. Will there be silly green hats?

We’ll try to resist the silly green hats.

What will you be drinking?

People always want to take us to Irish bars and drink Guinness. I don’t understand that. We may drink some Brooklyn Ale [in New York], Sam Adams in Boston.

—J.M. McCord

Posted by Marc Silver | Comments (0)
Filed Under: Culture, Music, Pop Omnivore
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