Interview with Belly Rachel

Divine Magazine
Divine Magazine 8 Min Read

Belly Rachel has recently released her new single ‘Cynical’, out now. To accompany the release, she also shares a DIY music video, filmed between Glasgow and London.

She spent her childhood in the coastal state of Sabah, developing a passion for songwriting at a very young age and penning her first song when she was just eleven. Early in her career, Belly experimented with different sounds, from catchy dance-pop to punk. But two distinct features of her music remain throughout her experimentation: painfully honest lyrics and searing vocals.

Naming artists like Alanis Morissette, Joni Mitchell and Phoebe Bridgers as her main influences, Belly thrives on the ability to experiment with her music and the concepts and emotions she’s able to portray through her songwriting. Paired with her soaring vocals, ‘Cynical’ is the most emotionally raw and authentic song the artist has penned to date.

Having relocated to Glasgow from Malaysia in April 2022, Belly has moved away from the constraints of living in a conservative Malaysian society and has fully embraced the notion of expressing herself to the fullest. Seamlessly intertwining elements of indie, alternative rock and pop, lyrically the track calls out the inappropriate behavior she has experienced from men from a very young age. 

BellyRachel

Who inspired you to make music?

I’ve always been a (very) shy kid. Growing up, I found it hard to properly express myself, and dealing with emotions (or talking about them) was something I could never quite get the grasp of. But then I discovered Joni Mitchell and Carole King. I remember thinking how beautiful and raw and open their music was – and it basically opened the floodgates. I threw myself into songwriting at the age of eleven, and haven’t looked back since. 

How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?

When it comes to the Internet’s impact on the industry, I think there are definitely pros and cons. On one hand, it’s now possible for you to discover an artist you probably would’ve never heard of, living on the other side of the globe, whose talent might’ve remained in the shadows if not for the Internet. But the downside? The market is currently so oversaturated that it takes more than talent and a good tune for you to stand out, especially if you’re an indie musician. Some of my musician friends really hate the internet, and some of them thrive because of it. Honestly, I’m still on the fence between both camps. 

Have you got a ritual of sorts when making music?

I seem to write some of my best songs past midnight with the help of my guitar and my Notes app, whilst sitting cross-legged on either the floor or my bed. I guess you could say that’s my ritual. 

How would you describe your music?

My music comes heavily laced with innuendos, humour and an underlying layer of feminine rage. I think that’s on account of me growing up in a strict Christian household in a very conservative country, where I’m expected to bite my tongue and ‘behave’ just because I’m a woman. 

What’s next for you?

I’m in the process of getting my first EP mixed and mastered, after which I’ll hopefully plan a release in the coming year. I’m also keeping busy with my band Pistol Daisys – got a couple of shows and a single lined up for that too, which I’m really stoked about!

What are your top two favourite songs of all time? Why those songs?

Easy. One: ‘A Case of You’ by Joni Mitchell. I can’t keep a dry eye whenever I listen to it. Her lyrics are heart wrenchingly beautiful; her vocals delivered in a way that it sounds like she’s confiding her secrets to us. Two: ‘Hand In My Pocket’ by Alanis Morissette. This is pure sunshine and confidence in a song. I listen to it whenever I need reassurance that everything will work out in the end. Safe to say, I listen to it almost daily. 

What was the last series you watched on TV?

I’m halfway through ‘Charmed’. Not the remake, but the original one shot in the 90s with dodgy VFX. Love it. 

What do you think the greatest invention has been?

The lightbulb. I’m really blind at night and have stubbed my poor toes to death many times in the dark.  

Do you have any lucky items, objects, or traditions?

I have a lilac jade bangle given to me by my grandmother that I never take off. I like to think that it’s lucky, but really it just reminds me of my family miles away. 

If you could ask your future self one question, what would it be?

Do I still regret that pencil haircut I got in 2021?

If you had to describe yourself as a flavor, what would it be?

Umami, baby. 

Cynical Cover Art

Speaking of the track, she says, “I wrote this song after an unfortunate encounter with a pervert while I was out walking my dog in Glasgow. I went home shaken as hell, more out of rage than fear, at the fact that I’m about to turn thirty and things like this still happen to me to this day. At 11, I was groped in a shopping mall while I was out shopping for school uniforms with my mother, flashed by a stranger at a bus stop at 17, received dick pics by a weirdo who got my socials when I was busking during my twenties. I’m starting to think it will never end. And the most depressing thing is, I guarantee I’m not the only woman out there who’s had these experiences. So I wrote this song, just because I needed a way to express my disgust and fury. 

 I hope that this song will resonate with other women. And I want more people to understand that us women didn’t start off as cynical and distrustful of men, we were moulded that way because of the world.”

Belly Rachel - Cynical (Official Video)

Stream on Spotify https://open.spotify.com/track/4OExcaNObukwd5GcT5XhOH?si=8561c91b41fc430b

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