Tracey Bryn Belland feels like clicking her ruby slippers together and saying, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”
She’s not in England anymore.
Belland, who fronts the pop group Voice of the Beehive with sister-fellow vocalist Melissa, is living in her native California for the first time in more than 10 years. She couldn’t be happier; she doesn’t even mind the loud car wash next door to her home in Encino.
“You can do so much more here,” Belland said recently. “The sun comes up and you’re able to go outside. In England, it’s a cliche, but the weather really stops you from doing a lot. It’s so cold and gray all the time. I really found that, for my sister and I, it really affected our moods.”
That and a few other factors weighed heavily on the Beehive’s stateside return: They had lost their record deal in London; a few band members quit; then they had a pure-pop album, “Sex & Misery,” out but it floundered amid Britain’s love affair with the dueling Oasis and Blur.
That’s when Warner-distributed Discovery Records came to the rescue and convinced the sisters to move back home.
“Also, it sounds corny, but we both missed the ocean,” Belland said. “We were born and raised by the water. Of course, we lived on an island for 10 years, but Dover’s not exactly Malibu. You can’t really kick back, it’s always freezing.”
“Sex & Misery” was released nationally on April 2, just as the radio-friendly single, “Scary Kisses,” is becoming the group’s most widely played hit of its career.
One of Belland’s coups before leaving England was getting an opportunity to write with her hero, XTC’s Andy Partridge. Their “Blue in Paradise” is among the highlights of “Sex & Misery.”
“I was terrified to work with him,” Belland said. “Someone told me, ‘Would you like to write with Andy Partridge?’ and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, what can I bring to that?’ I mean, the guy’s a genius, what does he need me for? So I went on the train to Sweedon where he lives and I was so nervous I got sick. It’s 9:30 in the morning, so I thought I would have a brandy to calm me down. I get there and he’s probably thinking, ‘Boy, this girl starts early,’ and I had brandy on my breath. But he was as nice as anyone could be.”
When Partridge played her some of the chords for “Blue in Paradise,” Belland knew she had reached Oz.
“That was such a good experience,” she said. “I learned so much from him. He constructs songs, he thinks of them as landscapes, how the skyline goes up and down or staggers or it’s going to be a long field. It’s kind of confusing to explain, but he had a whole different approach which was good. Any fresh approach to songwriting helps me.”
While “Sex & Misery” has plenty of pop sass and smarts, behind the upbeat melodies is a paean to lost souls in Belland’s life.
“Both of us went through a lot in the past two years in London,” she said. “A couple friends of mine died, for different reasons. One of them died of AIDS, and I watched it basically. It was horrifying. It gives you a whole new perspective on things.
“There are a lot of angel songs and a lot of love songs for people who have parted, so that was really the only way I could get that out. I kept thinking, ‘C’mon, write about something else,’ but all I wanted to do was say I missed my friends.”
BTW: Album discography – “Let It Bee” (London, 1988); “Honey Lingers” (1991); “Sex & Misery” (Discovery, 1996); “The Best of Voice of the Beehive” (U.K. – Warner, 1997); “Don’t Call Me Baby” (Secret, 2008). … Hear here.