The Bellemah Bus
Next stop: CD release party
A year ago this month, Billy Bellmont—namesake and auteur of defunct rock band The Bellmont—and Dan Dinning formed the loungy, acoustic, indie operation known as Bellemah. Like barnacles on a ship (or perhaps goatheads on a shoe), the band amassed seven members, then lost four, due mostly to time constraints. Now only Billy, Dan and Noelan Ramirez remain. Some days ago over coffee, Billy, Dan and I sat down for a chat. We laughed. We cried. We talked about Tom Waits. Below is a sample of our time together.
How far back do you guys go?
Dan: It's kind of funny—Billy and I ran in the same circles for decades, literally. We both grew up in Farmington and knew the same people, but our paths never crossed.
What was it like growing up there?
Dan: Farmington is this strange amalgam of life—natives, Baptists and Mormons, who all don't necsesarily get along.
Billy: Farmington is grand. It's weird. At a time I was really ready to leave, and I went to college, I wrote a song called "Long Way Upstate," and it sounds like it's about a girl. It's actually about Farmington, how in retrospect it's kind of a cool place.
Are you guys named after Billy’s last name or the street, Bellamah?
Billy: I named myself Billy Bellmont because it's a line in a Screeching Weasel song called "Totally." The lyrics say, "The Belmont bus takes me right by your house," and for some reason that stuck with me since I was a teenager. When The Bellmont disbanded this year, I wanted Bellemah to be a softer version of The Bellmont. But, yeah, I did choose the name after seeing the street. It's actually spelled with an A, and ours is with an E. I thought that sounded nice.
Is there anything you want people to know?
Dan: That we exist. That local music is still trying here in Albuquerque. There's really some great music that happens Downtown. We opened for this group on a Tuesday night called Mugison—two dudes from Iceland, and they were amazing.
And there was hardly anyone there.
Dan: Yeah, but the people that were there were really into it. I think that probably happens fairly often. There are people coming through here, and there are good Albuquerque bands. I don't know if it's just the state of Downtown in general. I know if Noelan was here, he'd be bemoaning it. Downtown's at this weird equilibrium of falling apart and not having a lot of traffic, and then at the same time there is. I like Downtown, but it does have kind of a seedy edge to it.
Doesn't everything in Albuquerque, though?
Dan: Yeah, that's kind of the Albuquerque thing. And Albuquerque knows it.