A Twinkie in the Eye

The lyrics reference everything from snack cakes to Shakespeare, but Bellacore is serious about breaking out of Cleveland.

Not many musicians quote Shakespeare, as Bellacore's vocalist/guitarist Zach Stein does in "Sooner or Later." The song begins with "O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright/It seems she hang now upon the cheek of night" from Romeo and Juliet. The next line, however, keeps the song from taking itself too seriously: "But I don't know, I don't know what it means."

Stein says his lyrics are "thoughtful without being pretentious." The idea for "Martini" came to him while he was working at Spy Bar, when he jokingly said, "You're the olive in my martini, baby." "Simple" was written from the perspective of another band member who recently went through that time-honored rite that songs are made of, a messy breakup.

The lyrics are playful, poetic, and sometimes tread the line toward silly, as in "She's the one, she's sweeter than a Twinkie," inspired by Stein's girlfriend. He counts Bono and Bruce Springsteen among his greatest personal influences and deplores the empty lyrics of such artists as Lenny Kravitz, who master the music but not the words.

What was originally conceived as a side project by Stein, who dreamed he was part of a band called Bellacore and the Time Bombs, Bellacore's first self-titled CD is being released this month, and the songs range in mood and style from jazz to pop to modern rock. Stein and the other five musicians, with the exception of his bass-playing brother, Todd, have experience in the local band scene. Stein, William DeMarco (lead guitar/keyboards), Jonathon Richey (drums/keyboards/percussion/guitar), and Stein are former members of Greenhouse 27. Drummer Mark Buchwald joined them from Deaf Children at Play. Dave Burzenko adds an ambiguous DJ element as the band's "mixmaster," an addition that is largely indecipherable on the CD. Bellacore, which means beautiful soul in Italian, started recording with the original four members, with Richey and Burzenko joining later.

Though "Sooner or Later" received some airplay on 107.9-FM/WENZ, the band doesn't expect commercial radio to put Bellacore into rotation. "Even if the radio stations aren't going to play us, we want to defy that," Stein says. Bellacore seems to be doing just that, spreading the word through word of mouth, college radio, and the support of Belkin Productions, which booked the band at the Odeon to open for the Fixx and the Afghan Whigs, among others. Bellacore has signed with All Out Entertainment, a management company that has brought on public relations firm Simpson/Carnegie to help increase media attention.

The band spent three summer months recording from morning to night, a freedom allowed it by the management company. Having a personal manager takes the band to a new level. "We're a product, and we're being marketed, so it's a taste of what it might be like to be on a label, because expenses are covered. But at the same time there's somebody to answer to. We can't just be a silly rock band; we can't go out and get drunk," Stein says.

He is coached to not "talk bad about anything, talk great about everything." He may need to invest in some extra coaching sessions. The band listened to local CDs while recording, and Stein isn't afraid to declare, "Most local CDs sound flat. They don't sound like they have any character, they sound like the band struggled to put something on tape."

Bellacore hopes to be the band that breaks out of Cleveland, an accomplishment that, according to Stein, hasn't happened here in twenty years. He cites Michael Stanley as an example of a musician who, though successful locally, was relatively unheard of outside the region. "We'd like to inject energy into the Cleveland scene."

Bellacore CD release show. Friday, January 15, the Odeon, 1295 Old River Rd., the Flats, $5, 1-888-Odeon-88.