Wild Bells was formed in 2011 by singer/songwriter/guitarist Pete Ficht and drummer Scott Pettitt. Originally designed as a showcase for Pete's material, over the years the band became more collaborative with other members sharing in lead vocals and songwriting. (For example, on the Wild Bells album, Pete solely wrote 9 of the 11 songs. On the more recent May Pang EP, all 4 songs were co-writes.)

In December of 2015, Pete moved with his family to Bend, in central Oregon, putting the band on an indefinite hiatus. But Wild Bells still exists and hope to record a new album in 2016. No live shows are currently planned.

In the meantime, Pete is performing solo shows In Bend and working on finishing the rock musical Senioritis, co-written by the Emmy award-winning, Chicago-based writer Joe Janes. Read the full Wild Bells bio here and see more photos here and videos here.

MAY PANG (2015)

EP PRESS RELEASE

How can 12 minutes of music take a year to record and release? While not on a level of “Chinese Democracy” craziness, the sessions for Wild Bells’ new EP May Pang (& 3 other songs they sang) were a tumultuous and challenging time. Eager to record a follow-up to their 2013 self-titled debut album (produced by Tony Lash of Heatmiser / Elliott Smith & Dandy Warhols fame), the band decided to record a quick EP in August of 2014 to have something out by the end of the year.

But after finishing the initial sessions at Mazinga Studio (run by KIng Black Acid main man Daniel Riddle), the sextet lost two members. Then gained two new members. And then lost another. New parts had to be written and learned. One song was entirely re-arranged from the ground up in the studio. The sessions dragged on, but after 5 months they were ready to mix.

Then disaster struck when a catastrophic hard drive failure destroyed the Pro Tools files for two of the four songs. The band reconvened in the studio to start re-recording the lost songs. “Not only did we have to re-record those two songs”, jokes band leader Pete Ficht, “but in general we kind of forgot we were just doing an EP and put an album’s worth of hooks and guitar tracks into those four songs. So that took forever, too.”

Ficht has a point, as these songs are densely melodic and thick with guitar and keyboard textures and layers of vocal harmonies. It may have “taken forever”, but you can certainly hear the effort put into it.

While Ficht had been the main singer and songwriter on the debut album, here he shares those duties with the rest of the band. All four songs are co-writes between Ficht and other members. Bassist Sean Tichenor takes the lead vocal on “Still Summer”, departed vocalist Ellen Louise Osborn sings “Wimbledon Bardot” while Ficht shares the mic with new singer Rachel Coddington on “May Pang”. And “Shining On” features Ficht on the verses and Tichenor on the bridges.

"May Pang" kicks things off with a drums and clavinet intro from Scott Pettitt and Sean Farrell before the wall of guitars and FIcht and Coddington’s harmonies enter - evoking summer sweetness, past regrets and ex-Beatle paramours, all in a nifty minute and a half. The wistful paean to John Lennon’s girlfriend during his mid-70s exile in Los Angeles took Ficht somewhat by surprise. “I had the melody and just kept singing ‘May Pang, la la la la’ over and over,” recalls Ficht. “Then Ellen helped me out by writing those really sweet lyrics and fleshing out a story. Halfway through recording the song, it kind of dawned on me that, oh yeah - this song is about a real, living person. Uh… hopefully, she’ll like it!”

No word from May Pang yet. Continuing the seasonal theme, we move onto "Still Summer", featuring Tichenor on lead vocal. A dark and moody verse bursts (say that three times fast) into walls of interlocking harmonies, making us wonder if this is what a Nick Cave/Brian Wilson collaboration might sound like. “I always get slightly melancholy at the end of summer and that somehow morphed into a metaphor about accepting death and enjoying the present. The perfect ingredients for a pop song, right?” laughs Ficht. Right.

Up next, we have a change of pace with "Wimbledon Bardot" - the sound of which only be described as “Pacific NorthWes Anderson”. Fingerpicked guitar, mellotron and harpsichord, along with Osborn’s winsome vocal and lyrics about the late ‘60s Pop Artist Pauline Boty certainly recalls something off the soundtrack of Rushmore. Though Jeff Porter’s pedal steel and mandolin helps to add a new flavor. “We were afraid it was getting a little too precious, so we brought in the pedal steel, mandolin and lead bass to give it a little Portland rootsiness,” Ficht explains. Yup, nothing says Portland like lead bass.

And we finish out the EP with "Shining On", an improbable meeting of Krautrock and Cheap Trick (Krautrick?) that the band manages to pull off with aplomb. Ficht and Coddington breathily harmonize on the verses and chorus, while Tichenor snarls through the bridges. Cascading vocals usher us out as the band fades away in the distance, a testament to Daniel Riddle’s engineering skills. “This one really got weird on us. It started out as a kind of quiet fingerpicking tune and then changed on us a few times,” explains Ficht. “But we’re super excited on where it ended up.” And hopefully, so are you. See you next time.

Also available on iTunesAmazonSpotify, Bandcamp

EP CREDITS
01. May Pang
(words: Ellen Louise Osborn / music: Pete Ficht) 
02. Still Summer
(words/music: Pete Ficht & Sean Tichenor) 
03. Wimbledon Bardot
(words: Ellen Louise Osborn / music: Sean Farrell & Pete Ficht) 
04. Shining On
(words: Pete Ficht / music: Sean Farrell & Pete Ficht)

Produced by Pete Ficht and Daniel Riddle
Engineered and mixed by Daniel Riddle
Recorded at Mazinga Studio in Portland, Oregon, August 2014 - June 2015
Mastered by Jeff Stuart Saltzman
Artwork by Eric Coddington

Copyright 2015 Pasture Records. All rights reserved.

WILD BELLS:
Rachel Coddington: vocals
Pete Ficht: vocals, acoustic and electric guitar
Scott Pettitt: drums and percussion
Jeff Porter: lead guitar, mandolin and pedal steel
Sean Tichenor: vocals, bass

Ex-Bells and guests:
Sean Farrell: keyboards (1, 2, 3, 4)
Frank Huston: lead guitar (2, 4)
Ellen Louise Osborn: vocals (2, 3)
Mark Pickett: lead guitar (2, 3)
Daniel Riddle: vocals (1) and acoustic guitar (4)

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WILD BELLS (2013)

ALBUM PRESS RELEASE

Dateline Portland: 
Fresh from the land of beer, beards, and puckish hipster satire, comes Wild Bells, a thoroughly enchanting (and sorely needed) sextet of veteran musicians that thankfully fell together from a host of crucial and influential local bands. King Black Acid, State Flowers, James Angell, The Quags, Mission 5, Big Daddy Meatstraw and The She Bee Gees are just a smattering of the notable Northwest names that helped birth this bunch. 

Just as the band’s pop smarts and marvelous battery of songs come from every nook and cranny across the sonic spectrum, Wild Bells, its self-titled debut album (which drops October 15), is a laser light show of esoteric daring seasoned with sincerity and superior craftsmanship. Produced by longtime Elliott Smith collaborator Tony Lash, with some studio assistance from King Black Acid mastermind Daniel Riddle, the album was funded by a well-armed Kickstarter campaign. And true to its we-the-people roots, the 11 tunes on Wild Bells truly represent—they’re as singular and adventurous as the madcap citizens of this fair metropolis.

So whether you’re lolling your noggin to the heavenly psychedelic chorus of “Skyscraper” or getting misty over “Parasite,” a devastating love-gone-wrong song, the blazing collective pedigree of Wild Bells shines through on every note. 

Guitarist, songwriter, and primary singer Pete Ficht has juggled everything from folk-punk to power pop to trailer-park twang during his three-decade career. Bassist/singer Sean Tichenor (he sings “Parasite” and “Lunchbox”) and keyboardist Sean Farrell were called upon to invent mad spontaneous sounds and rigorously avoid clichés during their tenure with King Black Acid, a group that was as inventive and anti-formula as any in Northwest rock history. 

Drummer Scott Pettitt brings the timekeeping precision of a studio stud, but shows time and again that he’s not afraid to get his toms dirty; check out the irresistible tribal boom-boom on “Carrion” or his loose-groove finesse on “Housewarming Party.” 

Craig Stahr has served as guitar hero-for-hire in groups like The Quags and Mission 5 and his thorough knowledge of riffs is evident on “The Light” where he kicks up a genuine country ruckus. And on the last minute and a half of the towering “Skyscraper” the nimble picker has a glorious, mind-blowing meltdown that lights up the night. 

Former She Bee Gees singer Ellen Louise Osborn adds her own pillowy voice to an already formidable array of harmonies and takes a gently mocking lead vocal on “Golden Boy” a sardonic gem about youth wasted on the young. 

Considering the combined experience and wisdom of the players involved, it’s not terribly surprising that time and regret are recurring themes on this album. Look no further than “Precious Time” a whip-crack power-pop anthem about making the most of your minutes here on this mudball. And without coming right and saying so, Wild Bells want you to know that complete immersion into this album is time well spent.

- John Chandler, October 2013

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved

Also available on iTunesAmazonSpotify, Bandcamp

ALBUM CREDITS

01. Precious Time
(words/music: Pete Ficht) 
02. Carrion
(words/music: Pete Ficht) 
03. Parasite
(words/music: Pete Ficht) 
04. Housewarming Party
(words/music: Pete Ficht) 
05. Skyscraper
(words/music: Pete Ficht) 
06. Beauty Mark

(words: Pete Ficht/music: Wild Bells) 
07. Lunchbox
(words/music: Pete Ficht) 
08. The Light

(words/music: Pete Ficht) 
09. Golden Boy
(words: Paul Custodio & Pete Ficht/music: Pete Ficht) 
10. Never Learn (Not to Learn)

(words/music: Pete Ficht) 
11. Curtain Call
(words/music: Pete Ficht) 

Produced, mixed and mastered by Tony Lash
Tracks 1 - 8 recorded and engineered by Tony Lash at The Magic Closet and Daniel Riddle at Mazinga Studio, June - August 2013. Track 9 recorded and engineered by Daniel Riddle.
Tracks 10 & 11 recorded and engineered by Tony Lash at The Magic Closet and Mandible Studio, January - March 2012.
Artwork by Jolby.

WILD BELLS:
Sean Farrell: keyboards
Pete Ficht: lead vocals, rhythm & acoustic guitars. Plus keyboard and bass on "Never Learn" and "Curtain Call"
Ellen Louise Osborn: harmony vocals, lead vocal on "Golden Boy", co-lead vocal on "Precious Time"
Scott Pettitt: drums & percussion
Craig Stahr: lead guitar
Sean Tichenor: bass & harmony vocals, lead vocals on "Lunchbox" and "Parasite"

Guests:
Ezra Holbrook: backing vocals (11)
Jen Bernard: backing vocals (10, 11)
Tony Lash: percussion (10, 11)

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WILD BELLS BIO

Wild Bells, 2015. Photo by Eric Maxen.

Wild Bells, 2015. Photo by Eric Maxen.

A word to the wise: think twice before you put away those “childish things” (or even abandon them to Craigslist). There’s no statute of limitations on one’s right to rock despite what those blemishless TV faces would like us to believe. With age comes not only wisdom, but chops and perhaps a sense of humility that wasn’t present during the young and restless years of first-launch inspiration.

You don’t need to put 'em under a microscope to discover that the Wild Bells is a … ahem … “mature band.” The shameful lack of bedazzled jumpsuits and glossy hair product attests to a universal cavalier disregard of focus-group generated flair. Instead, all of that carefully measured consideration goes into Pete Ficht’s songs, that are then airdropped directly to you, the lucky listener.

You know Pete, how could you not? He’s that lanky guy from New Orleans, who moved here (Portland, duh!) in the mid-90s after a stellar stint down south with his group the House Levelers, a freewheeling folk-punk outfit that recorded an extremely promising record (Collectible? Sure, why not?) with Memphis legend Jim Dickinson (Hello? Big Star? Replacements, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins? Any of these ring a wild bell?)

Pete’s played guitar and bass in a ton of Portland groups over the eons, a characteristic he shares with his bandmates. House Levelers, Noisecandy, Joy Pop Turbo, State Flowers, and Lisa & Her Kin are some of the names on his crowded resume. Worthy bands all, Pete dabbled in everything from confectionary pop to desolate, bittersweet Americana to bang-and-twang trailer-park hootenanny. The man is a well-seasoned pro, one that usually takes a backseat to his costars. Not this time.

Pete sings and plays guitar with the Wild Bells, and most importantly, he’s writing the kind of infectious tunes that we would normally expect from people named Matthew Sweet or the dB’s. A little shimmery jingle-jangle, a yearning voice, and maybe a stray tumbleweed or two, all fixed to choruses so catchy they’re practically terminal. Now let’s meet the band!

Bassist Sean Tichenor and keyboardist Sean Farrell (the Seans!) were both members of King Black Acid, another ensemble that contained Pete Ficht for a time. Certainly one of Portland’s most distinctive and influential groups, KBA, under the direction of (rumored) time lord Daniel Riddle, had a lengthy and fruitful career bridging the chasm between the tremblingly sublime and utter chaos. It was from this boiling cauldron of mad genius that many versatile and formidable Portland players emerged.

Drummer Scott Pettit is an in-demand studio timekeeper as well as a hit man for hire with combos like Small Souls and State and Standard. Lead guitarist Craig Stahr has wowed the locals with his fleet fretwork in the Quags and Mission 5, while new singer Ellen Louise Osborn served memorable stints with Shee Bee Gees and faux French popsters Les Etrangers.

The Wild Bells manifest a whole that’s definitely greater than the sum of its disparate parts. All of the lessons these folks learned over the years in bands of every shape and description are now ripe and ready for a listen. And listen you will—the band's full-length debut is currently being recorded with veteran producer Tony Lash (Heatmiser, Sunset Valley) as well as KBA mastermind Daniel Riddle. Expect to see it fall from the sky some time in October.

Post-script: This note is obviously designed to whet your appetite with a bit of tasty rock 'n' roll hyperbole, but there is already keen interest in the Wild Bells. The album was financed with a successful $5,000 Kickstarter campaign that came from music-lovers just like you and me. Peace. 

- John Chandler, August 2013

UPDATE 09/02/15: 
In December of 2014, Jeff Porter replaced guitarist Mark Pickett (who had replaced founding member Craig Stahr at the beginning of 2014). And Rachel Coddington replaced Ellen Louise Osborn as harmony singer (and occasional lead vocalist). 

Keyboard player Sean Farrell left the band in August, 2015.

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