Deep thoughts

Jake Bellows reassesses music with Deep Ocean

Jake Bellows (on motorcycle) zooms by his dog, Dragon, riding shotgun in another vehicle.

Jake Bellows (on motorcycle) zooms by his dog, Dragon, riding shotgun in another vehicle.

PHOTO courtesy of big hassle

Jake Bellows performs tonight, July 3, 8 p.m., at Café Coda. Zach Zeller & the Crooked Timbers and Rick Barnett open.
Cost: $5

Café Coda
265 Humboldt Ave.

The description on Jake Bellows’ website for his forthcoming debut, New Ocean, might come off as a bit new-agey. He quotes Nikola Tesla. And Bellows says with this album he wanted “to create the world he wants to see instead of reflect the world that is.” Bellows is aware of how this might come off to some. After speaking with him, though, he’s really just an indie-rock dude who’s trying to make some sense of it all. His philosophy: Make music that creates conversation rather than just entertains. And, of course, keep things positive.

“I have songs that say ‘The world’s an awful place and I just want to die,’” Bellows explained during a recent stop in Portland. “But I sort of regret making that kind of music.”

For the past decade, Bellows has been the main man behind Omaha, Neb., five-piece Neva Dinova, a band known for its raw, not-always-pretty lyrics. The band went on hiatus in 2010, and Bellows subsequently relocated to Los Angeles. Needless to say, his personality didn’t immediately jibe with the “hustle to win” mentality of L.A., and he found himself semi-reluctantly taking time off from performing.

The time away had given Bellows time to reassess his relationship with music. He was reading Joseph Campbell, whose work in comparative mythology was heavily influenced by his fascination with the human experience. The feel-good phrase “Follow your bliss”? That’s Campbell. Although Bellows has sort of redirected his purpose for creating art—as he puts it, to put a “positive frequency” out in the world—he insists he hasn’t altogether lost the more visceral pleasure of making music.

“I knew I liked playing music, but I wasn’t sure exactly why I did it,” Bellows explained. “I don’t think I’ve lost sight of that—I’m just using that passion for good.”

It actually took the nudging of some former members of Neva Dinova to get Bellows to record music again, going as far as booking his studio time in order to get his bits of songs to see the light of day. Recording New Ocean was pretty simple. Bellows returned to Omaha to finish writing and recording some 30 songs with his longtime friends (including The Faint’s Todd Fink).

“It was pretty organic how it came together,” Bellows said. “There was no rehearsal. We did continuous takes where you either catch it or you don’t.”

New Ocean—which will be released in August on his friend Conor Oberst’s Saddle Creek label—is a varied album filled with 11 pop songs that veer from warm and fuzzy to delicate and dark. The title track is the immediate stand-out, building and swelling like the body of water it depicts, while “Frequency,” a song that might best sum up the record, is more jaunty and sunny.

Sticking with Bellows’ philosophy, playing these songs in a room full of people might be more important than recording them. “I like both,” says Bellows. “It’s much better than my day job, which—I’m not complaining—puts food on the table, but it sure is good to be back on the road.”