20 Jun 2021

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Upon entering her family home, it wouldn’t come as a surprise that creativity is a part of Bella Cook’s fabric. 

Covering one wall is a print of an anarchist nun jauntily biking through Christchurch in the 80's - a photograph taken by her dad. Elsewhere, wicker baskets and colourful trinkets are scattered around the house; souvenirs collected by her mother on various journeys.

Born the youngest of four in an intentional community of close-knit families, there was never a shortage of noise or stories to be told in Bella’s home. With quirky neighbours knocking on the door at all hours and sharing rooms with foster siblings she quickly developed a fascination with human behaviour. Long summers were spent road tripping around the backblocks of New Zealand where a steady soundtrack of Wilco, Neil Young, Crowded House and Bic Runga was indelibly pressed into her subconscious. Listening to her dad’s imaginative bedtime tales and her Mum’s exuberant retelling of real-life exploits provided the backdrop of daily life. Within these creative surroundings, songwriting didn’t come naturally for Bella. She was more occupied with short story writing, photography and performing to her unwilling family audience. 

She stumbled upon songwriting by happy accident: when a classmate in primary school shared an original song one day, she took it as a challenge to do the same. Putting pen to paper, she shared the song the next day. Still, with no intention of pursuing music seriously, Cook found herself constantly drawn back to songwriting’s storytelling abilities and by the end of high school she had began lugging a tape recorder around, catching snippets of glittery melodies and frank observations on daily life. Tucked away in her bedroom she found solace in the likes of Frankie Cosmos, who let her songs just be. She began to craft her artist voice, adding music to her observations on friends, food, dreams, (the ones you have at night) and all the other things that keep teenage girls from sleeping. 

Taking on the artist moniker Belladonna, her observations about the quirks of everyday life became loaded one-liners, like “the aftertaste of you waits in the room, dancing flames in the fire, ashes in the morning”. These biographical lyrics paired with catchy melodies became the trademark of her fun blend of bedroom pop.

In 2019 she moved to Auckland to finally put music at the forefront. Hunkered down at Parachute Studios, she wrote an impressive batch of songs, dipped her feet into co-writing and began committing her quirky pop tunes to tape. She found a kindred spirit in Shannon Fowler, the brains behind alt-pop outfit Tom Lark. With Fowler at the helm, Belladonna’s debut release took shape, full of driving guitars, synths, and colourful embellishments set against unapologetically Kiwi vocals. 

With a well-honed knack for musical storytelling, Belladonna’s debut outing sees her trading in the tape recorder for a handful of pop song souvenirs that capture the quirk and romance of everyday life. You’re gonna want to collect the whole set.

Band Members:
Bella Cook


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