Unwrapped: Charlie Belle – What Is This

We had a chance to chat with stirring sibling duo Charlie Belle about their powerful new single ‘What Is This’

Jendayi and Gyasi Bonds are Charlie Belle, a thoughtful and outspoken sibling duo who’s nuanced, powerful sound is often packed full of messages and themes that are as hard-hitting and immersive as their sound is smooth, making for a multi-faceted and thought-provoking appeal that captivates for a litany of reasons.

The latest release from the pair is ‘What Is This’, a track that exemplifies everything that makes their sound and style feel so impactful and real, with the duo exploring the anxiety that comes with being young and black in a post-George Floyd world. The thoughtful apprehension of the lyrics provides a stark contrast to the smooth, textured nature of the instrumental throughout the track, with Gyasi’s laid-back, soulful, grooves and the rawness Jendayi’s words making for an interesting dichotomy where their styles are amplified and enhanced by their differences. This makes ‘What Is This’ an endlessly interesting release to dissect and pick apart, both thanks to the intoxicating allure of the sound and its sobering lyrics. We had a chat with Jendayi to do just that, and allow the artist to unpack some of the themes and fears explored in the track while detailing how it came to life.

Hey! We love your new single ‘What Is This’, what more can you tell us about it?

Thank you!! We love it too. ‘What Is This’ lyrically explores anxiety and the sinister ways it can disrupt the otherwise very normal, everyday things that we experience. I’m specifically speaking to my anxiety, of course, but the goal behind the lyrics was to universally connect us all through an experience that feels very personal and individualized, despite being an extremely universal feeling.

What was the process like putting it together?

I’d say putting this song together was one of the easiest times we’ve had collaborating on a track. The first few lines were living somewhere in my notes app and had been for my last two years of college. When the 2020 lockdown went into effect, Gyasi and I found ourselves living with our parents again, with a lot of extra time on our hands. Gyasi’s been producing tracks for years but we finally found a way to combine the newness of the sounds that we’re cultivating now with the timelessness of the sounds we’ve always had. So anyways, Gyasi and I sat down at our dining room table and listened to the tracks they had been creating. When I heard ‘What Is This’ it was like butter to my ears. I immediately could picture the lines from my notes app in the melody the song is in now. We wrote that song in like, an hour. I don’t think I’ve ever written something so deeply important to me so quickly.

What were your biggest influences when creating the track?

Gyasi and I both love such a wide range of music that it becomes really fun listening for the influences we either knowingly or unknowingly make when we make music together. For this song in particular, Mac Miller really comes to mind – his production is just as intimate as his songwriting, and we wanted to capture a similar feeling of introspection in our track. The “bams” you hear in the hook pay homage to Sister Nancy, whose music and others’ like it practically raised us alongside so many other musical styles.

How do you find the dynamic of writing and formulating tracks as a sibling duo?

When Gyasi and I were younger, it could be more challenging to create together – we were both so young and so passionate, without having the wisdom to appreciate that our different perspectives is quite literally our strength as creatives. These days, we really lean on one another to hear things in our music that the other can’t, or to try things in our songs that the other wouldn’t. It feels very seamless at this point, we’ve been putting songs together for 14 years now, and our styles pretty effortlessly blend and evolve together.

What else do you have planned for the near future?

We’ve amassed a backlog of tons of original music, and especially explore new sounds that we never have before in our new music. You’ll be seeing and hearing from us a lot more often these days, and we’re excited to re-introduce ourselves.