Music

Totalbell rocks Taos to Denmark

Band is steeped in doo wop, rockabilly and comic book sensibilities

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If you like comic book characters, have an affinity for vinyl and perk up when you hear storied lyrics, doo-wop harmonies, and rockabilly, let me introduce you to a band that will steal your heart.

For the past decade, Totalbell, has been having a heck of a fun time making music and developing cross-continental friendships. The band is based in Denmark with Danish as well as American members, including Taos botanist Lillis Urban.

You can experience Totalbell today (Nov. 30) from 9 p.m. until midnight at the Alley Cantina, 121 Teresina Lane.

Totalbell was created by a group of friends who have been playing music together for the past 20 years, although the band has been around for the past 10.

“It’s mostly a recording project between me and a friend with a studio,” lead singer-songwriter Mads Aabo said. “We invited people to join us, and one of them was Lillis. Twice she’s been to Denmark, twice for these recordings. We have made two records during the last 10 years.”

The two albums, pressed on vinyl, were recorded at the studio of Jesper “Backdoor Red” Folke, a place called “Folke’s Garage.” The studio is a “personal playground” for the group of musical friends, Aabo said.

“There’s A New Girl Working in the Old Comic Store” was recorded from 2007-2012 and released in 2013. The next album, a double record with 21 tracks called “Maggie Malaise,” was recorded from 2013-2016 and released this year.

“The first one was very much a garage-style record … we didn’t have a lot of good equipment. It has a low-fi, garage-style sound. It has a lot of harmonies and back-up singers. We like to put a lot of voices in there, and are big fans of country doo-wop music,” Aabo said.

He said the music was influenced by American music combined with comic-book inspired stories and characters. All told, there were 12 musicians who worked on “There’s A New Girl Working in the Old Comic Store.”

As soon as the group finished recording their first album, they began work on their second one.

The double-record format of “Maggie Malaise” allowed for Totalbell to take more creative freedom in the kinds of songs they included.

“You can put a lot of strange things on it. It doesn’t have to be so coherent. It’s allowed us to go in different directions,” Aabo said.

For “Maggie Malaise,” Urban came over to Denmark for a month to write songs and sing duets and back-up harmonies. The record includes a few of the songs that Urban wrote.

Both albums are colorfully illustrated by Aabo who is a comic book artist as well as a musician. Aabo studied comic book art while in art school in Barcelona, Spain. But, his adventures really took off when he made friends with an American while visiting the French Pyrenees. That American invited Aabo to the United States and introduced him to his then-girlfriend, Lillis Urban.

Recalling that introduction, Urban said, “I was working at the time, and I was really busy, dedicated to my job. I said to [my boyfriend], ‘These are your friends coming, I’m busy.’” But Aabo and Urban ended up playing music together for hours and creatively bonding. Urban requested a two-week vacation and went on a trip with her boyfriend and Aabo to places like New Orleans, the Mississippi Delta and Memphis, Tennessee — places where the blues and rock-and-roll were formed.

This time around, Ida Aabo (who is also a member of Totalbell) is joining her husband Mads for another road trip through the United States from Los Angeles to Florida. They are traveling with their children who are budding musicians themselves.

“I like doing things together as a family. Everything is work, the daily taking care of kids. We have a small music room back home. It’s lovely to have space, this room of music, where you can step out of the hamster wheel and do something else,” Ida said.

For their Taos show, Totalbell is teaming up with local musicians Willie Hunton and Audra Rodgers.

For more information, visit totalbellband.bandcamp.com or call the venue at (575) 758-2121.

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