Belly’s website didn’t exist before the band’s announcement, in early 2016, of their reunion. At the top is the band’s logo, surrounded in a circle by eight birds in flight; not phoenixes denoting rebirth, but a continuation of the “small plastic animal models” that drummer – and Belly graphic ‘director’ – Chris Gorman still favours. “We fell in love with them when Chris found them,” recalls Tanya Donelly, Belly’s singer, songwriter and mother hen. “I love the fact they leave shadows. It’s also a bit of a full-circle thing, or that’s how I read it. It’s time passing, and seasonal, and it’s all coming back around.”
The birds also speak of flight, with the band airborne again 20 years grounded after splitting (coincidentally mirroring 4AD labelmates Lush’s similar timeline) for live shows, a potential 10” EP and a re-release – on double white marbled vinyl – of a remastered and repackaged Star, Belly’s 1993 album debut – a special record, not just for its nervy fizz-bomb melodies, dazed ballads and guitar-pop classicism but its unexpected success; following Pixies, it was the label's best-selling record by that point.
For Donelly, Star was just the beginning of one heady and glorious chapter in her life relating to 4AD, which harks back to 1986, when Throwing Muses were the first US signing to the label – and only her step-sister and Muses cohort Kristin Hersh was signed to the label for longer than Donelly. There was a relatively brief tie-up with Pixies bassist Kim Deal in The Breeders, and after Belly, eight years under her own name, before she left 4AD in 2005 and chose work - as a postpartum doula, helping mothers adjust to their babies – you wonder if Donnelly knew something when she named the band Belly.
Her absence from music only ended in 2014 with the five-volume Swan Song Series that, as its title suggests, was intended to be a farewell of sorts. As it turns out, Belly are reborn. But the first birth of note is Donelly’s own, in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1966…
Donelly: “I was born to very young parents, it was a teen pregnancy, they were hippies - which wasn’t a dirty word then – and huge music lovers. Both worked for a folk festival, so there was constantly loud music on, Dylan, Joan Baez, Neil Young, the Beatles and the Stones, Joni Mitchell. Mum was more about female folk, and dad was the rocker.”