The Belvederes, a dynamic blues-rock-soul group out of northwest suburb Bartlett, is part of a dying breed in today’s indie music scene. The band’s unique blend of old-school Americana and modern, soulful vocals set it apart from Chicago’s wide array of “bar bands,” and the group’s high energy performances should have any audience on the dance floor in minutes.
Formed in 2011 by lead singer and guitarist John Michael Ford and drummer Joe Alonzo, The Belvederes has played numerous venues around Chicago, including Fitzgerald’s (6615 W. Roosevelt Road) and Martyrs’ (3855 N. Lincoln Ave.). Since its formation, the band gained two members, bassist Tyler Kock and guitarist Joe Nocchi, and released two studio albums, “The Belvederes” and “Beggar’s Heart.”
The PHOENIX sat down with Ford to discuss The Belvederes’ formation, style and future.
Ford said he and Alonzo have been friends since they were 12 years old due to Ford’s uncle and Alonzo’s dad playing together in bands throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. Years later, Ford said Alonzo recruited two of his friends from school, Kock and Nocchi, to join the group.
Ford said The Belvederes’ Americana sound has been embraced more than he expected since the band began playing around the city.
“When we started playing clubs out in [Chicago], we found a lot of love for really unapologetic, traditional country music, which I didn’t really realize,” he said. “There’s a lot of love for roots music, which is good for us.”
The Belvederes isn’t primarily a country band — it dabbles in enough genres where it can claim itself a resident of many, depending on the night. Of the band’s two released albums, Ford said the latter, “Beggar’s Heart,” better represents the group’s true sound.
“[The album] has the R&B stuff, the power-pop stuff, the rockabilly stuff — it touches on all that,” Ford said. “Whereas the first [album] was kind of a ‘four on the floor’ rock record, which I don’t think is really what we are.”
In addition to Ford and Nocchi writing most of The Belvederes’ songs, the band is well known for its energized covers of classic tunes, such as “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” by the late, great Tom Petty, “Valerie” by The Zutons and “Bring It On Home To Me” by Sam Cooke.
Ford said playing covers is just as important for songwriters as writing their own songs.
“[Playing covers] is what makes you a good writer,” Ford said. “You can’t be a good writer in any discipline without studying the craft. You can’t be a good songwriter without playing a lot of covers and learning how songs are structured.”
It’s getting harder and harder to find bands like The Belvederes in Chicago’s indie music scene. Among the sea of cheap, repetitive bar bands, The Belvederes is able to find its own unique style within its homage to the roots of American music.
Ford said he doesn’t see the group stopping anytime soon.
“We’ve got a pretty good handful of new songs that we’d like to record sooner [rather] than later,” Ford said. “We plan to play as much as we can.”
The Belvederes will perform April 20 at 4 Points Whiskey Saloon and Grill (6744 Medinah Road) in Medinah, Illinois. Both of the band’s albums can be purchased and streamed on iTunes and Spotify, respectively.