New Audio: Los Angeles’ Fatal Jamz Shares an Ethereal and Yearning Bop

Marion Belle is a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, who over the better part of the past decade, has released material as a solo artist, with late, longtime collaborator Sam Mehran, Yves Tumor’s Sean Bowie, and with his primary gig, Fatal Jamz.

With Fatal Jamz, Belle has toured with Sky Ferreira, Smiths Westerns, Lemon Twigs and Christopher Owens and a lengthy list of others. Back during the fall of 2018, Belle was closing out a raucous two year record cycle supporting his full-length debut Coverboy, an album that i-D called “a glam rock Romeo & Juliet.”

Returning to Los Angeles with a batch of new songs and fans craving more music, Belle was looking for ways to produce another album. Around that time, he met Sam Mehran, a London-based musician and producer, who quickly achieved fame, as a co-founder of Test Icicles, a band that he started with his friends Dev Hynes and Rory Atwell. Mehran was an obsession to all who knew him: At once kind, generous and warm, hilarious, brilliant, he would frequently vanish into a world of his own. As it turned out, he was used to being alone, or with his guitar, since he left home at 18.

One night, while in his secret world, Mehran hoped on a flight to Portland, OR, slipping out of the UK and out of Test Icicles forever. By the time, he had answered an email introduction and met Belle outside an East Los Angeles lockout, Mehran’s myth and work had traveled through a decade’s worth of talismanic lo-fi albums released under a variety of handles.

Upon his return to Los Angeles — and the neighborhood he called his spiritual home, the British-born producer and musician had tapped into a wildly prolific period, producing Samantha Urbani’s Policies of Power EP, Puro Instinct‘s Autodrama and Ssion’s 2018 full-length 0.

“He was tapped at the time we met,” said Belle. “He was like, man I’m tired of sitting behind laptops and doing this (mimics typing.) He was like, ‘I don’t care man.’” Spiritually wiped and struggling to come out of a painful place, and feeling cast aside, he and Belle found shared ground. “In my own way I was in a similar place. But we started writing right away because for both of us making music, the process of it, was always the solution, it was always the answer. 

Between February and late July wrote about ten tracks. “Promenade,” was written the first day they met. “I told Sam I was into the Bad Boy Records‘ production and played him a Mase song. We basically jumped into it from there. When we wrote “Way of Life,” we knew that we had an album because that song epitomized the kind of ride or die songs we both wanted to make. That song was our baby because it’s about how music is the way of life. 

On July 21, 2018 Belle dropped Mehran off at his apartment after spending the day in Van Nuys scoring a pair of NS-10 speakers. Mehran was set to mix their EP the next day. But tragically, that would be the last time the Belle would see Mehran again.

Sometime on July 27, 2018 Mehran committed suicide, succumbing to mental health challenges and demons he had battled throughout most of his life. “I think that our bond was profound because we both felt, after all we had each been through, we had been brought together for a reason,” Belle says of his collaboration and friendship with Mehran. “And that reason was to help each other to not give up. Sam lived and created in a different way. It was actual magic. And I knew every day that this chance to create with him was going to be one of the greatest treasures of my life. He was incredibly happy and up, up to that very last day we were together. We were going to take on the world, defeat all our own curses, and he was going to be everything he ever wanted to be. In losing Sam, so many people lost the light of their life. And the world lost so much incredible music.”

Belle’s long-awaited sophomore, full-length Fatal Jamz album is forthcoming.I’m sure more details will be coming in the near future. But in the meantime, the album’s second and latest single, the ethereal “Eternity” is centered around gentle layers of atmospheric synths and twinkling keys paired with a sinuous bass line, glistening guitars, a propulsive back beat and Belle’s achingly plaintive vocals. Written in the months following Mehran’s death, “Eternity” sonically manages to subtly bring Avalon-era Roxy Music to mind, as the new single is rooted in heartbreak and unfathomable and inexplicable loss.

“This song, and the whole album really, came to me from another place, truly like a gift from the gods to help me make something beautiful out of all that and heal, move forward positively,” Belle says. “Moments of ecstasy are always present, like doors for us to open anytime we choose. When I sing ‘Eternity’ and enter the music, I open that eternal doorway and ascend.”