Rolling on veggie oil - Indie-folk band Bella Ruse comes to town in a van powered by vegetable oil

Bella Ruse, of Minneapolis, is scheduled to perform at Hi-Fidelity Lounge in Bremerton July 9.  - courtesy photo
Bella Ruse, of Minneapolis, is scheduled to perform at Hi-Fidelity Lounge in Bremerton July 9.
— image credit: courtesy photo

Kay Gillette and Joseph Barker will harness the power of vegetable oil donated by Chinese restaurants to bring them to Bremerton.

The two make up Bella Ruse, an indie-folk duo from Minneapolis, who are scheduled to perform — for the first time in Bremerton — at Hi-Fidelity Lounge July 9. Their mode of transportation is a diesel van that runs on used vegetable oil.

“We just go to restaurants that do a lot of frying and usually they say ‘Go for it,’” Barker, 26, said of obtaining their fuel. “We found that Chinese restaurants have good oil.”

They said their sound is similar to how “Feist would sound like if she played a mean kazoo.” Their dedication to earth-friendly transportation makes financial sense, they said. Their albums are packaged in recycled cardboard stock with no plastic wrapping. In the past year, the two have saved about $5,000 by running on their diesel and vegetable oil-powered van. Sometimes in an eight to 10 hour day of driving, they are able to run on vegetable oil the entire time, Gillette said.

“People need to see that being green doesn’t have to be real expensive. You can be green and eco-friendly and thrifty,” Barker said.

But aside from being eco-friendly and promoting that lifestyle, they believe their indie-folk rock music is fun and easy to listen to — they incorporate the use of instruments such as the kazoo and typewriter used for percussion. Barker plays guitar, bass, drums, tambourine and kazoo. Gillette performs vocals in addition to playing piano, typewriter and kazoo.

They compose their own songs though usually not together.

“It’s hard to sit down and write a song together. One of us goes away and writes the skeleton and the other person fills it in,” said Gillette, 25.

The band’s tour began the beginning of June in Atlanta and will conclude mid-July in Minnesota. Bella Ruse formed in February 2009 and has performed in Seattle and Bellingham before but this will be the band’s first visit to the west side of Puget Sound. Another independent band had recommended doing a gig in Bremerton.w

Kelly O’Brien, owner of Hi-Fidelity, thinks Bremerton offers more personal attention to bands than a bigger city does. Hi-Fidelity books a lot of “soul americana and” indie-pop music gigs but that singers and bands run “the whole gambit,” O’Brien said.

And bands typically return for shows at the venue regardless of whether they are local, she added.

“In Seattle it’s fairly anonymous. They come in and do their show and then they leave,” O’Brien. “Here they get a lot of recognition for what they’re doing.”

Aside from recognition they may receive, Bella Ruse looks forward to communicating with their listeners.

“We write about things that are important to us. We like to be happy just like everyone else. We play music that is happy,” Barker said.

Their latest album, “Kuhzoo,” was released in January and money to produce it was raised through Kickstarter, an online fundraising platform that helps artists receive donations from fans.

“To have our fans involved and committed to our music likes that — it’s amazing,” Barker said.

Although they enjoy meeting their fans and collaborating with other traveling artists — they are planning to put together a remix album of “Kuhzoo” performed by other musicians — being on the road as artists has its challenges.

“If you want to become a teacher, doctor or lawyer, there’s a path — you go to school, meet the right people and you can do that if you want to. Being a musician, that path doesn’t exist,” Barker said.

Gillette and Barker not only perform but they manage the band themselves which includes the business aspect of things. And, they are their own chauffeurs.

“Our van breaks down a lot,” Gillette said with a laugh.

But when that happens, they fix it and drive on.

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