Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist Elliot Bergman and his singing-guitar-slinging kid sister Natalie — aka Wild Belle — have never met a challenge they couldn’t handle.
Yet they were rattled a bit over the holidays at Chris Blackwell’s 2,500-acre Jamaican estate, Pantrepant, having been invited to DJ the Island Records executive’s gala New Year’s Eve bash.
“It was our most high-pressure gig of all time,” Elliot says.
Wild Belle — appearing at Bimbo’s this week, promoting “Dreamland,” its new sophomore recording — received the coveted assignment midway through 2015.
Immediately, the pressure started mounting. How does one wow the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who signed U2, Bob Marley and other legends?
“We went on a record shopping spree for the next four months, just trying to make sure we had all our bases covered,” Elliott says. “And because you could only DJ vinyl there, we wanted to have actual 45s of all the stuff we wanted to play.”
Blackwell was so impressed, he invited the Bergmans back to spin at this season’s bash.
The eclectic, exotic pop duo delights in exceeding expectations.
When Elliot, who studied gamelan music in college, first forged the group five years ago with his folk-leaning sister, they arrived at a breezy, dub-echoed 2013 debut, “Isles.”
But the elder Bergman also was paying the rent with his homemade kalimbas, and he had a Chicago gallery exhibition of solo works called “Praxis,” featuring detailed pen-and-ink drawings and “EB”-engraved bronze bells cast in his basement foundry.
“It’s an insanely labor-intensive process” he says of the molten-metal-into-wax-mold craft. “It’s this ancient technique that gets you involved both visually and musically, because the sound of the bells is equally important.”
To illustrate his point, Elliot employed his tintinnabulating creations in a hometown concert.
Natalie also is an artist. On tour and at her home studio, she makes complex, Max Ernst-like collages, using an X-Acto-blade on photographs from 1960s motorcycle magazines and her grandmother’s collection of vintage National Geographics. “It’s an extension of what’s going on in my brain. I like cutting things up and creating a world where nobody’s ever been before,” she says.
Modern dance also figures into the Wild Belle schematic. The Philippa Price-directed video the “Dreamland” single “Our Love Will Survive” – like many of the band’s clips – was filmed in Jamaica, with Natalie fronting a choreographed local troupe.
“Not to sound too hippy-dippy, but we want to move people,” she says. “When we’re writing music, we want it to affect other people and ultimately bring them together.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus Ave., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. May 14
Tickets: $18 (sold out)
Contact: (415) 474-0365, www.ticketfly.com