As Belcourt Theatre patrons file out after the last showing of the evening, theater employees Jessica Breanne and Jon Keller are just getting started.
From January to September this year, the duo spent many after-hours nights inside the theater’s stage area, dressing rooms and projection booths recording a new album, “Soundtrack,” for their musical group, The Electric Hearts.
An album release concert will mark one of the last events in the historic Hillsboro Village venue before it closes to undergo a scheduled six-month renovation the day after Christmas.
Vocalist Jessica Breanne has led the blues-rock group through a couple of variations since 2009 but teamed up with Keller to create the band’s new album, “Soundtrack,” as a duo. Breanne and Keller became obsessed with the rich history of the Belcourt after working on a research project for the theater, then asked their boss if they could turn the building into their musical playground after hours.
The Electric Hearts will hold an album release show at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Belcourt Theatre. Dillon Watson (D. Watusi, Savoy Motel) opens. Admission is free, with a cover charge to benefit the bands suggested. For reserved tickets and more information, go to www.belcourt.org.
“We became consumed with that place,” Breanne said in a recent phone interview, “so we really wanted to create something in there as well.”
Their employers agreed, and the two soon began staying until 7 a.m. at times, writing and recording material. Recording an album this way had its setbacks: exhaustion, for one. Then there were the uneasy, spooky vibes that come with a building that has been around since Calvin Coolidge was in the White House. Aside from some unnerving voices and a possible sighting of the “Belcourt Ghost,” Breanne says the biggest factor that came into play was the isolation of being alone in such a big place.
“There’s been so many emotions that have happened in there for 90 years,” Breanne said. “It’s housed extreme happiness, sadness, fear, anger and delight through films, plays and other creative endeavors. That energy stays there. It’s kind of corny, but if you listen, (the energy) was the easiest stuff to create. It was already there — we just had to listen.”
The theater talked, and The Electric Hearts listened. The feelings the duo latched onto had a musical impact on “Soundtrack,” with the first half of the album fitting into a darker, morose realm of rock. Think of the gothic blues-rock of Jack White or the grim tone of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”
But the latter half of the album comes from the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of coming from the inner workings of the theater, it comes from walking out its doors and “watching the city wake up,” as Breanne puts it. This brighter tone allows for acoustic guitars and upbeat vocal performances to make their way onto “Soundtrack,” an album that, as the title suggests, accompanies the movie the duo made in their minds each night.
“That 90-year-old building is like a creative person’s dream canvas,” Breanne said. “It’s almost like we’ve been waiting for that canvas our whole lives, because it really allows us to use our imaginations without any real outside barriers or blocks. … I hadn’t felt like a little kid creating in a long time, so it allowed us to use our imagination in a way that was really beautiful.”