Belly formed in 1991 after Tanya Donelly left the critically acclaimed Throwing Muses, which she’d founded with her stepsister Kristin Hersh while they were both still in high school. Just prior to leaving the Muses, Tanya co-founded The Breeders as a side project with Kim Deal of The Pixies, but soon realized she needed more space to pursue her own fractured-fairytale alternative-pop-rock song-writing vision.
Tanya recruited Fred Abong to play bass (he had played on her final Muses album), and brothers Chris and Tom Gorman- friends from her native Rhode Island- to play drums and guitar, respectively. The band immediately got to work rehearsing and demoing the material that would eventually become Belly’s debut album, Star. Star was recorded in two sessions, the first in Nashville, with engineer Tracy Chisholm, the second in Liverpool, England, with producer Gil Norton.
Just before the release of the album on 4AD/Sire/Reprise in January 1993, Abong left the band and was replaced by music scene veteran and hard-rocker Gail Greenwood.
By turns dreamy, creepy, jaggedly delicate and melodically expansive, Star was propelled by the single “Feed the Tree” to gold-record status in the US, earning two Grammy nominations and eventually selling two million copies worldwide.
Belly spent more than a year of nearly nonstop touring for Star, performing throughout the US, UK, Europe, Australia and Japan, with opening bands that included The Cranberries and Radiohead. The band also opened for U2 and the Velvet Underground at the Hippodrome in Paris.
In the summer of 1994, Belly began writing and rehearsing for their sophomore release. Produced by the legendary Glyn Johns and released in February 1995, King was a more ‘rock-oriented’ and live-sounding album, reflecting the band’s experience of hard touring that preceded it, as well as Johns’ minimalist production style. Stripped down and direct, King dispensed with much of the layering and idiosyncratic charm that had characterized Star.
Another extensive tour followed the release of King, with dates opening for R.E.M. in Europe, and U.S. dates supported by the Catherine Wheel and Superchunk.
Alas, King didn’t meet record-label sales expectations. Falling prey to the all-too-common rock-and-roll cliché of industry pressure, financial issues, personal conflict and divergent creative ambitions, Belly disbanded without ceremony on Nov. 11, 1995, after playing the final show of the King tour at The Dragonfly in Los Angeles.
Tanya went on to pursue a solo career, continuing to perform internationally and, to date, releasing four albums under her own name: Lovesongs for Underdogs (1997), Beautysleep (2002), Whiskey Tango Ghosts (2004) and This Hungry Life (2006). In recent years, she has self-released a stream of digital EPs known as The Swan Song Series, an expansive collection of collaborations with some of her favorite musicians and authors. The entire series is to be released on CD and vinyl in 2016 by American Laundromat Records. Tanya lives in Boston with her husband, musician Dean Fisher (the Juliana Hatfield Three), and their two daughters, and works as a postpartum doula.
After Belly, Gail spent three years playing in L7, followed by two years as touring bassist for pop-punk artist Bif Naked. Since 2002 she has performed with her partner Chil Mott in the metal-inflected power-punk band Benny Sizzler. She lives in Rhode Island, where she and Chil run a graphic design business and are active in anti-sprawl efforts and lobbying for land conservation. They share their home with Bear and Maurice, trained therapy dogs who perform in libraries and nursing homes, star in Benny Sizzler videos and have been featured on the PBS Kids’ show “Martha Speaks.”
Not long after Belly called it quits, Chris moved to New York City and opened a studio to pursue commercial and fine-art photography. He’s also designed and built several restaurant spaces, a yoga studio and his own surf shop. In 2015, he published his first children’s book, Indi Surfs. Chris lives near the beach on Long Island with his wife, two kids, two cats, a dog and a fish named Godzilla.
Tom briefly played guitar and keyboards with Buffalo Tom after the breakup of Belly, toured with Kristin Hersh in 1999 and eventually moved to New York City, where he joined Chris in the commercial photography business. He now splits his time between New York City and rural upstate NY, where he and his wife are implementing permaculture design on their small farm. They are also active in the fight against fracking and the expansion of fracked-gas pipelines and infrastructure- in their small town and everywhere.
In early 2016 Belly launched a website and announced they would be reuniting for a series of shows. A run of sold-out shows in July in the UK was followed by a string of major-city shows in the US in August and September. The band played two brand-new songs in their live sets, and as of early 2017 were working on more writing in anticipation of a release later in the year.