‘Who the hell is Ferdy Belland?’

Local bass player joins nationally renowned rock star’s band

Barry Coulter

A Cranbrook bass-playing arts stalwart has lined up a gig with a nationally renowned pop-punk artist, and is hitting the road next week on tour.

Ferdy Belland has joined Bif Naked’s band as bass player, and was set to leave Sunday, Oct. 21, for a mini-tour of shows in Ontario.

“She’s one of the more popular Punk-Pop artists in the country who’ve popped up over the past 20 years,” Belland told the Townsman.

Bif Naked — aka Beth Torbert — has also developed a parallel career as an activist and humanitarian, as a long-time champion for women’s rights and the LGBT community, and other causes. A breast-cancer survivor herself, Torbert has lent her voice to raise awareness and treatment issues.

“She has the iron-clad reputation as an all-round decent person,” Belland said.

Torbert was born in India to teenage parents, and subsequently adopted by American missionaries. She spent part of her childhood in Kentucky, before the family moved to Manitoba. After studying theatre in Winnipeg, she moved to Vancouver, launching a career in punk rock. She went solo in 1996, and her career has since seen her tour Canada, the U.S., and Europe as a headliner, and appearing on the bill with some of the world’s top rock acts.

Belland got to know Bif Naked in Vancouver, himself working there as a musician, moving in the same circles.

There is also a broader Cranbrook connection with Bif Naked — Cranbrook’s J.D. Ekstrom was the guitarist in her band before his untimely death in 2014. She and the band took a hiatus after Ekstom’s death, but then Steve Allen, a friend of Ekstrom’s and also from Cranbrook, took over guitar duties (he and Torbert are now married).

Recently, Bif Naked and the band parted ways with their bass player of three years.

“The manager had a list of Toronto session players, but Beth insisted on someone she knew and trusted,” Belland said. “She insisted that Ferdy Belland get first right of refusal.”

The manager’s initial response: ‘Who the hell is Ferdy Belland?’

“I knew none of this until Steve called me up and gave me the ’NORAD 60-minute warning.’ He said, ‘this situation has come up, do you want it?’ — and I jumped at the chance.”

At this point, Bif Naked had a show in Edmonton coming up — Belland had two weeks to learn 20 Bif Naked songs for the show.

“I spent the next two weeks living with Bif Naked songs. They flew me to Edmonton; I walked on stage, cold, with no rehearsal with the band. Beth called out ‘one, two, three, four, and we blasted into it — and I nailed it.

“They were happy with my performance, and said ‘welcome aboard.’

So the rest is rock and roll. Belland flies out Sunday, Oct. 21, for a week’s worth of shows in Ontario, followed by a week’s worth of shows in Alberta. A following set of shows is set for March, 2019.

At present, Bif Naked and the band is based out of Toronto, and that’s where Belland will join them when it’s time to hit the stage — or perhaps the recording studio, Bif is currently songwriting Belland says — there may a recording project in the pipeline for next year.

“When the occasion calls, then they’ll fly me to Toronto, and I just need to bring my bass and my enthusiasm,” he said.

“I’m not a rock star,” he added. “I just seem to hang out with rock stars.”

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