Belly is an alternative rock band formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1991 by former Throwing Muses member Tanya Donelly (who was also in The Breeders). The original lineup consisted of Donelly on lead vocals and guitar, Fred Abong on bass, and brothers Tom and Chris Gorman on guitar and drums respectively. All knew each other from high-school on Aquidneck Island, Rhode Island – the Gormans and Abong coming out of the Newport hardcore scene (the Gormans having played in Verbal Assault, Abong in Vicious Circle). Shortly after the release of Belly's first album in 1993, Abong left the group and was replaced by Gail Greenwood. Donelly disbanded the group in 1996. On February 8, 2016, Belly announced a reunion with Greenwood on its official website.
1992–93: Formation and Star
Donelly named the band "Belly" because she thought the word was "both pretty and ugly." Their EP, Slow Dust (1992), made it to number one on the United Kingdom indie chart. Soon after, their single "Feed the Tree" made the Top 40 in the UK Singles Chart and their first album, Star (1993), hit number two on the UK Albums Chart.
In the United States, the album was RIAA certified gold, largely based on the success of "Feed the Tree" on Modern Rock radio stations and MTV, where the video was featured as part of MTV's Buzz Bin videos and Alternative Nation video show for much of 1993. Two follow-up singles were released, "Gepetto" and "Slow Dog," but neither matched the initial success of "Feed the Tree." Belly was nominated for two Grammys in 1994: Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Performance for Star. The album went on to sell over 800,000 copies in the US alone and two million worldwide. On several early tour dates (in early 1993) in Albany, NY, and the short warm up tour in the UK, former Throwing Muses member Leslie Langston lent a hand on bass. In early 1993, they embarked on a 'joint headliner' tour with Radiohead. Following a short warm up tour of smaller venues in the UK also in early 1993, they embarked upon a larger tour where they were supported by the Cranberries.
1994–96: King and break-up
Just after the release of Star, bassist Fred Abong left and was replaced by Gail Greenwood. Greenwood was originally a guitar player in a Boston-area metal band before being recruited to play bass in Belly. The live sound of the band evolved to accommodate her style, with its shows featuring more electric guitar than before and less of the dreamy quality of its first album.
As a result, the group's next album, King (1995), was more rock and roll-oriented. The album was not a popular success and the band was stuck between mainstream and underground acceptance. King saw its numerous singles fail to sustain any significant airplay on Modern Rock radio. The videos for "Now They'll Sleep" and "Super Connected" received little airplay on MTV US outside of limited airings on 120 Minutes, although they were well received on MTV Europe. Belly appeared on the April 20, 1995 cover of Rolling Stone magazine. The band also performed "Super Connected" on the Late Show with David Letterman in June that year. It was one of the band's last major U.S television appearances.
In 1995, Belly was one of the support bands for R.E.M. on their world tour.
Aside from touring with R.E.M, the band extensively toured in the US with Catherine Wheel and Jewel as support acts. Both acts were emerging into the American mainstream at the time, and Belly helped them with exposure. Catherine Wheel's 1995 release Happy Days was the band's first of two albums to break into the Billboard 200; the LP's second single "Judy Staring At The Sun," featured Donelly's vocals, and became a Modern Rock hit in the U.S. peaking at No. 22. She was also featured in the video for the song and it became popular on MTV's 120 Minutes.
In 1996, Donelly broke up the band. Speaking to Q, she explained the reasons behind her decision: "The first couple of years of Belly were a blast. Star was a big hit and we partied hard. But by the time we went to make King, there was a lot of negative stuff going on. King was a reaction to the bright shininess of Star and we weren't surprised when it didn't sell. I regret not making another Belly album, but at the time I thought, Screw it, I'm outta here."
After the break-up Tanya Donelly started a successful solo career and has since released several solo albums. Greenwood went on to stints in L7 and Benny Sizzler. In the 2000s she became (in Donelly's words) "a campaigner against urban sprawl in Rhode Island, so she ha[d] lots of council meetings to attend." The Gorman brothers began careers as commercial photographers based in New York City and at one time worked for the Rolling Stone magazine. Fred Abong eventually became a carpenter, as of 2007 he was "working in a high-end woodworking shop making fancy cabinets for rich people."
On February 8, 2016, the band updated its official web site announcing its return with new music and with summer tour dates across the United States and United Kingdom to be announced.
Belly vocalist Tanya Donelly's voice has been described as having a "fiery spark" with a "sweet rasp in her throat," with a style described as "down to earth." According to an account in the Chicago Tribune, which described Belly as a "cute-as-a-button band", Donelly once approached the microphone during a performance and deliberately "burped."