They started as a busking band ... " but HazelBell is now performing in clubs, in theaters, at festivals and of course, passionately as ever, on the streets now and then. The multi-instrumentalists Michael Knubbe, Leoni Schmitz, Maria Mendico and John Paul Laffan play Country, Folk, Americana and lively songwriter-pop and enchant the audience with their powerful, four-part singing.
MICHAEL KNUBBE, (NL) Lead Vocals, Guitar, Banjo, Dobro
Michael left home and school when he was 17 years old to become a professional street-musician for the next 25 years.
He performed his Folk- and Countrysongs wherever it would take him, playing guitar and singing solo, in duos or bands.
1996 Michael, Leoni and Maria teamed up to form the trio Hazel Bell.
Michael also recorded and published albums with mostly original songs with his band ‘The Whatkeez’ and as a solo artist.
After a ten year break from music writing short-stories for different magazines he teamed up again with his former bandmate from ‘The Whatkeez’ and ‘Hazel Bell’, violinist and singer Leoni, in Hamburg to busk and perform in clubs.
It didn't take very long and Maria joined them with her double-bass and vocals just as she had done ten years prior when all three of them performed together as 'HazelBell'.
Not just focusing on playing guitar to accompany his singing Michael now plays banjo, autoharp and dobro as well.
And he enjoys writing original songs more than ever - may it be on his own or in collaboration with John Paul Laffan or with the whole band
JOHN PAUL LAFFAN, (IR) Mandolin, Guitar, Bouzouki, Banjo, Vocals
Paul has been playing and performing as guitarist, lead singer and songwriter for more than 20 years now. Since the early nineties, when he was still living in Ireland, he constantly showed his talent in various bands of various genres such as rockbands or different coverbands. He successfully worked as guitarist and musical director of the “Brecht and Weil-Revue” in Dublin and “The Carnival Salon” a Tom Waits Cover-Stage-Project with which he played twice at the Electric Picnic Festival. Together with Maria and some other musicians in Dublin he founded the “Vendetta Orchestra”, a very successful theatre- and music project, interpreting the stories of the German book “Der Struwwelpeter” in a very special way. The “Vendetta Orchestra” played twice at the Buskers Festival in Bern. During his musical career Paul played together with a lot of well known bands and artists, such as Steve Wickham from the Waterboys, Vivienne Long and Shane Fitzsimons from the Damien Rice band. He performed also with Jack Lukeman, Camille O’Sullivan and Felip Carbonell (No Crows). Just to mention the family spread love and talent for music, it might be interesting that Pauls cousin, whos name is Mike Oldfield, has quite a faible for performing on stage, too ;-)
MARIA MENDICO, (IT) Double Bass, Vocals
Over the past 30 years Maria played/recorded music in different countries (Germany, Ireland, Italy, Holland) in different places (streets, stages, studios, living rooms) with different bands (The Whatkeez, Hazel Bell, The Black Romantics, Lez Batards, The Vendetta Orchestra) playing different Instruments (doublebass, accordion, glockenspiel, dulcimer, vocals). After moving to Ireland in 1998 having to leave her band Hazel Bell behind, she played/ recorded music with musicians such as John Paul Laffan, Camille O'Sullivan, Jack Lukeman, Brian Flemming, Steve Wickham (The Waterboys, No Crows), Anna Houston and Felip Carbonell (No Crows) . Then moving back to Germany some years later she rejoined Michael and Leoni playing music as Hazel Bell, after a short while also introducing John Paul Laffan to them.
LEONI SCHMITZ, (D) Violin, Vocals, Guitar, Ukulele, Percussion
Originally trained a classical violinist since the age of 6 years, playing in chamber- and symphony-orchestras and singing the lead parts in Musical-productions (My fair Lady, Cabaret) during her schoolyears, Leoni joined Michael and his busking band ‘The Whatkeez’ in 1994. With this band they mostly performed on the streets of Hamburg and northern Germany as well as on some quite big festival stages and private gigs. After a while Michael, Leoni and Maria teamed up to form the trio Hazel Bell and they played the streets, living rooms and stages in Germany and at the Ferrara Buskers Festival in Italy. Leoni played for TV-ads and for some folk-recording-projects as a guest musician. A few years after Hazel Bell had to pause, Leoni joined the country band ‘Miss Belle and the Cattle Call’ now playing with her old friend Claas Vogt (8 to the Bar, Klaus & Klaus, Cattle Call) for two years. Leoni and Paul were introduced first by Maria when Leoni helped out on a gig the “Vendetta Orchestra” (a project Maria and Paul were part of in Ireland) played in Bochum/Germany. After a short period as a violin teacher and some nice little duo-projects together with Claas Leonis main focus now is back on playing with Hazel Bell.