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Philly band The World is a Beautiful Place keeps it together

How Philly band The World is a Beautiful Place persevered after a rough year.

On a Saturday night last April, David Bello’s band performed a dramatic, energy-filled set at Washington’s Black Cat. The bill featured some of the most refreshing, emo-leaning rock bands working today, including Into It. Over It., Pinegrove and Bello’s outfit, The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die.

Watching from the floor, it seemed like Bello and his band members were in sync, ripping through songs from their critically acclaimed 2015 album, “Harmlessness.” But during a phone interview this week from his Philadelphia apartment, Bello said that merely months later, the band’s future was in doubt.

“It was a pretty bad year in the second half. Everything was going good, but then we lost a member. Everything kind of tanked from there,” said Bello, 31. “At the time, it was like, ‘What’s going to happen?’”

TWIABP took most of the second half of the year off to regroup. (The member who left was D. Nicole Shanholtzer, the group’s former drummer and then guitarist, who performs solo as One Hundred Year Ocean. Bello said Shanholtzer was kicked out over “personal stuff,” but declined to provide further details. Shanholtzer did not respond to a request for a comment on the departure.)

When they reconvened in November, any concerns about the band’s vitality disappeared, Bello said.

“As soon as we got back in the same room together, it felt even better than it had,” he said.

Now, the plan is to make up for that stretch of lost time by filling their 2017 calendar with tours, Bello said, along with time to write and record their third album. (The act performs at the Metro Gallery on Sunday.)

By this point, TWIABP has become familiar with lineup shifts and changes. Formed by Josh Cyr in Connecticut in 2009, the now-mostly Philadelphia-based band has seven members — and seven other former players.

“We’re kind of like a family, and families go through ups and downs, and lose people and gain people,” said Bello, a vocalist who joined in 2012. “We have a really confusing history, but it’s worked out.”

The band’s music — with its moody, soft-to-loud dynamics, unfurling arrangements and multiple vocalists — is as earnest and maximalist as the group’s fitting name. Many songs build up to climatic releases, and in other moments the band can sound barely there. They credibly pull off ballads, and forceful songs that inspire crowd surfing.

In “Harmlessness,” their sophomore album, Bello said the band created its best release to date because of its balance and pacing.

“It’s all different types of songs that we like, and songs that we can do,” he said. “It’s all in there in one thing that actually flows from beginning to end.”

For TWIABP, an album’s flow is to be taken seriously, which is why they spent 2016 releasing a single and 7-inch record, “Body Without Organs“ and “Long Live Happy Birthday,“ respectively. The tracks were originally recorded during the “Harmlessness” sessions, but the band didn’t feel they fit the LP, Bello said.

“It tends to make more sense to put something out that’s shorter but works a whole than to just kind of toss things together like a compilation,” he said.

Proceeds from the sales of the records were donated to the American Civil Liberties Union and Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, he said. The contributions not only reflected causes important to the band, but Bello said they also felt fitting given the results of the presidential election.

“We were all pretty angry about Donald Trump. … It felt like that was the one thing we could do — donate some money,” Bello said. “On a personal level, I think we’re all angry and scared and want to do something.”

Reinvigorated as a unit, TWIABP wrote “five or six” new songs when they met in November after Shanholtzer’s departure. To Bello, the songs sounds like the second half of the next album, although nothing is set yet.

“It felt like the back half of an album, not in quality, but something will happen before this and this will be the resolution of it,” he said.

The plan is to try to write the missing first half after this string of shows, and then head into the studio to record in April, Bello said. The group’s guitarist Chris Teti will once again produce the album. “It would be cool” to release it this year, Bello said, but he wasn’t certain it’d happen.

Fans might be relieved to know, though, that the new material doesn’t sound like a jarring departure from their previous work, according to Bello.

“There’s a wide variety of songs — quiet ones, loud ones, ones that are pretty, ones that are angry. But they all flow together,” Bello said. “It all sounds like it’s a part of our catalog. But it just sounds like higher quality.” 

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If you go

The World is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die performs Sunday at the Metro Gallery, 1700 N. Charles St., Station North. Us and Us Only and Purrer will also perform. Doors open at 6 p.m. $12-$14. Call 410-244-0899 or go to