"I'd moved to London when I was 17 and was in a band called the Void. I was at a studio space and saw Vince Clarke behind a keyboard and recognized him from Depeche Mode. I was meaning to write him when I saw an advert in the paper looking to start a band. It was from Vince, and it was kismet."
The pair found an easy chemistry that led to international success with hits such as "Chains of Love" and "Always." More unusual than their popularity is their longevity. Erasure has been together for more than three decades.
"I was 17, and he was 21," Bell says over the phone. "We're both working-class and love music. I'm the frontman, so I have to get used to showbiz aspects, but we're both shy and quiet. It keeps us away from drama."
Bell's musical influence came as a young lad poring over his parents' singles collection. "They had Elvis, Motown. I was hooked on gospel and Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. I loved the yearning voices of Spector's singers Ronnie Spector and Darlene Love. I took to singing like it was second nature, but it was a while until I sang in a band."
Though the performing comes easy for Bell, sometimes the songwriting is a challenge. Bell had to lean on Clarke to finish their most recent record, 2017's World Be Gone. "When I heard the music Vince produced for it, it sounded like a film soundtrack. It didn't seem to need vocals. I was stuck. It wasn't until Vince was in the room with me that I could find a way to express myself."
The creation of the record was a multicity affair. Vocals were recorded in London, mixing was done in Los Angeles, some songs were written in Clarke's place in Brooklyn, and the rest of it was written in Miami. Bell lives in the Magic City a few months of the year, a circumstance he also attributes to fate.
"The first time I visited Miami was in 1987. I remember I was sitting at Bayside, and I just had the strongest feeling I would live here one day. Now my partner lives only one block away from that spot. I spend November through January here, and I love it."
He says it has taken a while for Miami to warm up to Erasure the way Europe and South America have embraced the duo, but since the EDM boom, the adoration has grown, making Miami Beach a perfect opener for the group's North American tour Friday, July 6. Bell is looking forward to the date, but it might be hard to top the ceremony that accompanied their last South Florida show.
"We got the key to the city of Miami Beach. As far as I can tell, it doesn't open anything."
Erasure: World Be Gone Tour. 8:30 p.m. Friday, July 6, at the Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; fillmoremb.com. Tickets cost $47 to $70 via livenation.com.