Seems like they are a bit out of sync in the beginning. I'm always struggling with the chorus of Live On on the album, but this is a really nice version (and the electric live version at their public gig was fantastic).
They filmed another song - can't wait to see which one it will be.
[/center] She may have been voted The Sexiest Woman In Rock (Gigwise, 2009) but right now Juanita Stein is not feeling terribly glamorous. ''Our life is not glamorous! It's really not! And you can print that!'' she laughs with good humour, despite the horror o'clock interview time slot with Fly.
''I'm struggling a bit because we're doing a tour in Europe right now and it's 2am or something, so I'm going to do my best,'' she says affably.
Her band Howling Bells has been touring Europe supporting Elbow on its Build A Rocket Boys tour, which marks that band's 20-year anniversary.
''I can't imagine how much more inspiring you can get,'' Stein says. ''Their craftsmanship and generally their attitudes are just extraordinary.''
Howling Bells have a pretty solid track record themselves. Stein (vocals, rhythm guitar), her brother Joel (lead guitar), Brendan Picchio (bass), and Glenn Moule (drums) have been together as Howling Bells for seven years. ''And of course we were in Waikiki for three or four years before that, so we've been clocking up the miles,'' Stein says.
Technically, at least in terms of line-up, Waikiki was the same band. But in 2004, the quartet moved from Sydney to London, switched up their style from the pop sound of Waikiki to a heavier, indie rock style and gave the band a new name to accompany the sonic evolution.
Howling Bells' struggle in their first year in London has been well documented. All four members were living in one room together and working menial jobs, and that time infused a brooding, melancholysound to their first album as HowlingBells.
''It was depressing as shit. I remember for a good year and a half I couldn't imagine how it was ever going to get any better, really,'' Stein says. Looking back, she can say that the struggle was worth it.
The band is now based in London, although Sydney is still their ''spiritual home'', Stein says. ''I have my loved one and I have my friends and it kind of feels like I've burrowed a little nest here.''
What got them through the tough times, and still holds the group together after more than 10 years, is faith. ''That's it, that's all it comes down to. It's just an uncompromising faith in the music and what we're capable of.''
It's a faith that has paid off. They have supported the likes of Coldplay, Editors and Mercury Rev, played Reading and Leeds festivals, and been named a band to watch by NME and Rolling Stone magazines. They have also managed to maintain good favour with much of the notoriously fickle British music press even while changing direction in their sound with each of their three albums.
After the upbeat indie rock sound of 2009's Radio Wars, the band's sound has evolved once again on their latest record, The Loudest Engine. They started writing it when they were on the road touring America with Coldplay, which gave it ''a real landscape and a really on-the-road sentiment,'' Stein says. ''It was really important to us that when we recorded it finally that it was somewhere that would honour that vibe.''
That place turned out to be The Killers' Battle Born studios in Las Vegas.
''We were literally out in the desert which was super inspiring and it just felt like the perfect place for us to record this particular album.''
The record was produced by The Killers bass player Mark Stoermer, who ''slotted into the band like a fifth member,'' Steinsays.
''He was very accommodating and challenged us just the right amount but hedidn't push us too much over the edge. He allowed the band to be who we wanted to be.''
Here is Stephen Ferris FBi interview. Not quite certain if the background noise is from the broadcast end or my end but me have bean getting lots of interference lately on me compu'er, so that could be it. Probably both tho. Session should be podcast here at a later date, hopefully in a superior quality.
Heidi Pett talks to Howling Bells lead guitarist Joel Stein about their latest album, touring and listening to trash.
“I think I was just feeling lucky,” Joel Stein laughs as he explains why he’s contributed more songs than ever before to Howling Bells’ new record, The Loudest Engine. “You don’t really plan, whoever writes or whatever is the most appropriate or whatever we think is the best will end up on the album.” It’s a mature sibling relationship of the kind parents can only hope for, instead of the masking-tape-down-the-middle-of-the-back-seat approach favoured by most on long car trips. Instead, Joel and sister Juanita form a close-knit band with bassist Brendan Picchio and drummer Glenn Moule, and have created an album out of their experiences on their travels.
Parked in a campervan by the side of the road in Paris, the band are in the middle of a European tour with Elbow when I speak to Joel about the process of writing and recording their latest album, which they’ve consistently described as their “grown up record.” Produced by Mark Stoermer from The Killers and recorded in Las Vegas, it marks a departure from the more electronic sounds of second album Radio Wars in favour of psychedelic-tinged folk rock, and is considered a follow-up to their debut self-titled release. Having toured and played quite extensively with The Killers, Joel says the decision to work with Mark was one born of familiarity and good timing. “It was very, very underground, actually. There were no record labels and no red tape involved. It was all very easy.”
Choosing to step away from the drum machines and electronic feel of Radio Wars, Joel knew, “we just wanted to go in and get the engineer to press record on the tape machine, we just wanted to play as a band.” For an album written on and about the road, it makes a great deal of sense to record it the same way it would be played live. “Lyrically it’s very relevant to us being on tour, which is why we called it The Loudest Engine. It’s more mature in sound and we had the most clarity in recording this album, more than the other two. It’s two years between albums and you do a lot of growing, especially on the road.”
Despite producing a record very clearly inspired by a touring lifestyle, Joel says, “If I had the chance I wouldn’t leave the house without a piano and a guitar because sometimes I feel like writing 15 times a day but I don’t have anything to hand.” Having relocated to Europe several years ago, Joel currently lives in Berlin and finds the vibrant community to be, “an extremely creative place, it’s buzzing at the moment. It’s very interesting and there’s a lot going on. I think Berlin’s still in the 70’s which I really like.” Asked whether it’s in any way affected his sound, Joel pauses for thought, and eventually chances at “It’s subliminal I guess. Your brain does what it wants and you figure it out a few years down the track.” The latest album definitely has a slight 1970’s vibe, the familiar sounds of their first release coloured with flashes of psychedelia.
I bring up a favourite Howling Bells lyric which never fails to fill my dining room with shouty jumpy people at occasionally raucous house parties - “you listen to trash but it’s not rock ‘n’ roll” - and press Joel for his preferred type of trash. He stalls, “I don’t know if it’s bad, see, you’re going to judge me now...” then seems to take a breath, letting the word “house” tumble out in an embarrassed mumble before rallying. “There’s a particular kind of house music that I like: this guy from Sweden called The Field, and everyone I play it to looks at me like I’m nuts.” Perhaps we’ve found the sticking point for tour bus disagreements, though it’s clear that the four piece are not only democratic in the writing process, but treat one another as family. The strong sibling bond between Joel and Juanita hasn’t proved a problem for the other members, as the guitarist explains. “All four of us know each other inside out so there’s no difference, really. It’s the same with Elbow, they’ve been together so long that you get to a point where it really doesn’t matter. You have a fight and you laugh about it five minutes later.” While some bands find the tour bus a breeding ground for bickering, Howling Bells seem to quite enjoy the experience, making friends and albums along the way. Joel points out, “If you love doing something you want to do it all the time,” despite not being able to take a piano with them in the campervan.
“I have no ****ing idea,” Joel laughs when I ask what’s next for the band. “Absolutely none. It’s the most elusive business on the planet. We could be in China, we could be in the studio recording another album.” He asks me what I think they should do, and when I tell them to keep releasing albums I’m congratulated for picking the right answer. It seems a fairly obvious choice for a band who so clearly love the experience of making and sharing their music. Joel jokes, “Obviously if [our management] say we’ve gotta tour in Afghanistan we’ll think twice about that,” when I ask if they get much of a say in where they tour, before deciding, “Actually, that could be fun.”
Fortunately, you don’t have to hike to Kandahar to see them just yet - Howling Bells are playing at the Standard in Sydney on Saturday 10th December and Patch in Wollongong on Sunday 11th.
Howling Bells: On The Road[/center] Bands often say that their music is inspired by life on the road, but in Howling Bells’ case, you get the feeling this is really true. The Aussie rockers, known for introducing elements of the gothic to their sprawling indie pop, wrote The Loudest Engine surrounded by the desert of the southern United States – and listening to it, you can almost picture singer Juanita Stein emerging from a dust storm, her dark hair whipping dramatically in the hot desert wind. “We spent a lot of time in Nevada, and it was amazing,” she says. “Anybody’s initial experience with Las Vegas is The Strip, but the city goes far beyond that. It was cool to experience that. The desert landscape, the locals, the ghost towns we visited – all of that seeped into our music in really unexpected ways.”
In musical terms, Las Vegas is best-known these days for being the hometown of The Killers, and there’s a connection between them and Howling Bells. The two bands toured together, and got on so well that Killers bassist Mark Stoermer stepped behind the boards for The Loudest Engine, his first ever effort as producer. The first thing you notice about the album is how much more menacing it is than their previous LP Radio Wars, which was soaked in keyboard and production sounds. This was an effect they worked hard to achieve with Stoermer. “We made a huge effort not to overplay things on this album,” Stein says. “We all had the same vision, which was for a really honest, stripped-back album and, luckily for us, Mark shared exactly the same vision, so working with him really was a breeze.”
I ask Stein how it is that Howling Bells and Mark Stoermer actually ended up working together. “He mentioned a couple of times before that he’d like to break out of playing and say something different,” she explains, “so when it came time to think about who we’d like to work with, he seemed like an interesting choice.” Though he was inexperienced as a producer, Stein insists that Stoermer took to it like a pro for The Loudest Engine. “He’d done a lot of research, read a lot of producer autobiographies,” she says with a laugh. “His bible was the complete guide to The Beatles’ production history, which was always sitting on the production desk. He’s a watcher by nature, if you know what I mean. He stands back and watches. He’s a very quiet guy. That dynamic worked perfectly.”
The Loudest Engine, with its bold pop choruses nestled inside dusty desert rock production, reminds me a lot of The Killers’ own Sam’s Town. I ask if this particular album was a touchstone. “Other than the fact that we recorded in their studio in their hometown with their bass player, we weren’t making a conscious effort to reference The Killers,” she replies, somewhat sheepishly. “I mean, we loved that record, and we can see the similarities. The climate, the heat, and the desert – all those things seeped into our music without us even realising it.”
There are many stories on The Loudest Engine, but none more intriguing than the title track, which was inspired, believe it or not, by the tour bus that the band travelled around in. “That particular song began its life in the back of the bus. It was a long drive that just took hours,” Stein says. “It started as a poem I’d written the night before when I was lying in the bus, unable to sleep. I wrote this poem about what I believed to be the soul of the tour bus. I thought it was really romantic to think that we’d spent so much time in this vehicle, but so many artists had been there before us, experiencing all kinds of ups and downs in their careers and their personal lives – and maybe even having trouble sleeping, like I had. “I believe tour buses, like houses, carry the ghosts of previous tenants,” she continues. “That’s where the lyrics came from, and then Joel [Stein, Juanita’s brother and lead guitarist] really took that idea to heart instrumentally.” I ask for a little more information about this bus. “Well, she didn’t have a name,” she laughs, as though this is obviously what I was fishing for, “but she was an old tour bus, and there were all kinds of things scratched into the walls from bands who’d been there before. I watched my bandmates going through intense things and not-so-intense things on the bus, and started feeling really connected to the space.”
Howling Bells have spent a fair bit of time lately mixing with rockstar royalty – in addition to playing shows with The Killers, they played a series of shows around America with Coldplay, which, according to Stein, had a great effect on them as a band. “It was absolutely breathtaking to watch them do what they do every night of the week,” she tells me. “You can’t help but be in absolute awe of what that beast is – and it is a beast. It involves a whole crew of dudes, and it’s a production on a scale I’ve never witnessed before. It was inspiring to watch it all go down, then see them come off-stage and be really nice and level-headed afterwards. It was just a really great experience, and it taught us a lot about ourselves as a band.”
Video is definitely from 2011-12-16 Alhambra Lounge, Brisbane. Joel and Juanita wearing same clothes as in Rick Clifford pics. Also, same interior brick wall, wrought iron window treatments, and throw pillows are evidenced in pics from Alhambra Lounge website.
Edit: Ok, I guess it even says so in the youtube tag. ;D
A few years back, I subbed as one of the sound technicians on a Snow Patrol tour for a good buddy of mine who was ill at the time. It was just for a little over a week, since I had to be back in Australia to finish up some production work that was running behind schedule. Oddly enough though, the thing that stuck with me the most from this experience was the opening act. Usually, the whole main crew would all go grab a bite to eat during the opening act's slot, but one night, I had to stay and re-patch a new aux soundboard when the old board began to act up. I finished sooner than expected, so I decided to just stay and watch the opening band, the Howling Bells.
To my surprise, I actually liked their music. I expected just another typical brit pop-rock band with the same old boring chord progressions and whiney vocals. Their music was different. It had elements of old-country edginess, Mazzy Star-like blissful psychedelia, even those slightly winsome Beatle-esque elastic vocal melodies. The band radiated a fresh youthful energy, yet at the same time gave off dark, almost gothic overtones that set them apart from all those other 2d bands that opened for Snow Patrol on the same tour. I'd have to say I enjoyed the Howling Bells more than I did the main act.
The first CD I bought from them was their 2006 self-titled debut. Although the songs were good, I felt that it just didn't quite capture their performance on stage. Plus, the production was a bit "typical" sounding for my liking. I listened to it for a couple weeks, but it just became one of those CD's that gets lodged somewhere in my car's seats for a year and the jewel case falls apart. However, I recognized their name when "Radio Wars" came out in 2009, and based on the negative reviews it was getting, I knew it would be an album I would love. As usual, I was right. The songs are catchier, the production is shinier, and the overall band image has changed from a "we-do-what-we-wanna-do-and-we-don't-give-a-crap-what-you-think" kinda thing to a "we're-finally-moving-on-and-we-would-actually-kinda-like-to-be-popular". After being in the music business for so long, you learn that it becomes less about what you want to do and more about what your audience wants to hear. Yeah, it does kinda suck to be forcing out sugar-coated shallow fake tunes that make up the vast majority of pop. However, the Howling Bells handle it extremely well. Unlike other bands, they weren't poked and prodded by their record company to put out something "poppy" and "modern". Instead, they made the decision themselves to alter their sound a little. They still do what they wanna do, only now, it just sounds better. And (most) people like it. At least I do.
Also, be sure to check out "Waikiki", the Howling Bells before they were the "Howling Bells". They put out one album in 2002 called "I'm Already Home", and it's pretty good. It's a bit more rock-driven and less dreamy than the 'Bells later stuff, but it completes the puzzle on the evolution of a band, and it's got some great songs.
(2003) Waikiki - I'm Already Home - B+ (2006) Howling Bells - A- (2009) Radio Wars - A+
Hey not sure if anybody's seen this already, just a brief blog entry on the Russh website from Juanitabelle with a few of those stunning looking pics she takes, including one interestingly comparing a print with her mother.