Text: Review: Howling Bells, The Bodega By NottmPostEG | Posted: June 02, 2014 By Katie Bonner
Howling Bells weren’t greeted with the warmest of welcomes when they walked on stage at The Bodega. There were no cheers or applause. The lights were switched off, the band picked up their instruments and they started the set with moody opener Paris.
By the end of the show, however, the audience were bewitched by Juanita Stein’s dreamy vocals and the brooding atmosphere created by the Sydney band. Tracks like Blessed Night, Nightingale and Paper Heart swirled by in a gloomy, psychedelic-blues trance and whilst some of the subtle nuances of the lyrics got lost in the live setting, the music provided a soothing sonic balm for the Sunday night blues.
Cities Burning Down kick-started the more up tempo part of the night, with the audience bobbing along in appreciation to The Wilderness and Slowburn. The biggest and loudest cheer of the night went to Setting Sun. The final track of the night, Reverie, showed a punchier sound to the band in the lead-up to the new album release.
For the encore we were treated to Broken Bones, the lyrics captured the moment when a broken heart refuses to mend, complete with plaintive yelps from Stein and the music displaying the country-goth sound that make Howling Bells.
LIVE : Howling Bells at Liverpool East Village Arts Club Andy Von Pip June 07, 2014
Our bemusement at the fact that Australian born, London based Howling Bells haven’t became huge stadia straddling rock n roll gods is tempered by the fact that actually we don’t really enjoy huge gigs. Arena gigs are a particular anathema – huge echoing impersonal soulless temples to consumerism where it’s almost impossible to feel any connection with the artist on stage. So to be able to watch Howling Bells perform songs from their latest album whilst celebrating ten years together in Liverpool’s intimate East Village Arts Club (loft) really does feel rather special. I mean how often do you actually get to see a band this good, at the top of their game in venue this size?
Of course, taste is hugely subjective but really in a sane world Howling Bells would be headlining the big stages at major festivals around the world, on a regular basis. But of course any notion that the world is sane can quickly be dismissed when you consider who the incumbent Mayor of London is! As it is this was almost a spiritual homecoming- for Liverpool will forever be intertwined with Howling Bells legend, given that their classic eponymous debut album was recorded in Liverpool’s Parr Street Studio back in 2005. Indeed guitarist Joel Stein tells us after the gig that band have a huge amount of affection for the city - and for those who ventured out to this gig the feeling was entirely mutual.
Tonight the set list consisted primarily of tracks from the bands wonderful new fourth album ‘Heartstrings’ but was also bejewelled with classics such as the driving wonder of ‘Low Happening’ the cinematic dustbowl drama of ‘Setting Sun’ and the dystopian electronic doom pop of ‘Cities Burning Down.’ It was a set that demonstrated that during their decade spanning career Howling Bells have never been one to sit on their laurels. They’ve experimented, explored new sonic territories, paid little heed to the zeitgeist felating critics and their latest album is a culmination of everything they’ve experienced and learnt during their time together. Live it sounds wonderful ‘Paris’ is evocative, soaring and satisfyingly melancholic, ‘Possessed’ is a coruscating sonic thunderbolt, whilst the albums gentler, more reflective numbers sound even more effecting than on record.
Live, Howling Bells have always been a force of nature, with Joel Stein once again demonstrating what an incredible guitarist he is whilst his sister Juanita’s sometimes-soothing sometimes strident but always beautiful vocals were as intoxicating as they’ve ever been. A fantastic performance full of energy passion and joy and proof positive that this is a band who remain at the absolute zenith of their creative powers.
Not a review, but I managed to get to see three of the shows, in Sheffield, Nottingham and Leeds. Good to see Incoasterble and Strawdogrob at Sheffield and Leeds. Look out for Strawdogrob's brilliant videos on Youtube.
The whole tour was in smaller venues, which, as Andy Von Pip says in his review of Liverpool (above) makes for a wonderful atmosphere. Also like Von Pip says, we are all bewildered by the fact that Howling Bells aren't playing to full stadiums, but if they were it wouldn't be the same, would it?
The biggest and noisiest crowd of the three was Leeds, but that wasn't always good as a lot of people insisted on talking through "Paper Heart". Why do they do that? You go to gigs to watch and listen, not talk. Juanita said the Leadmill (Sheffield) crowd was "respectful but really into it", which she seemed to like. Here, "Paper Heart" was captivating as Juanita, singing unaccompanied, had everyone in the palm of her hand.
I can't say which of the three was best, because they were all superb. One thing I remember from Nottingham was a pretty blonde girl at the front singing along even to the old songs. She must have been ten years old when the first album came out, but at least it shows some younger people have taste!
At Sheffield and Nottingham the audience numbered probably under 100, which, if you're being cynical, you could say that Howling Bells haven't moved on since 2006, when they played to crowds of similar size in similar venues. But we know, of course, that that's not true, and the fault is with the British obsession with instant celebrity above bands - of which Howling bells are a perfect example - that put in the hard work over a long period and don't compromise their principles.
I first saw Howling Bells at the Victoria Inn in Derby on February 15, 2006, three months before their debut album came out. The audience there totalled about twelve, and four of those were the support band. So Howling Bells have indeed come a long way, and after ten years doing it the hard way it's about time they got some reward.
It took Elbow four albums in ten years to make it massive....
A word on the support bands. Joel's Glassmaps played their first ever British show at Sheffield (so we can say we were there) and he has some good tunes, despite it all looking a bit thrown together at the last minute. He/they didn't play at Nottingham or Leeds. The main support for the whole tour was Climbing Boys, also from the Birthday Records stable, and they look to have a decent future. It's difficult when you don't know their music, but they are a highly competent bunch with a good collection of songs - one of the best support bands I've seen, and I certainly go and see them again if they toured on their own. Their bass player Emma used to be in Leeds group Kiara Elles, another sadly underrated and unappreciated band who unfortunately fell by the wayside after one album. I spoke to her after the Nottingham gig - she's now living in London so Leeds was a homecoming for her. There were a load of her mates in the crowd, one of whom, called Izzy, got a big mention as it was her birthday. Aaahhhh!!!
[Edit - the first minute I heard Climbing Boys they reminded me of Toy, and on their Soundcloud page soundcloud.com/climbingboys Toy are top of their list of followers]
Hi Blade, it was great to meet you last night in Leeds.
I really enjoyed the show and I have to agree about the 'talkers' who should have shown more respect during Juanita's beautiful 'Paper Heart' solo spot. It was a stark contrast to Sheffield when you could have heard a pin drop when she sang this song. I think part of the problem can be the Saturday night crowd, who won't bother to go and see a band on a wet Wednesday night, but will turn out on the weekend and make their presence known regardless of anyone else. Having said that it didn't spoil a great gig.
I also went to the instore gig at Crash Records in Leeds in the afternoon where they performed semi acoustic versions of 'Euphoria', 'Your Love', 'Slowburn' and 'A Ballad For The Bleeding Hearts'. The sound was nice and clear and it was a great way to spend a wet Saturday afternoon. I also got chance to chat to Joel about various things including his Glassmaps project. Having bought the cd in Sheffield (I got number 6/100) and played it a few times the songs have really grown on me and he told me he may take it out on the road once the HB tour is over. I hope he does!
After the Brudenell gig was over my mate asked Glenn when HB would be touring again and he said possibly November, so that is something to look forward to. :-)
It's fantastic to be seeing so many good reviews for the shows and album, I think they're very well deserved. Looking back, compared to three years ago I now have music from, follow and go to see so many more bands. Echoing others' comments, I think Howling Bells draw as big of a crowd as you could expect when you compare relative 'media-presence' of both the band and it's members combined; if however you start looking at their level of professionalism and the consistent quality of the performance and sound you could start expecting more people: so I really hope they materialise.
I thoroughly enjoyed the three shows I caught on this tour, whilst all had a different atmosphere I'd hate to pick favourites. I saw a whole different aspect in Leeds though from being further back: the sound and also the look of the band and lighting from a distance really is excellent! I don't know what it is about our locals frustratingly using quiet songs as an opportunity to socialise (I recall seeing Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in the Academy and struggling to hear the band at points) - The show in Crash was entirely different and all together an unusual experience, great sound and it was good to hear another song live in the shape of Euphoria..
On a note regarding the support from Climbing Boys, I really enjoyed their performances and will follow them going forwards as I feel that they show a lot of talent, right across the board. If at points the songs aren't always 'obviously accessible' I found they had really grown on me after a few shows and I think they have definitely built a solid foundation with their sound. Following Blade's mention above, I stumbled upon (The?) Kiara Elles a year or two ago and like what there is of their music to be found about the web but I hadn't realised that one of the former members is now in Climbing Boys.
Also I enjoyed meeting all even if briefly! Looking forward to the next time, when and wherever that may be..
Text: Live: Howling Bells. Brudenell Social Club. Leeds 7-6-14 + View from the Pit gallery June 12, 2014·by stAn· in Listen, Music. ·
Opening the gig with ‘Paris’, the first track from their new album, Howling Bells launched into a set that criss crossed the path between brand new songs and their back catalog.
‘Velvet Girl’ from their first album is beautiful look back and has the fans crooning and swaying along, and is quickly followed by another favourite from their first album ‘ A Ballad For The Bleeding Hearts’.
Howling Bells make playing live look incredibly easy. The band are relaxed and confident. Juanita’s voice, capable of hitting the highest highs and the lowest lows, is quite extraordinary and has the power to mesmerise from start to finish. None more so than when the band leave the stage for her to perform ‘Paper Heart’ alone, another fine track from their latest long player…
Pointing out that it’s always almost all men at the stage front whenever they play, she urges the girls in the audience to come forward. A few move a few feet in but are deterred by the men in question not moving aside. Gentlemen, may I suggest that next time you attend a gig, one has the courtesy to step aside and let the ladies through.
The set closes with a short encore. Everyone seems content. If you had to sum a Howling Bells gig up in one word it would have to be, sublime.
Setlist: Paris Possessed Blessed Night Velvet Girl A Ballad for the Bleeding Hearts Original Sin Your Love Nightingale Paper Heart Cities Burning Down Setting Sun The Wilderness Slowburn Low Happening Reverie
Scala , London, Kings Cross added: 25 Jun 2014 // gig date: 10 Jun 2014 reviewer: David Thorpe
Tonight the sublime Howling Bells play the Scala in Kings Cross. A converted theatre and one of my favourite London venues.
People are beginning to filter in and first up are a band called Glass Maps. They are a vocals/guitar and drums duo who warm the small crown up nicely with their brand of blues pop.
Next on are the Climbing Boys who treat us to some 80’s indie rock very reminiscent of Jesus and Mary chain, My Bloody Valentine and even a hint of Julian Cope. A great live band and one to watch for the future.
The Howling Bells have been together now for a decade and have just released their fourth album Heartstrings which I really think is their best so far so I am really looking forward to hearing the songs play out live
As the lights dim and the smoke machine helps to create an electric atmosphere there is a definite air of anticipation. They start with the first song from Heartstrings, Paris. The slow start warms up the crowd even more and the band then explode into the short but very powerful Possessed.
Howling Bells recorded material is wonderful but hearing these amazing songs played live is really how you should hear them. There is a glance over their shoulders to ‘Gothier days’ with influences including Siouxie and the Banshees and All about Eve. Juanita’s diva like vocals bring the sound up to date and the ballads entrance the crowd but it is on the stronger faster songs that it really comes into its own.
Juanita is a mesmerising front woman but we mustn’t forget the rest of the band that fit together perfectly and play so tightly I am sure they know exactly what each other is thinking. The whole set made me tingle but songs that really stood out were Your Love, their latest single Slowburn and Revierie which brings the set to a close.
This isn’t the end though as they come back for an encore and play Paper Heart and Broken Bones.
Howling Bells have proved they have still got what it takes to move an audience and are playing lots of festivals this summer so go and see them NOW!
Text: Arguably, London-based Australian indie-rock outfit Howling Bells are one of the must underrated bands of our time. With ten years of experience as a band and four engaging, melodic-bluesy, albums under their belts, it astounds us that they still seem to be flying relatively low under the radar. Perhaps this works in their favour though. Their fan base remains solid, loyal and true and we witnessed this when we caught them playing to a sufficiently full but still a little bit roomy Scala, on the the 10th June.
There is only one word for a live Howling Bells performance and that's mesmeric. Be it the warm, ever changing strobe lighting that alternates between casting their persons into silhouetted shadows before changing and bringing them out into the forefront of our vision, or the gloomy, atmospheric use of smoke machines that gives a dreamy hazy feel, Howling Bells stage environment is completely in harmony with their sound. Free and allusive. Emotive yet mysterious. Juanita Stein is an incredible lead singer and rhythm guitarist, cool and unassuming, delicate yet raw, so alluring that watching the four-piece perform is almost spellbinding.
With much anticipation close to 300 fans packed The Howler for the second in only three Australian shows for expats Howling Bells. Three years since their last Australian show, Howling bells, now based in London and Berlin have been touring the UK after completing what is bound to be their best work yet, fourth album, 'Heartstrings'.
A subtle brilliance to their melancholic melodies gives the music an uplifting quality which is no easy feat. From the macabre to the magnificent, vocalist Juanita Stein with brother, guitarist Joel, connect seamlessly as only siblings do. Add to this, the punchy sounds of drummer Glenn Moule, with the addition of UK bass player Gary Daines and Howling Bells take flight.
The night started with the room filling slowly to the sounds of support acts Glassmaps and Ali Barter which definitely set the atmosphere leaving enough space for the main act to elevate the audience.
Gloriously understated superior folk rock with a touch of blues. Glassmaps is the solo project for Joel Stein with Glenn Moule on drums. In a Melbourne first for Glassmaps, Joel moves between falsetto and chest voice, eyes closed for the most part, that he delivers with brazen modesty. His vintage blues rock electric guitar is complemented by Glenn's rhythmic drumming. The music swells to accompany the lyrical story telling from the sublime truth of 'My Head My Heart' to the hip popping track 'You Never Called Me'. Glassmaps captures something familiar and presents it in a way that is both fresh and intelligent.
Effortless magic from this haunting songstress, Ali Barter casts a spell with her ethereal mix of electro folk pop rock. She too, is brutally honest in sharing a personal story through song. Playing tracks from her self funded EP 'Trip', Ali is both talented and ambitious.
There is an intensity in the room and almost silence between each song. Howling Bells are all grown up, the slightly bitter but wiser offspring to former band Waikiki. The musical sensibility has never left them but the sweet pop rock sound of Waikiki has been replaced with a dark sophistication.
Juanita's eyes pierce through the smoke and into the crowd, a sea of swaying bodies, nodding heads and smiling faces, little is said, she lets the music speak for itself. There is a symmetry to the set from the heat in 'Original Sin' to the lush sounds of 'Your Love'. Here is a band that love what they do and the audience love it as well. Each song is a short burst of musical genius holding the audience joyously fixed, in awe of what they are witnessing, leading Juanita to flamboyantly remark how well behaved everyone is.
There are many contradictions embedded in Howling Bells. The country inspired guitar sounds in 'Slowburn', the dark yet uplifting qualities to the music and even the band name itself is a poetic device. They neatly unpack the spectrum of the human experience through song and deliver it with the confidence and authenticity that only comes with years of dedication. It is a shame they left the Country, but if this is the result, I'm glad they did.
Joel Stein, aka Glassmaps, took a step outside his usual role as lead guitarist for Howling Bells and into the limelight for Friday night’s gig at the Oxford Art Factory.
Unfazed by the small early crowd, he cut a cool figure backed by drummer and fellow band mate Glenn Moule as they pumped through pared-back rock track, Dare You, and melodic ballad, Inner Place, before finishing off with bluesy number, My Head My Heart.
A serge [sic] of fans pushed to the front for Sydney rock four-piece Cull.
An epic, Pink Floyd-inspired guitar intro started the set before the heaped-on effects and reverb kicked in for tracks Keep My Star and World Inside Your Head that unfortunately completely overpowered the sound. A cover of Pavement’s Shady Lane worked well and certainly seemed to please the growing crowd.
A packed house screamed with delight when London-based Sydney darlings Howling Bells took to the stage, clearly having been missed after all these years away. Singer Juanita Stein looked like a glamorous country star, cool and composed as the set got started with Paris, from new album, Heartstrings.
Swaying into the guitar and emanating sex appeal, her distinctive voice oozed through classic tracks Blessed Night and A Ballad For The Bleeding Hearts before picking up the pace for punchy new track, Original Sin.
Next, a move to second album, Radio Wars, for Nightingale and Cities Burning Down, both of which received a great reception from the crowd. The upbeat Digital Hearts got everyone dancing before a captivating rendition of Reverie closed the set.
After a very brief exit, they returned for the beautifully gentle ballad, Paper Heart, which went down surprisingly well for a rowdy Friday night. But it was closer, Broken Bones that stole the night, prompting a mass singalong till the end
A solid homecoming, they were welcomed with open arms by the satisfied Sydney crowd.
On Thursday evening, indie darlings Howling Bells played an anticipated show at Howler, demonstrating their genuine fondness for the word ‘howl’. Most of the band members grew up in Sydney, but since establishing a fan base in the UK have been largely based there in recent years. Their recent tour has followed the debut of their latest album Heartstrings, which was released in June. The ever-alluring Juanita Stein graced the stage with drummer Glenn Moule, bassist Gary Daines and lead guitarist Joel Stein (who is also her brother).
The crowd was eclectic, representing a variety of ages and lacking any distinguishable pattern. Everyone’s eyes seemed drawn to Juanita, who undoubtedly brings with her a cool and calm aura that draws you in an inexplicably mesmerising way. It’s almost as if you are aware that is in an image that she has impeccably built, but it still feels just a bit magic anyway. She swayed to the music as if she was the only person, throwing her hair back and forth.
The first few songs were intriguing, yet they acted as a warm up before truly captivating the crowd with songs like ‘A Ballad For Bleed Hearts’ [sic] from the album Radio Wars [sic]. The subtle, slow-drawn lyrics were matched with a clever arrangement of guitar and bass, whereby the predominantly minor chords were matched by the reflective, melancholic lyrics. The cheers and jeers from the crowd were indication enough that this was a memorable performance.
The way the band worked the stage demonstrated just how long they have been playing together, and how comfortable they are with performing together. Juanita made a cheeky comment in regards to how tame the audience was, mentioning that it was one of the bassist Daines' first ever shows in Australia. In return, the crowd anointed Gary with a term of endearment, referring to him as ‘Gazza’ for the rest of the show, and cat calling to him on a regular basis.
The amusing banter between audience and band was followed by a particularly memorable song called ‘Original Sin’ from the new album Heartstrings. It began with a more fast paced rhythm than many of the songs played thus far in the evening; each note hit with a clearly defined staccato. The lyrics were catchy, moody and easy to follow. The song seemed to carry with it an invitation to new fans by proving that this band is still kicking along, creating more music to sink teeth into.
Other songs that noticeably kept people on their toes, while moving their fingers, were tunes such as the ‘Cities Burning Down Again’ and ‘Nightingale’ both from the album Radio Wars, as well as ‘Setting Sun’ from their debut album. There was a rhythm guitar and bass solo with Juanita and Daines during ‘Setting Sun’ that was a pleasure to watch. Something about the fact that the aesthetic was so predictable yet cohesive was a very satisfying experience for a viewer.
Juanita returned with drummer Moule for an encore. She performed a new song that involved a backing track and drums. It showcased her vocal range more so than most of the other songs as it relied so heavily on her voice. It was a pensive song that evoked a contemplative mind state and was a refreshing change from their general sound. When the band finally left the stage, they exited with grandeur and style, reminding everyone that longevity is a mark of refinement and an ode to Howling Bells as an ever-progressing group of artists and musicians.