Interview: Howling Bells
Mon, 16 Jun 2014 09:45:55
Howling Bells go right for the heart on their brand new album.
The emotional center of Heartstrings remains simultaneously majestic, magical, and magnetic, pulling listeners into the band's entrancing ethereal hum. Howling Bells seamlessly merge cinematic soundscapes and subtle pop melodies within this enigmatic and engaging piece. It'll resonate in hearts for years to come...
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Juanita Stein of Howling Bells talks Heartstrings [iTunes link] and so much more.
Heartstrings feels like a complete vision. The songs flow really well together.
That’s an awesome way to start an interview. Thank you!
Of course, did you approach it with one overarching goal?
Yeah, there was a strong consciousness within the band that we would make the record as succinct and to the point as we possibly could. On the last couple of records, we had issues honing them. It became quite a priority to make a very cohesive album.
Was that musically or thematically?
I think it was everything. I feel like I’m at this point where I have so much to say, and I feel very strongly about everything I want and need to express. Therefore, I feel like in order to express something as intensely and as powerful as possible, you need to be as direct as you can. I didn’t want to flounder. I hate records that flounder and float around unnecessarily. It felt very important thematically and musically to be very direct. That affects me more than anything so I figured I’d do the same thing.
The more direct you are, the more universal it becomes...
I suppose, yeah. You’re saying what it is you want to say, and there’s not a lot of chance for misinterpretation because it’s such a direct message.
What’s the story behind "Original Sin"?
That was one of the songs written by myself and my brother >Joel Stein [lead guitar]. It was an idea born in London. I went to visit him in Berlin where he lives, and we finished it together. It’s a direct result of Joel and my energy. He’s very similar to me in that he likes to be very direct and to the point. We wanted to create something really explosive musically. That’s the inspiration behind the music. Lyrically, we’re dealing with a lot of big issues in the song like sin and forgiveness. It’s about learning to accept certain things, forgive yourself, and move on. I imagine it’s a very universal thing.
Where did the title track come from?
It’s actually the oldest song on the record. I wrote it like five years ago. Everything else on the album was written a few months ago. There was a big question about whether or not "Heartstrings" would fit in. We actually tried to record that song on the last two albums we’d done. It didn’t work. It was just a cosmic thing that it did not work. On this record, we approached it very differently. I went to Catherine J. Marks and Alan Moulder the producers, and I said, "I really love this song. I want to put it on the record, but I’m worried it’s not going to fit". They really made sure it would. The demo was written on piano, and there were string instruments on it so we converted it to guitar and made it work within the frame of the album. I feel like the word Heartstrings sums up the emotional content of the album, so it was important to me that punctuated the record at the end.
Is it important for you to tell stories and paint pictures with the songs?
I’m epically moved and influenced by films. I really wanted to create a record that felt like it was the missing soundtrack to a film. The fact that it is so visual to a lot of people is a really big compliment to me. I want music to be visual. Part of the strength of my relationship with my favorite songs is I’m incredibly romantic about them and I’m always reading about the stories that go along with the songs and the themes. I want every song Howling Bells records to sound like Badlands or some eerie seventies road movie. That’s great it comes across as quite visual to you.
What artists shaped you?
There are so many. In a way, the music that had me locked in my bedroom for hours and eventually brought Joel and I together to start a band was actually The Jimi Hendrix Experience. I find so many of his records to be really atmospheric, melodic, beautiful, and textured. That had a lot to do with how I approach music. The Beatles are epic. It feels like a given to me that every pop writer spent a lot of time with The Beatles, then it was Hendrix. Björk had a big effect on me too.
Have you heard Howling Bells yet?