the AU interview: Juanita Stein of Howling Bells (London/Sydney) talks "Heartstrings" and coming home to tour!

Coming back to Australia for a long-awaited tour are Sydney expats Howling Bells. Returning for what will be their first Australian headline tour since 2011, the four piece will be bringing their new album Heartstrings to life onstage, as well as the tracks that propelled them into the hearts of many first at home, but now internationally over the years.

"It's been fantastic." Juanita Stein says of the early reception to Heartstrings, prior to its release earlier this month. "People are just kind of listening to it for the first time...there seems to be a much more immediate connection this time round, which is very great for us to see that. I think as you said, because it is our fourth record, there is a part of it that comes very effortlessly and that's the part that you get when recording and playing live."

On the way Howling Bells have worked together on the making of this record, Stein notes the strengthening of their creative dynamic, now that they're well in the groove of writing and recording together.

"Of course there's another side of you as a band that is feeling quite urgent about it," she explains. "Because you are four records in, you don't really have a choice at this point other than to hone in and really focus on one idea. I think the fact that we had ten days to record it helped that process a lot. I think when you have such little time, you tend to go with your instincts a lot more. which I think is a really really great thing. I put a lot of faith into my album producers, because I had to believe in my capabilities obviously and their history of work is remarkable. If there was something I wasn't so sure about in making decisions, I kind of let them guide me a lot. It is a frightening thing to do, but it's also very liberating to just let somebody else help you out in that way."

For Heartstrings, Howling Bells worked with noted producers Alan Moulder (The Killers, Depeche Mode) and Catherine J. Marks (Foals, PJ Harvey). Having these two musical backgrounds and fountains of experience in the London studio where the record was made obviously trickled into the final result, as Stein comments on above. Working with both Moulder and Marks brought different elements to the creative table, Stein comments.

"They played fairly different roles. Catherine was there on a day to day basis guiding the process and Alan would come in at moments and oversee things and help us make decisions so that process was really fantastic and gave us a chance to really know Catherine and to develop a wonderful relationship with her."

While Heartstrings may still be in the early stages of being interpreted by the band live, by the time Howling Bells return to Australia in September, no doubt fans are going to be in for something special. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, the saying goes, and it seems to be a mutual feeling for both the band and their fans - Stein's excitement about bringing the album and the live show back to Australia is evidence enough.

"We've only played a couple of shows," she admits. "We're still coming to terms with how the songs are focused and how to express them in a live format, but they're an absolute joy to play. I think a band, as much as the audience, needs fresh material to reinvigorate. That's what this record has done for us. We've reset the machine, in a way. I think that's the best part of growing up. Applying new information and lessons to old stories - that's kind of what we're doing."



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