the AU interview: Juanita Stein of Howling Bells (Sydney)

The AU Review talks to Juanita Stein of Howling Bells.

How are you?

Good, you?

Yeah can’t complain, hurricanes and stuff but living in London you must be pretty use to that?

Yeah, well London is never ferocious enough. It’s always spitting and lasts for months and months just drizzling.

So what was it like over there for the last couple of weeks, with all the riots, because you get opinions from people over here but they’re nowhere near it.

I actually turned on the TV the other day and it was at the end of 60 Minutes. It was really really surreal to watch it happen in your neighbourhood, because that’s where it happened but watching it from Sydney. It simmered down which is good.

Was it Sony that lost all that stock?

Yeah the entire distributor was burnt down, a lot of labels were affected. It was just unnecessary.

Well it seems like it’s calmed down for the moment! So talking about the music... You’ve got your third album coming out where did the writing process start for that? Was it when you were touring?

Yeah, it did. We went to a lot of interesting places and towns and it started on the bus. We’d be at the back of the bus and that’s where the writing began; it seemed like a really appropriate time to reflect and gain a perspective on everything.

In one of the press releases I read, there were a bunch of references on Las Vegas, is that where you recorded it?

Yes and it’s impossible to not let your environment are influence your sound.

Especially a place like Vegas right?

Yeah and it’s surprisingly spiritual to a lot of people. Obviously the strip is an immediate attraction but it’s a really cool place and it goes way way beyond that and a lot of people live there and it’s party of their existence. It had a lot to do with how the record turned out.

While you were there did you get the opportunity to perform?

No unfortunately we didn’t. It would have been cool, we were going to do it at a place called The Beauty Bar which is one of the cool rock and roll bars in town but we got to see a few bands.

It’s an amazing place Vegas is so different at different times of the day, you get to see all these slices of American life…

Yeah and it’s odd to see some parts of life in all hours of the day. Like it could be 12 in the afternoon and people are gambling their lives away and they do it 24 hours a day.

Would it be fair to say that those experiences seeped into the music?

Not the writing because it was all written before we got there but I think sonically it affected the process. You jam differently and play differently and a few songs took on a different life of their own.

How do you feel comparing it to Radio Wars?

Well I think we’re a different band, we’re a different band every album. The same way you were a different guy five years ago. It’s just progress and we’re a lot different from who we were a few years ago. We’re more sure of ourselves as a band now.

And when it comes to the band that you are now do considering yourself as a band, do you considered yourselves as an UK or Australian band, or both?

Both, I feel extremely attached to Sydney and Australia and now we have this new life which started out in London which is continuing and very much a part of who we are.

Do you feel that you have cut through in terms of people knowing you and the music?

As far as an alternative music perspective goes, yes. The media were very accepting of us when we first arrived and it seems to be continuing and that’s very encouraging.

What was the reason that you think that got you over there (England) in the first place and what’s keeping you there?

I like the urgency of London life and the new bands that surface there.

Well it seems like it has really suited you guys really well and you’ve come back to Australia almost with a hero’s welcome..

Kind of, some people are reluctant to embrace whatever form of success you have but that’s always going happen. I think it’s important to get different perspectives as an artist and it’s unhealthy to stay in the same state of mind. It’s such a huge world and so many billion of faces; you have to at least try one of them

And for the rest of the year, what’s it going to hold. Are you coming back over to Australia later in the year?

Yeah, we’re talking about touring Australia at the end of the year. It would be great to escape the English winter.

Have you done any of the summer festivals over here?

Homebake was the last one we did.

We hope you do and see you back on the road again. When it comes to music videos, you guys always seem to put a lot of effort into the artwork. Do you guys have a lot of control over these things or do you get people on board?

We’ve made one video for this album so far and it was a really pleasant experience it was a total collaboration between the director and I. I’m sure it will continue that way because it’s really important to us to be creative and have creative control; it would be terrible to have someone tell us what to do aesthetically and creatively.

There’s nothing you can trade for that!

Yeah, in a sense it’s the only way an artist can express themselves besides the music obviously. It’s the only time you get to say hello to the audience and tell them how you move and talk and that’s important.

The cover of the album is quite striking, quite colourful and dare I say even a little psychedelic! Almost make me think of a little Fear and Loathing. Who did you get to design that?

We had a really cool chick called Heather who went out with us to the desert on the last day of recording and we just took a shit load of photos and chose one of them. She took us to this great place called Neilson’s Passage I think. It’s like an actual ghost town which everyone had literally fled and left. There was like a crashed plane and gas station. It was an old goldmining town.

Well welcome back to Australia, glad the weather has been kind to you and we can’t wait to hear your new album.

Thank you!