Through The Static.. – Howling Bells Interview


“Into The Chaos” By Howling Bells

One of our very favourite bands Howling Bells are back to kick off 2009 in fine style. Their appeal seems to be universal, and their haunting, beautiful music really does have a profound effect on people, for example one female friend said “the visceral guitars and sultry vocals  make you wanna just dress up in red silk and rub up against the nearest body.…” (phew!)  Their eponymous debut album is quite rightly regarded by many as a genuine classic, and the band look set to have further praise heaped upon them with the release of their second album “Radio Wars”.  Again the band seem to have hit the creative jackpot as they expand their rich musical palette whilst still retain that remarkable flair for producing dramatically, dark, atmospheric soundscapes. Juanita’s incredible voice remains the focal point, seductively coiling itself around each song, teasing, taunting and mesmerising the listener.

In comparison to its predecessor it could be said that “Radio Wars” has a more rounded, futuristic edge in which synths and guitars swirl around each other to dazzling effect (full review here). Produced by Dan Grech-Marguerat, who has engineered records by Radiohead, Air and Sir Paul McCartney alongside Nigel Godrich (Joel: “He worked, like, 16 hours a day, and challenged us a lot”), the band have also adopted a different approach to songwriting this time around.  Drummer Glenn explains “Most of this was written on laptops separately between the four of us,”It’s a really democratic process, ” says Junaita “as opposed to the first record, this one was a purely collaborative effort, I mean everybody’s written this record.” Joel agrees that varying their approach as a band is important   “We try new things every time really. In my mind that’s what it comes down to. Every album we just wanna try something new I guess, it sounds so f*cking clichéd, but it’s true…”

And where did the title “Radio Wars” come from?  “We demoed a lot of the album down at this place in Melbourne, and the radio kept on freaking out and changing stations all the time” reveals Juanita  “You’d put it on one radio station and it’ll start flicking to another one – we’d just get in the car and be like, “Let’s play radio wars.” It started like that, but then we started writing a track –called ‘Radio Wars Theme’ – and that concept of changing stations formed the lyrics. But it came to mean more than that. The radio takes on a technological perspective.”It turned into a digital revolution thing,” Glenn continues, “That unveiled itself over time to us.”

“Radio Wars
” should ensure the band gain a new army of fans, so would the band be happy if they did indeed  became a big, big band?  Juanita: “F*ck yeah! On the first record we might have made songs that are sort of subtle and dusty but that didn’t mean that we weren’t bursting at the seams with intent and desire and ambition.”
Joel: “People in bands who don’t want that are stupid. That’s like saying, ‘Oh Obama, you wanna be president of the United States ?’ and him going, ‘Yeah, but I only wanna talk to three people.’ If you wanna be president, you wanna get through to as many people as you can. I feel like that’s what we wanna do as a band.”

2009 looks like being a massive year for Howling Bells and we spoke in a little more detail to Juanita about the pressures of following up  a big critical success and their plans for the forthcoming year.

VP:  So your  second album album “Radio Wars” is about to be released.  Is it difficult for a band to follow up such a critically acclaimed debut, or do you have to put thoughts like that out of your head, and just write songs as you have always done? Have you done anything differently this time around?

JUANITA: There’s a definite awareness I suppose in following up any significant piece of work for an artist. You’ve created a platform so to speak and whether we could have easily continued in the same vein, but it was really important for us to move and progress beyond that. We experimented with different styles of writing/recording/lyrical content/production etc….

VP:Your songs have a sweeping cinematic feel, what sort of influences do you draw upon when writing songs, and as a band how does the songwriting process work?

JUANITA: For this record the song writing process was incredibly united, we all came together from a very similar place and so it was a very inspiring time for us all to collaborate musically. Influences come from far and wide, high and low, soft and sharp. There’s no way to pin point where your inspiration comes from!

VP: I assume 2008 has been taken up with recording the new album, has it been an enjoyable year? What have been your highlights?

JUANITA: It’s been equally intense and joyous an experience. Highlights for me were taking the new songs to the stage for the few live shows we did this year. Watching them come to life in front of an audience was intensely satisfying!

VP:  2009 will see you tour the album, and as mentioned, it must be very gratifying to get an instant reaction to new songs ?

JUANITA: It’s one of my favourite parts of being in a band, performing the tracks in front of an excited audience. This will def be a year of intense touring I imagine, we hope to explore some new stage set-up’s production/sound wise…….should be fun!

VP: Have you had a chance to listen to much music during 08? Any favourite albums or new bands that have caught your ears?

JUANITA: I like The Joy Formidable and  Stricken   City , both young bands outta the  UK . Tame Impala from  Australia  are really great, kinda psychedelic inspired 70’s rock. Caribous new album, Lykke Li and Tinariwen.

VP: Obviously the musical landscape has changed significantly during the “noughties”, how important is the internet now for bands. Do you think social networking/ Myspace hits etc  will one day replace the importance of say, radio airplay in terms of helping bands “break”?

JUANITA:I think it already has, I don’t have many friends that buy cd’s at the store, or even listen to the radio as opposed to say,  their own i-pod mixes in the car…….Its a brave new technological world for sure. The only way to move forward is to embrace it whole heartedly.

VP: What’s the  logistical situation, are you still primarily based in the  UK  ?

JUANITA: We’re all based in London, where we’ve been involved in a steady love affair with the city……it’s been a passionate relationship thus far, full of ups and downs….but thankfully, more so ups!

VP:  In your time together as a band , what would you say have been your most memorable experiences ?

JUANITA: Starting in a 6 seater van touring around Britain through the depths of winter, stealing sandwiches from truck stops, selling out our first few shows, getting a wonderful response from media and audiences alike…recording, writing on/off the rd, seeing some our favourite bands together, meeting some fabulous folk and so on and so forth!

VP:  And your oddest experience

JUANITA: All of the previous (apart from the meeting cool people bit)

VP:  Give us five words which will give your fans an idea of what to expect from  “Radio Wars”

JUANITA: Strength/colour/unity/progression and optimismSmile

VP: Thanks Juanita , and make sure you play Liverpool on the upcoming tour!

JUANITA:” Will do! ”

Original Photo By Crazybobbles



Official Site (FREE Download if you sign up to mailing list)

Buy “Radio Wars”

Buy the new single (click pic)

Upcoming Tour 2009 (Yay Liverpool!!)

Wallpapers (Click Pics For Larger Version)

Original Live Photos (above) By Crazybobbles


Broken Bones” By Howling Bells

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“Low Happening” By Howling Bells

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“Blessed Night” By Howling Bells

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“Into The Chaos” By Howling Bells (Live Leeds 2008  )

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Live Review Here

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Andy Von Pip

ANDY VON PIP - Founder, editor, writer, reviewer, photographer and all-round good guy at the House photographer for The Academy Music Group, Zuma Press, Event Magazine and Rex Features worldwide. You can check out his photography at Andy Von Pip Photography Has been new music tipster on BBC6 Music, Amazing Radio, and DJ on Strangeways Radio (USA.) Can currently be heard on IWFM Radio. His radio work has been described as sounding like Ian McCulloch on ketamine fused with Ringo Starr. New music tipster on Amazing Radio, moderator for BBC 6 Music DJ Tom Robinson's Fresh on the Net, former member of "BBC's Sound Of" panel. Written and photographic work has appeared in The Quietus, Music Week, Record Of The Day, The Guardian, GIITV, The Sabotage Times, Bido Lito, The Skinny, Louder Than War. Media partner and curator for Liverpool Sound City.

Discussion16 Comments

  1. Thanks for this piece!
    I’m a bit confused about the album release date: according to Amazon and other retailers it’s February 9, but the tour poster above says it’s it’s March 2. Thinking

    Either way, I’m sure I’ll play the album to death when it comes out.

  2. I was very excited when I saw the VP had interviewed Juanita. I wasnt disappointed, great interview, fabulous wallpapers of a truly amazing band.A triumph ! Got to get that album the day it comes outx

  3. I know this your ambition Andy, interviewing this band and its great. I can not wait to hear the album. Anybody know a U.S. release date.


  4. wow are the pictures from the official album, whatever they are great, looking good as a wallpaper on my laptop, my pc my phone, heck i might decorate the house with them Wink

  5. I found this blog about a year ago and gotta admit its f*cking great. This is a new high. I love Howling Bells. Juanita is amazing thanks dude

  6. Olivia Activa

    Cant believe I havent discovered this band earlier , love them , what a voice, what a band. Cant find the debut album anywhere …HELP !

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