Lust In The Movies – Interview With The Howling Bells

Since their tranquil entrance into the UK, Aussie foursome the Howling Bells have quietly gone about their business. Their debut album secured their place in the hearts of educated indie enthusiasts throughout the land and having just finished an extensive (not to mention stupendous) UK tour, things don't look like slowing down. Ray Jackson catches up with bassist Brendan Picchio to discuss their vigourous touring, the rowdier parts of Britain and the bands budding acting careers.

If your being honest, Australia has allot to answer for with its recent musical exports. Our hearts raced faster than a Strokes encore with the Vines’ debut album, ‘Highly Evolved’; only for their mentalist frontman to crack up completely and leave us deflated with his bands following records. Then came the Aussie Oasis; Jet had the look. They had the attitude….but the talent? And then there’s the band who, apparently, are ‘Fucking saving rock and roll’. Wolfmother may know how to play every song on Led Zeppelins greatest hits, but that doesn't mean they have the right to re-record them and pass the whole thing on as their own.
With the recent Oz track record in mind, enter: the Howling Bells.

Magical? Mystery? no. Tour.

Formed just over two years ago Howling Bells consist of lead singer Juanita Stein, guitarist Joel Stein, bassist Brendan Picchio and drummer, tour manager and all round ‘band core’ Glenn Moule. “Yeah Glenn does absolute everything.” Brendan informs me.
“He’s the tour manager, he drives the bus, he basically sorts everything. It’s such a weight off the rest of the bands shoulders so we can just mess around and be total shitheads. He’s the one person who can be creative on the one side and then switch to taking care of all the things we cant.”
The superman-like talents of their drummer aside, the band as a whole have been doing their upmost to bring their special brand of melodic, dirrrrty and trashy yet elegant alternative sounds to your speakers. Their UK tour seemed to on forever, and one may have been forgiven for thinking the band are now living here on a permanent basis. “Yeah that's kinda true” admits Picchio . “There was a period for about 3 months where we were living in Brighton and then we began the tour. Although really when we’re in the UK we’re tour so most of the time we’re not really living anywhere except our bus.”
With two packed shows in two months at Glasgow’s King Tuts, as well as a host of other ‘mad’ gigs around the country, it seems Howling Bells love affair with the UK is set to blossom further.
“I think the people here are louder and more rambunctious.”
“I especially prefer the rowdier parts of Britain like Scotland. Everyone's into music. The fashion, the art and music in the UK is second to none. I mean in Australia there's no focus on things like that and everything is geared towards sports more than anything. Australia is a no win situation because everyone in the band is into music, art and films. Coming to the UK is like paradise for us.”
But for all its flaws, you must miss Australia? “Oh ofcourse. Our families are there. I’ll definitely be back for Christmas. I have a girlfriend there so I try my best to keep contact via phone. But to be honest phones are my worst enemy and if i see another i just wanna break it. They remind me how far away my girlfriend is.” *as i turn off my mobile*.

A Film For The Future

Since their dark and picturesque sounds were first grasped by the UK’s music media, there has been one strange connection that has continually come back time and time again when discussing the Howling Bells. Films.
“I think Juanita’s lyrics are very visual.” explains Brendan. “Some of her lyrics will touch you in different ways but overall they are very visual. She paints a picture with her lyrics. I think the lyrics and sound of the band may combine to bring about that connection because as I said we’re all into things like film. Joe and i are really into Luc Besson movies and we all love French movies in particular.”
With the bands noted love of movies in mind, is there any chance of the band themselves doing some acting?
“*laughing* Well its funny you should say.” Brendan coincidentally admits. “We’ve done a few film quips in London recently. We were all really nervous beforehand and it probably came across on screen. We’ve also finished a film piece in New Zealand for (single) ‘Broken Bones’ and we actually had to act. I mean proper act. It was a kind of country theme where all of us had different scenarios with Glenn on a horse; which was easy for him because he’s actually from the country so he did the whole ‘riding the horse and saving the girl’ thing; Juanita’s in a train carriage getting mugged; Im cheating in a poker game so you know we all had our own parts to take care of but i think came out really well.”

Updating the (i) Tunes?

With their first album already pulling plaudits and a support slot with the Killers already booked, it’s safe to say that time to write and sample new tunes will be few and far between. “Yeah its really terrible that way.” Picchio says.
“Every time we stop for a soundcheck then there's some time to just start writing. But usually the times not there. On the bus its really difficult. Its quite cramped and the hardest thing is to get some time on your own. I know Juanita writes best on her own and when i get 10 minuets alone i’ll write something down.”
Brendan maybe adamant the band get nothing done during tour time but what about when they do get time. “Its becoming more and more a group effort.” he explains.
“When we started the band it was all Juanita in terms of writing the songs. Some of us come up with ideas, then some arrange them. It’s a hard question to answer because some songs have a routine where we get together and work together. But for example, a track like ‘Wishing Stone’ began with Juanita having a lot of verse; then Joel stepped in with the chorus melody; Juanita wrote the chords around that and then Glenn came in with the drums; i did the bass parts last. But with a song like ‘Broken Bones’ the process changed in that it was more organic. It was written in a room with us just getting our ideas out. It was just natural.”
Despite the denial of the recent chances to create any new material Brendan lets slip some new Howling Bells plans. “Well Joel will swear black and blue that we have nothing but im pretty sure we’ve got some ideas for some new tracks. There's about 5 songs which we have to sort out; really just to be finished. We have a month or so off so we’ll get there eventually.”
Hmm whatever happens in the coming months, lets hope they don't return with an attitude, that they don't return claiming to save rock and roll, or more importantly, they DO return with albums worthy of their fantastic first. The Howling Bells are one Aussie outfir worth keeping faith in.

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