Howling Bells interview
Howling Bells beautifully fuse elements of county style guitar, spellbinding percussion and incandescent vocals into an almost filmic yet musical experience. Their self titled album is an assiduous work from start to finish and draws out strong emotive feelings from the listener.
Contactmusic got the chance to have a quick interview with Juanita and Glenn after their set at the Secret Garden Party.
Contactmusic: You're on tour at the moment do you find it easier to play festivals at the same time as being on tour?
Howling Bells: [Juanita] it's convenient and it makes it really easy, it's just another gig but you're outside.
CM: So any stand out gigs from the tour?
HB: [Glenn] Yeah, London ICA, Norwich arts centre, King tuts, Glasgow, Cardiff.
[Juanita] There have been quite a few really really good crowds that make the gigs really special.
CM: So the album has been out for a few months now, have you noticed a notable increase in reaction at gig's from when you previously had nothing out?
HB: [Juanita] Yeah definitely. This is the third time we've toured around England and when we first toured, places would be empty and there would be less than ten people there and now we're going back to the same venues and selling them out, so it's reaffirming.
CM: So you've been living over here for well over a year now...
HB: [Juanita] It's been two years now. We're proper now, proper locals.
CM: How's that going do you still miss home?
HB: [Glenn] Musically no, family yeah.
CM: You hear about people going to live abroad and they miss stupid little things, is there anything that you guys miss?
HB: [Juanita] Marmite, Vegemite, Tim Tams -which are like the best chocolates in the world, food in general. Food is good at home and it's just crap here. So I miss food.
CM: So what's the festival scene like back home?
HB: [Juanita] The festival scene is very strong in Australia we've got: The big day out, splendour in the grass - we've got some really really good festivals and the V festival is starting in Australia for the first time. I mean it's strong but it's stronger over here, you've got more people.
CM: You're getting a lot of music journalists describing your music as being Indie-noir and similar labels like that. How do you react to said labels? As I know a lot of artists don't like their work being labelled or pigeon-holed like that.
HB: [Juanita] Nobody likes it because everyone wants to feel independent I suppose.
But we play music, we're in a band there's about 40 thousand trillion million bands out there. So in order to make you a little more specific people have to label you.
[Glenn] But you know what, when you're going on stage and performing you have to except the fact that people are gonna judge you and categorize you and there is nothing else you can do about it. So I think the sooner you accept it, the sooner you get over it.
[Juanita] I'm not bothered by it. I don't mind adjectives but I become irritated more so with specific people. As you work so hard to form your own identity. As I don't go out specifically to sound like anybody and neither do the guys.
CM: But is it comforting that the music press are using terms such as Indie-noir which aren't particularly used that often, say compared to labels which a lot of the music press usually conform to?
HB: Yeah, their thinking about it and that's a positive thing.
CM: So what's next? You've still got a fair few dates left on the tour.
HB: [Glenn] We've got five left here, but we're just not stopping touring. We're going touring in Australia and New Zealand and we're stopping off in LA on the way back.
CM: So how do you keep it fresh? Not musically but after gigs, I've read you guys are big film fans.
HB: [Juanita] Yeah we watch a lot of films, anything which is escapism. So when I finish a show I don't listen to that much rock music or Indie music in my spare time, I like to get the fuck away from it and as far away as possible. Brendan listens to heaps of chaotic jazz music, Joel listens to electronic, Glenn listens to country music and I listen to everything in between.
CM: Here's a question for you. When I travel around I don't dream that much. Now you travel round a lot more than I do. So do you still dream?
HB: [Juanita] Wow, that's an interesting question you're talking to the right band. We could start an encyclopaedia on dreams, that's how much we dream.
[Glenn] That's interesting; you say you don't dream when you travel? I dream more.
CM: I think it might be that I'm not comfortable with my sleeping arrangements or my ritual is broken, I don't know.
HB: [Juanita] Well we have a ritual now, so it doesn't feel like I travel anymore. I live in Travelodge and every room looks identical, so I just pretend it's the same room every night.
[Glenn] You shouldn't be telling people we're staying in Travelodge's.
[Juanita] We're staying in the Hilton hotel, tell them that.
[Glenn] That's better.
[Juanita] Yeah I dream a lot there's not a night when I don't, usually nightmares and Joel and Brendan. We all have pretty insane dreams.
CM: Maybe it's just me, I'll probably dream tonight.
HB: [Juanita] You will, you'll have a crazy dream. You'll have to email us and let us know.
[Glenn] Where two buses come slowly together squashing you. [In reference to where the interview is being held, standing talking in between two big tour buses.]
[Laughs all round]
CM: It's interesting you mention about Travelodge's, when you're touring around have you felt this unfamiliar familiarity that each town or city in this country offers? I mean abroad when you go to different cities it's quite refreshing that things are different. But apart from the capitalisation of it, a Starbucks on every corner etc, Is that something you've felt travelling around?
HB: [Juanita] There's a singer in Australia caller Paul Kelly and he's got this song called 'Every fucking city looks the same' and they're the words of the song and he talks about touring and that every city he goes to whether it's Tokyo, London, Sydney or wherever, that there are these landmarks that make every town not very different - there are different languages, but I guess after a while that's how it feels.
CM: Cool that's it, thanks guys.
Interview by Adam Adshead
Howling Bells self titled album is out now and catch them on tour on their last few remaining dates:
25th August - Reading Festival
26th August - Leeds Festival
9th October -The Fleece, Bristol
10th October - The university of London union