After the release of their self-titled debut album in May of 2006, Howling Bells found themselves on the favorable end of a U.K. press explosion, pulling in 4- and 5-star reviews from the likes of The Sun, The Independent, MOJO, and The Guardian, the last proclaiming them “on the verge of unequivocal magnificence.” Stein’s sultry vocals guided the band’s gritty, pounding charge like a siren through dark seas, inspiring writers to garnish their reviews with epithets like shadowy indie-pop and blues-noir.
Originally from Sydney, Australia, the band moved to the U.K. to record their debut with the help of producer Ken Nelson (Gomez, Badly Drawn Boy), but a perpetually pushed deadline for Nelson’s work on Coldplay’s X&Y turned the Bells’ three-week timetable into a three-month ordeal. Ensconced in London’s “fierce artistic territory,” the band found themselves 10,600 miles from home, their best laid plans at the mercy of one of the world’s biggest bands. Circumstance pushed them around. They pushed back.
“It was the only way we could have done it,” says Juanita, looking back. “I think without those feelings, there’s no way we’d be producing the music we are. It definitely feels like there’s something greater informing the band, both lyrically and musically.”
To fully appreciate their resilience, one must understand the band’s unsinkable dynamic. Glenn Moule, grew up driving tractors, shearing sheep, and riding motorbikes through the arid plains of the Aussie outback. Then there’s the sibling synergy of Juanita Stein and her brother Joel, children born into a creative home with an actress and musician for parents.
“Our place was nicknamed The Singing House,” says Joel. “People could hear us all the way down the street. They’d know how to find us if they’d never been there before.”
“The first album was a direct result of me sitting in my bedroom back in Australia” says Juanita “and being incredibly frustrated with what I knew we were capable of producing, but just weren’t at the time. Radio Wars was the four of us coming together having had exactly the same experience over the last three or four years—and needing something a little different to the first album. A change in seasons. The Loudest Engine, our third album, is a testament to the gypsy lifestyle we’ve been living the last decade, traveling on the same bus through the same towns and meeting the same people. We just all found ourselves at a certain place and time and writing similar kinds of songs. We look forward to where things may go from here.”