Howling Bells consists of brother and sister, Juanita ( rhythm guitar and vocals) and Joel Stein (guitars), Brendan Picchio (bass) and Glenn Moule ( drums).

Their self-titled debut album which has come out on former Cocteau Twins' guitarist Simon Raymonde's Bella Union label is a gem from start to finish. The band come from Sydney in Australia but their music has a universal feel, having an essence of Americana with Juanita's poetic lyrics telling of weird characters that sound like they are from a David Lynch film.

'Howling Bells' opens up with 'The Bell Hit,' which begins with a strummed up and down guitar beat, and a sorrowful cry of a vocal from the beautiful Juanita that calls out with a loneliness that puts Morrissey to shame. It eventually develops a faster rhythm, which edges towards a country style gracefulness. Juanita's verses become full of hope, while the chorus is joyful of life itself.

'Velvet Girl' is doomy and haunting, and has a lonely twanging guitar and a pleasant vocal that sits firmly on top. 'Low Happening' could possibly be a single with its perky punky bass and a vocal that is loud, clean and clear. It comes across as a mixture between the Throwing Muses and the Pixies at their best.

Juanita's vocal on 'Broken Bones' has a classic Southern Gothic country feel. It initially sounds like something the Cramps might have done, but eventually recalls the great Lone Justice.

'Wishing Stone' was the first single and is haunting and beautiful. 'A Ballad for the Bleeding Hearts' is exactly, as it it title suggests, a slow ballad, beautifully delivered with Southern States charm.

'The Night is Young is again Southern States flavoured, while'Across the Avenue' is heartbreaking.

'Setting Sun' sounds like a Southern States 'Twin Peaks' number with Chrissie Hynde on vocals. 'Blessed Night' , Howling Bells' second single, has a meaty sound and a great swagger.

'In the Woods' is sung as a duet between Juanita and Joel. The album ends with 'I'm Not Afraid', a beautiful cover written by Juanita and Joel's father.

The whole album features classy songwriting, and is haunting and lovely, They are the sort of band who deserve to be embraced and taken into hearts. Pennyblackmusic spoke with Juanita Stein at a London gig in May.

PB : The band all come from Sydney, don't they ?

JS : Yes, it's a lovely town, lovely and sunny,but we all made a collective move here about two years ago.

PB : Has the band's line up changed in that time ?

JS : No, we had a keyboard player but it has always been
the core four members, whom wrote the demos for the album together and recorded together. When the keyboard player joined us we knew it would be tempoary, because we always wanted a four piece.

PB : As you have been living over here for the last two years, have you released anything in Australia then ?

JS : No, we have done everything here first. We wanted to have a different experience that was really challenging. That's why we moved here, but we signed a deal in Australia before we moved here. We are signed to Libration there and Bella Union here. We have released one single in Australia, which is different to the ones we have done here.

PB : How many tours have you done then. Is this your first one?

JS : No, we toured with the Editors before we did this one, which is our first headlining tour. The Editors tour was the first one we did across Europe. That was fun. There were sold out audiences every night and we got to play in every European city. We're now three weeks into this tour.

PB : How do you find the shows outside of London ?

JS : We have played shows where only six people showed up,
and we have played shows-York was one-in which it was absolutely packed. It was like "How do they know about us in York ?"

PB : Maybe it's because it's a university town, or they might have
internet radio there.

JS : Different towns, different responses ! Some like you more
than others. It's curious.

PB : How long did it take to write the album ?

JS : .It was written over the two years we have been in Britain. When we recorded it we stayed in a farmhouse, and locked ourselves in there for two or three weeks, and we got pretty obsessive with the engineers about how we wanted the album to sound. We would stay up checking out thee sounds we wanted.

PB : How would you describe the album's sound ? I have read a lot of reviews in which people are saying that Siouxsie of the Banshees is an influence.

JS : I think she is definitely someone that I admire. She is an incredible performer and an interesting songwriter. I respect her in the same way that I respect PJ Harvey but I don't want to especially sound like her, I guess no female singer does. There is such a small window of respected female performers you are always going to get compared to PJ Harvey, Chrissie Hynde, Deborah Harry or Siouxsie and that's just about all you have to draw from. And so every female fronted band gets compared to PJ Harvey. I sound nothing like PJ Harvey.

PB : The singer you remind me mostly of is Shirley Manson of Garbage.

JS : I have never heard that one. That's interesting.

PB : How would you describe your sound then ? People have described it as being Southern Gothic ord psychedelic but to me your sound has also got a really strong commercial pop vibe.

JS : Why, thank you. We have a good vibe in the band. Joel is quite adventurous and likes trying out different sounds and likes pushing the barriers, whereas I am obssessed with pop songs. I dont care what instrument you have. You have to have a really good song. I like different bands like Boards of Canada and of course Radiohead, whom to me are a concept band. They are amazing in what they do. For me I hope that our music is not elitist. Some of our songs go off with a bit of psychedelic stuff but generally you're right. They are all confinements of good pop songs.

PB : You have been branded in a lot of reviews as a Goth band. That isn't fair. You are doing a few NME shows, so that may change things, because people will hear what you are really about.

JS : I agree with you. We have a big problem with that. We got a review in 'Q', and the reviewer kept on going on about how Goth we were and and how we spent too much time watching candles burning. I don't know how they get that from the music,We are influenced by a lot of things. I'm greatly influenced by the film medium and people like David Lynch and Tim Burton. I may listen to Siouxsie and some other shoegazing bands, but it doesn't mean I want to sound like them.

PB : What made you sign to Bella Union then and a label which is run by one of the Cocteau Twins ?

JS : Simon responded so passionately to our music and at the end of the day we really wanted to work with someone like that. We didn't want to end up a commodity and finished in a few months..

PB : What are your future plans ?

JS : We are going to finish this tour and then we hope to go to
America to play some dates there.

PB : Thanks for your time.

JS : Thank you.

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