If you think it’s been a long time since you’ve heard from Howling Bells – since the cinematic majesty of that self-titled debut back in May 2006 – then you should try being in the band. Bands as creatively prolific as this do not adjust well to sitting around for months at a time. “We’re an industrious lot. We never stop thinking and being inspired,” says singer Juanita Stein. “If it were up to us, we’d put out this record tomorrow and then start recording another straight away”. More so even than ‘Howling Bells’ (their debut album), however, this is a second record that is worth waiting for. The first won them critical acclaim, certainly, the likes of ‘Setting Sun’ and ‘Low Happening’ lodged firmly in the minds of most who encountered them (and Howling Bells are a group very much “encountered” rather than listened to). The new album, though, is a record that seems certain to elevate them into a far wider consciousness “This record is a great leap for us” continues Juanita,
“Our debut album was more of a lonesome creation, out of found and lost love, came the inspiration for most of the tracks, which were written in my bedroom. Brendan : “however, this time it was a collaboration between the four of us. Hearts, minds and ideas in equal measure. We’re all embracing new concepts and sounds. We perpetually challenged one another and the songs.” Joel: “It’s very important for us that the music would connect with people and elevate them bringing a growing optimism and unity”.
Glenn explains, “when writing for the record in a country house in Victoria, Juanita and I would hop in my folks beat-up Ute and try tune into certain stations, however, clearly the radio had a mind of its own, constantly tuning in and out different stations and frequency’s, it became a resistant friend of ours. We called this Radio Wars”. Juanita: “Out of that experience came the title to Radio Wars Theme as well as the lyrical content for Digital Hearts….. A song about the struggle we now have between us and it. Humans and the technological revolution”.
The (almost) title track of which they speak you may have already encountered, as the epic end to Howling Bells current live set. Mechanical drums pound out a robotic march, as squalling guitars and synthesisers – more on them in a minute – fight for space with an almost mantra-like, chanting vocal. It’s the most unsettling and strangest track on the record.