A couple of weeks ago a co-worker of mine suggested that I check out a band called Howling Bells. I was introduced to the band on PLAYER.063 with their song “Low Happening”, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Having only heard the one song, I went to the show with no expectations. I walked out of NYC’s Sin-e a newly devoted fan of this outstanding Australian quintet.
Formerly Waikiki, Howling Bells consist of Glenn Moule on drums, Joel Stein on guitar, Brendan Picchio on bass and Juanita Stein on guitar and lead vocals. They seem like a cool bunch, but the power and emotion they erupt through their amps caught me off guard. Their sound lies somewhere between blues-rock and country-folk, yet their ‘90s influences from artists such as Lush and Mazzy Star help push the songs into a whole different level.
I could go on and on about Juanita Stein. Taking center stage, her vocals can go from a sultry whisper to an angry wail in the blink of an eye. At times she reminded me a bit of PJ Harvey, with some mighty powerful vocal chords. She kept the songs moving, adding a bit of stage banter to deaden the silence between songs. Why the suits at industry showcase performances always have to be so damn stiff is something I’ll never figure out. Even with the lack of enthusiasm from the “crowd”, Juanita put every ounce of herself into the songs.
Highlights from their all-too-brief set included to mesmerizing “Setting Sun”, with one of the most beautiful choruses I have heard in a rock song this year. Tracks like this should have A&R execs scrambling to sign this band to a deal in North America. Juanita Stein’s vocals soared over glossy-shoegazer guitars that sent chills down my spine. “Broken Bones” was another favorite, which had the same country swagger as a slightly less pissed off Sons And Daughters. Juanita rocked the hell out of “Low Happening” as she belted out “you use me as I use you.”
As the set ended, Howling Bells left me craving more. They have the talent, the tunes, and one of the finest lead vocalists around (no pun intended). They have recently completed work on their full-length album, which I can assure you will blow your socks off. Trust me, keep Howling Bells on your radar. You can thank me later.
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