Howling Bells talk film inspiration

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We’ve just heard “Heartstrings”, the upcoming LP from Europe-based Australians Howling Bells, and can confidently announce that it’s absolutely magnificent. Indeed, this fourth offering might just be their finest album to date. There is a strong cinematic feel to the record, so we asked frontwoman Juanita Stein to talk us through the films that inspired the album:

The films that inspired Heartstrings
As a songwriter, films have always been a profound inspiration. Unlike music, which was a constant feature in the family home, films were a personal pilgrimage. I found going to the cinema akin to some kind of religious experience when I was younger. It’s where I’d discover unknown territories, magical lands and all matter of fascinating, inspiring and terrifying characters. Suffice to say, films most definitely had a huge influence on my musical scope. To where I travelled in my mind, had a lot to do with the earliest films I’d discovered and what kind of universes they created within me.

Making our latest album, Heartstrings, I feel like there was a definite connection with this cinematic scope. Recorded over 11 days, we really made the most of every minute in the studio. Without the luxury of pondering and processing ideas, we really tapped into a greater instinct. I often returned to my favourite films mentally in order to guide me artistically.

Here are a few of the films that inspired the process of making Heartstrings, from the music to the artwork.

Paris Texas:
A firm favourite for a lot of people I know, and not without good reason. It is magnificently framed and paced. A lone dessert highway of a film, centred around Travis, the protagonist who returns to his family after a long and sudden disappearance. It’s the silence that moves me, the sadness within Travis’s expressions, the exquisite beauty and performance of Nastassja Kinski. The energy captured throughout this film has always stayed with me. When I can’t quite find the words, or don’t really want to, I return here. The gentleness and wisdom of Euphoria, one of the ballads on our album, was definitely inspired by this film.

howling bells heartstringsBadlands:
Another dusty road film, made in ’74, staring an always strange and captivating Sissey Spacek and a very young Martin Sheen, who go on a killing spree in South Dakota. This film haunts me, like Paris, Texas, it’s captured a feeling so hypnotic and eery, you can’t help but feel this giant magnetic pull towards it. There’s something so tangible about the experience too, like you can just feel the warm winds blowing upon your neck. I’m constantly striving to recreate this kind of warmth and eeriness in Howling Bells music. We used this film poster as a reference for our artwork.

Vivre Sa Vie:
Staring a favourite of mine, Anna Karina, this incredible film is about a beautiful, young Parisian woman who eventually becomes a prostitute. She spends a lot of time walking the streets of Paris, philosophising with herself and strangers. I feel especially drawn to films which feature the inward journeys of interesting women. Films that succeed in taking us inside the hearts and minds of complex and wonderful characters. Like the Three Colours Trilogy, ‘Blue’ especially creates this sentiment for me. I gave a lot of thought to this idea before we started recording this album. I wanted to create one cohesive work that took people through a journey such as this. That’s why we concentrated on making the album so succinct. It needed to explore a range of emotions in a short period of time and then disappear.

Other films which played a central role when making Heartstrings:
The Last Picture Show, Pleasantville, The Professional, Klute, Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Nashville. I can only hope that Heartstrings inspires a similar aching beauty which each of these films possess.

The band are currently on a UK tour. Catch them at the following venues. 

WED 4 JUNE – The Deaf Institute Manchester
WED 4 JUNE – Fopp Records Manchester
THU 5 JUNE – King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut Glasgow 
THU 5 JUNE – Fopp Records, Glasgow
SAT 7 JUNE – Brudenell Social Club Leeds
SAT 7 JUNE – Crash Records Leeds
SUN 8 JUNE – Thekla Bristol
SUN 8 JUNE – Rise Records Bristol
MON 9 JUNE – Wedgewood Rooms Southsea
MON 9 JUNE – Pie & Vinyl Portsmouth
TUE 10 JUNE – Scala London
SAT 16 AUGUST – V Festival 2014 Staffordshire
SUN 17 AUGUST – V Festival 2014 Chelmsford

To buy tickets and to pre-oder Heartstrings, go to the Howling Bells website.