Hurricane Bells

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Hurricane Bells

When you’re scheduled to play malls, book coast to coast tours and get your music to India, there’s not a lot of time to name your band. That was the pressure Steve Schiltz found himself in as he was pressing the pause button on his longtime band Longwave to make his own music as Hurricane Bells. And once the name (and music) was in place, it wasn’t long before a certain vampire movie came calling and everything changed.

Now things operate at a different level for Schiltz and he’s getting used to new markets, new venue choices and new fans. It’s all been surreal for the Brooklyn resident, yet it’s about time for those who’ve been familiar for a while with Schiltz’s smart, sweet pop/rock refrains. Here, he discusses what it’s like to move from one musical identity to another and how he’s handling being an acoustic metal act.

SSv: Let’s start with your trip, since you just returned. How does that market in India even open up?

Steve Schiltz:We got asked because a friend of our road manager is involved in these tours that have people come through China or Scandinavia and it’s always through the government. It’s not one of those military things, but it is a cultural export sort of thing. So they paid for us to go and play in India, for us to play our music there.

SSv: How long were you there?

We're suddenly playing these malls and these 13-year-olds are making signs that say, 'We love Hurricane Bells.' A month before that, I didn't even have a name for the group. You think, 'That's kind of weird.'

We're suddenly playing these malls and these 13-year-olds are making signs that say, 'We love Hurricane Bells.' A month before that, I didn't even have a name for the group. You think, 'That's kind of weird.'

Steve: Two-and-a-half weeks.

SSv: How was the reception there?

Steve: It was good. It’s really funny because a lot of places we went, they don’t even know what we would call ‘indie rock.’ To them, that means a band that doesn’t write their own material and only performs cover songs and doesn’t have a record out. The other thing is stylistically, especially in the South, there’s a huge heavy metal scene. So we’d play these shows and then afterwards, the review would say, ‘Hurricane Bells is not the typical metal band, but they’re still very good nonetheless.’ [Laughs]

SSv: [Laughs] You had to get a good laugh out of that particular comment.

Steve: Oh, yeah. It was alternating between the most amazing shit we’d ever seen — these beautiful buildings and scenery and everyone being so nice to us. But then on the other side, it was completely ridiculous where we’re playing a show and then some guy yells, ‘Put your fist in the air.’ [Laughs] You’re thinking, ‘Uh, I’m playing acoustic guitar.’ [Laughs]

SSv: Is that the most surreal musical experience you’ve had then?

Steve: Well, it’s one of them for sure, but it’s hard to keep track of them all.

SSv: What else would make a list like that?

Steve: Well, this whole Hurricane Bells journey so far has been surreal. We were out playing malls in December for the Twilight soundtrack and movie, so that was pretty surreal as well. I started this thing by myself with my own laptop, and yet because of the guys I already worked with in Longwave got a song on the soundtrack, we’re suddenly playing these malls and these 13-year-olds are making signs that say, ‘We love Hurricane Bells.’ A month before that, I didn’t even have a name for the group. You think, ‘That’s kind of weird.’

SSv: So what does this do for Longwave? Is the pause button just pressed there?

Steve: Well, this could not have happened any better because Longwave was already on a break. Longwave finished up some touring in August and that was going to be the last of it. We were going to do one or two shows before the end of last year, but to be honest, it was kind of done for a while anyway. I was wondering what I was going to do. I had this record – the Hurricane Bells record – and that was the plan to just put that out. But I didn’t expect too many people to hear it, necessarily. I just wanted to get it out.

So it was fortunate that something happened with it, so I can put my energies there, since, as I said, Longwave is on a break. That’s mostly due to our guitar player having a baby and not wanting to be in a band right now.

SSv: So is Longwave totally done?

Steve: No I would just call it a break. It’s not clear what we’ll end up doing. The next record I make will be another Hurricane Bells record, so if this thing starts going somewhere, it will make it harder to go back to Longwave. But we’re all friends and Jason from Longwave just played with Hurricane Bells in India, so eventually it could happen again. I just don’t know right now.

SSv: Is that a little frustrating because it seemed that Secrets was a strong album and yet it didn’t get a proper push?

Steve: Yeah, but I’m happy to have anything good happen at any time.

SSv: Sure.

Steve: There are definitely reasons that I’m happy the success came for Hurricane Bells and not Longwave, but on the other hand, yeah, I think Secrets are Sinister is a very good record and that it did not get a fair shake.

SSv: So talk about expectations for Hurricane Bells pre-New Moon.

Steve: I was expecting to put it out and have maybe 2,000 Longwave fans might buy it, and that I would do one tour for two weeks maybe from California to New York and that was really it, I think. That was my plan.

SSv: So all of this is completely unexpected, then.

Steve: Yeah, it has been. The record hasn’t sold tons and tons of copies, but the soundtrack is Platinum. We’ve gone to India, as I said, and there’s going to be two U.S. tours, one of which is booked and the other one is almost completely confirmed. There will be a Japan tour, I think, and the record will be coming out there in March or April. So yeah, it’s definitely more successful than I expected which is exciting.

But then again, I just don’t want to get my hopes too high for anything. It’s all like anything else really in that you work hard on something and you want everyone to hear it. If it doesn’t do well, you can’t do much else than just try to move forward. But I’m happy that things are happening with it.

SSv: Musically, did you find a freedom with a new moniker?

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. I basically was making songs on my own before we made the last Longwave record and some of them are on this record. I put those on hold when we made Secrets are Sinister. Some of the songs on that album would have been Hurricane Bells songs. There’s one called “Satellites” and “Siren of the Deep Sea.” Those are songs I had myself, but when it came time to put Longwave together, I plundered my own batch of songs and put them with something I thought would work for Longwave. So in some ways, it was freeing to do a record where I could do whatever I want. Then in other ways, it wasn’t that much different.

SSv: So at what point do you go from being in Longwave to wanting to make music as Hurricane Bells?

Steve: That’s because the Twilight thing happened. A lot of things happened fast. I had just decided not to call it Steve Schiltz. I’d decided if I find a name that was evocative and seemed to fit, then I would prefer than rather than just calling it Steve Schiltz. I had just decided on Hurricane Bells right before Twilight happened, so there wasn’t a lot of identity yet until right around that time. There weren’t pictures for one thing.

There were no pictures of this band, so I just started coming up with all of these messed up, fucked up, contrasted photos to put them up on the MySpace page. All within a couple of weeks, I had to come up with what all of this music and image would look like and what it was called. But as far as the music goes, it was already done and I just chose 10 songs I already had finished in a batch. The main difference overall is that I wanted more vocals and less distorted guitar on the Hurricane Bells stuff.

SSv: Was it fun to sort of experiment with the new songs and new identity at first?

Steve: The best thing about it was that I had been working on it for a while. Even though Twilight made it happen faster, I’d obviously had the album done before then. When I was working on it before, it was just for my friends. I didn’t have a lot of expectations, so when I put the MySpace up and Facebook, I just did it myself and sent it to my friends saying, ‘Check out a new record I made.’ That was the best part about it was just being up late at night and messing around with that kind of thing.

*Photos by Mayumi Nashida

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