At home in Brighton just before the release of her new record Snapshot, Juanita Stein talked with QRO. In the conversation, Stein discussed the new album, reuniting with her brother Joel (of their former band, Howling Bells) for it, her upcoming November 1st livestream, life in Brighton, fingers crossed to tour next year, making videos, insomnia, and more…
QRO: How are you holding up, during all of this?
Juanita Stein: I’m okay. I’m alright, thanks.
QRO: How are things in Brighton?
JS: They’re okay. We’re not as bad as up north. Up north is really bad. It tends to kinda get better as you go further south. So, we’re just, ‘fingers crossed.’
QRO: And how is it, being a parent during all of this?
JS: A parent? When the girls were not at school, it was awful. Now that they’re back at school, it’s bearable.
QRO: Has there been any specific government help for musicians or music venues in the U.K.?
JS: So, we can apply for self-employment benefits.
Having said that, I mean, it’s not even enough to cover food for the week. Look, it’s better than nothing, but…
There’s been that, self-employment. I wouldn’t say there’s an overwhelming movement towards helping the arts movement, no…
QRO: At least you don’t have to worry about losing your health care…
JS: No. I mean, with all due respect, I’m not complaining to an American right now… [laughs]
It’s a testament to my ‘powers of psychic-ness’, maybe? [laughs]
QRO: How do things in America look to people in Britain?
JS: Honestly? [laughs]
To be fair, it’s not all coming up roses here, is it? There’s a massive shift in trust & support for the government since Brexit here. I think generally, not great, here.
I think what it is about America is that the circus that goes along with the politics is what makes it spectacular. The circus of Trump, and the contrast in political views, is astonishing to us.
QRO: Any regrets naming your first album America (QRO review)?…
JS: No, I’m not. I think, if anything, it’s a testament to my ‘powers of psychic-ness’, maybe? [laughs] Or my intuition?
I’ve always been deeply, deeply fascinated with America, and American culture. So, that’s all that was.
That first record for me was me documenting my intrigue and love of American culture, really.
QRO: And how are your bandmates doing?
JS: They’re good. They’re great.
Joel, my brother, he played guitar on this record, Snapshot; he & I have a great musical connection, always.
Glen [Moule], the drummer, he’s great. He’s playing on the livestream that I’m doing on November 1st.
Everyone’s keeping busy. Got kids, and families, and just trying to survive.
I really loved the experience of making this record. It was very, very therapeutic for me.
QRO: How was making Snapshot?
JS: It was great!
I mean, it was great in the sense that it was recorded over a long period of time, for me. And I got a lot of time to indulge, sonically.
And I really enjoyed working with Ben [Hiller], the producer. He was very game and was open to exploring any sounds I wanted to explore. That made a huge difference.
In all, I really loved the experience of making this record. It was very, very therapeutic for me.
QRO: Did you make it before the pandemic lockdown struck?
JS: I started making it before, and then, towards the end of it, things started getting crazy. But I never wore my mask to the studio, so we weren’t quite at that point.
QRO: How was working with producer Ben Hiller (Depeche Mode, Blur, Doves)?
JS: It was fantastic. It was really great.
He’s made some records that I’ve been a fan of in the past, so I went in hoping and expecting things to sound a certain way, and they did.
He’s really brilliant with atmosphere. He’s really nailed that.
QRO: Why did you decided to ‘re-recruit’ your brother Joel (with whom you’d previously been in Howling Bells with)?
JS: Clearly, he & I were going through something very similar, with our dad. I felt like there was no one else that could, you know, express what the songs were meant to express on guitar, other than him. Simply because we’ve got such a great musical connection, and we were both going through something pretty big.
QRO: Your father passed away?
JS: Yeah. He got really ill, and it all happened really quickly, and I was left with a crater size of grief & emotions that I didn’t know what to do with. And, obviously, for me, you just write music.
QRO: Was your mother happy that you’d ‘gotten back together’ with your brother?
JS: Yeah, she’s very proud. She’s a very proud mom. She loves the record, so it’s always nice to have that support.
I think everyone’s very grateful and happy to be playing music again.
QRO: Are you busy prepping for the November 1st livestream at Brighton Electric?
JS: That’s gonna be a lot of fun.
We haven’t played together for… gosh, you know, ages. It’s been a while. So, I think everyone’s very grateful and happy to be playing music again.
QRO: And that’s gonna be with your whole band?
JS: Yeah, there’s gonna be seven of us, actually. I’m gonna have Nick Pynn, who played strings on the record. Ben Hiller, the producer, will play keys. It’ll be a big gang.
QRO: If you can’t tour, if you’re gonna do one big show, go big…
QRO: And they’re probably not doing anything else…
JS: Everyone’s available…
QRO: You had previously been doing at home sessions online?
JS: Yeah, yeah. Throughout the lockdown, I was kinda ‘cashing in the trend’ of just doing home concerts.
That was great. I mean, I really enjoyed that. I felt that I was really able to connect with people who were missing music. That felt important at the time.
QRO: Will there be songs that you’ll be doing in front of an audience for the first time at Brighton Electric?
JS: Yeah. I mean, a ‘virtual audience’…
I’m gonna play most of the songs off the new record, and a few from previous records.
I’ll just have a bottle of wine and just cheers myself…
QRO: And I’m sure everyone who will watch the livestream will want to know: Will you read the comments?
PS: It’s not ‘live live’ in the sense that it’s gonna happen at the second.
I’m pre-recording it so that people have 24 hours to watch it on demand. So, we can piece it together nicely and present it.
Otherwise, it’s too hard to make it work for Australia, America, England…
It’s too hard to make it work, so I figured, if I can give it to everyone for a period of time, 24 hours, you can watch it whenever you want.
QRO: How is the Brighton Electric faring during all of this?
JS: You know what? Apparently, there’s an overwhelming demand to rehearse music.
It’s the largest rehearsal studio in Brighton. It was absolutely jammed with bands, the last few times I’ve been in there.
People just need to do something to vent, I think.
QRO: Does this show, and the at home sessions, at least somewhat ‘scratch the itch’ of not being able to tour?
JS: A little bit. Not a whole lot, but a little bit.
I have some vague thoughts, assuming all goes relatively well here, that I’d love to try and do a handful of small shows next summer. That would be great.
Hopefully, by then we’re in a somewhat solid situation.
QRO: I know you’re that doing the November 1st livestream, but are you doing anything special for the release day on October 23rd?
JS: No. You know, if there was no lockdown, obviously I’d be doing an album launch somewhere. Can’t do anything.
So, I’ll just have a bottle of wine and just cheers myself…
Juanita Stein’s video for “L.O.T.F.”:
QRO: How was making the video for “L.O.T.F.” (QRO review)?
JS: That was cool because I got to hang out with Joel & Glen from the Bells again, and that was really fun.
And of course, all the videos we made for this, we made ourselves. My husband filmed everything. I edited everything.
For that reason, I’ve actually really, really enjoyed making the videos for this record, because it’s the first time I’ve made the videos myself. And so, I’ve really enjoyed that creative process, that side of things. And it turns out, I love editing! It’s a really cool thing to do.
QRO: Were they done just outside of Brighton? Because they looked almost like America…
JS: That’s cool.
Juanita Stein’s video for “The Mavericks” (QRO review):
QRO: Do you know that term, “Land of the Free”, has been taken up by the anti-maskers here in America?
JS: That’s why I called the song “L.O.T.F.”, not “Land of the Free”, because I thought there was too close an association with too many things.
QRO: And yet the song wasn’t on America…
JS: Right. That would have been too much…
QRO: And how was making the video for “Snapshot”?
JS: Well, that was at the very start of lockdown.
At that point, we couldn’t even leave the house. We did that in [our] music-ish room. We just set up a big green screen, which was like a bedsheet. And just filmed me singing to the camera, and then I was able to mess with it in post-production after.
Juanita Stein’s video for “Snapshot”:
QRO: During this lockdown, have you been writing/making any new music?
JS: Not really, no.
I’ve written one new song, and honestly, and that’s it. I think I feel pretty expelled, mentally & emotionally, from making this record. If I can just spend the next year trying to somehow perform it, that would be great.
QRO: When you have a new record, you’re just focused on that.
JS: Yeah, for now…
QRO: During this time, have you picked up and/or accelerated any bad habits? Like I only just got my first pandemic haircut…
JS: Oh, really?… [laughs]
No, other than if you call insomnia a bad habit, then yes. Not sleeping has become very trendy, I think. There’s not a lot of that going on.