Something about the musical duo known as Howls reminds me of the sleeper masterpiece Once. In the movie, two people, who were moving through life in very different directions with seemingly a zero chance of ever meeting, unexpectedly become entangled. It’s a poignant example of how two universes collide to create a moment of magic.
Just as two sides of a coin, Christian Stone and Annalee Fery perfectly complement each other musically and, surprisingly, personally. Not only does their first album denote this cohesion, but the new material continues to solidify their song-writing abilities and vocal talents.
From the moment you listen to any of their songs, there’s an effortlessness that comes across in melody and harmony making Howls a stimulating listen. The team carefully weaves instruments together managing to capture the “classic 80’s” without sounding contrived. Add thoughtful lyrics to the mix, and we have full-bodied tracks with a polished subtle touch.
Their experience together in previous bands allowed an opportunity to perform, but always as part of a group. Now the complexities of a larger band dynamic have given way to the challenges and intricacies of a duo.
It quickly becomes apparent that both have surfaced from different mindsets and dispositions. Yet, both Christian and Annalee are skillfully using their dissimilarities to successfully navigate the musical landscape and produce great songs.
Citizen LA: Many times, the obvious, is often not so obvious, and life gives us lessons until we understand. Then, there’s the idea of the soul-mate who either we find, or we don’t. Yet, sometimes this soul-mate may come in-and-out of our lives. Knowing that you two have been crossing paths over the years, are both of you making the best of “this time around?”
Christian Stone: This touches on a lot of things I believe in. Much of the music, before this band, I wrote by myself. Now it’s about being inclusive and flexible. This is a huge lesson in collaboration and it’s a beautiful experience. Otherwise what are you doing making music by yourself? You’re just masturbating, really. Ya know?
Annalee Fery: OMG…
Christian: Ok… bad analogy [laughs].
Annalee: Yeah, that’s a whole different story.
Citizen LA: You know, we could go there. Hmm… I think I’ll start the interview with that!
Christian: Better not, better leave it alone.
Citizen LA: Not only do your melodies and harmonies have a depth that expresses commitment, but I hear a sweetness between you two, like a buddy love.
Christian: Well, we fight like cats and dogs, so I don’t know why…
Christian: Naw, there really is a lot of love between Anna and I, like a brother sister type relationship.
Citizen LA: Is music a vehicle for your expression? Or is music the reason you express yourself?
Annalee: It’s a little bit of both for me. Music is an outlet. If I didn’t have music to escape, I would definitely go insane. But I love all art. I’m into that whole world of people doing what they like.
Christian: There’s an attraction to the first Rock & Roll idols who picked up the guitar, or whatever instrument, and did it “their way.” This is an art form that has very little rules, and welcomes that kind of raw attitude. The struggle is to stay innocent and naive.
Citizen LA: Did either of you two study music?
Christian: We’re band nerds from high school I was in the drum line. Annalee was a flautist.
Annalee: I was taught by Nuns.
Citizen LA: Did they beat you with rulers?
Annalee: My first grade teacher did hit us, and pulled our ears.
Citizen LA: Well I’m sure it was your fault. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
Annalee: This is where the whole masturbation thing fits in.
Christian: I still pull on Anna’s ears every once in a while, when she gets out of line.
Citizen LA: Art is self-therapeutic. But at its extreme, it can become an egocentric way of dealing with things. How has sharing music changed your life?
Christian: “Sharing music” was never a driving force behind why I played. And then about eight years ago, I had an incredible experience. Without the people who have come before me, making the music that I cared so much about, I may have not had something to live for. Now I get it.
Citizen LA: Sharing might not always be the impetus for musicians, but their music does affect a lot of people. And if it wasn’t for the audience, there wouldn’t be an industry. So music really is a service.
Annalee: If you keep it inside, then you risk nothing. But if you share it with somebody, it frees you up. It makes me feel more like a real person.
Citizen LA: The 80’s were a decade of excess and fashion extremes, pushing the limits of classic aesthetics in terms of music and fashion. How did this influence you?
Christian: Much of the music that Howls is leaning towards, now, is part of the 80’s music that I’ve re-discovered and have a new appreciation for.
Citizen LA: There are many bands that have this 80’s rehash sound right now. Some are trying too hard. But, to me, your music doesn’t sound contrived.
Christian: Thanks. Well we can’t take all the credit for that. We’ve consciously shifted directions recently. Jon Siebels, our producer on the “White Noise” track, is equally responsible.
Citizen LA: The new song does sound a little different, in terms of its application. But it’s more of a progression, instead of a tangent. It sounds natural.
Christian: There are signs of this new direction on our first record. Many of the sounds on that record were by accident, or us trying to sound a certain way, on whatever instrument we were messing with.
Citizen LA: If you wouldn’t have told me that, I would have thought that even from the first album, you guys knew exactly where you were going. So I’m gonna stick with that.
Annalee: Shut up Christian. Don’t tell anybody!
Citizen LA: So this break from previous methods of production that you mention in your Bio, is this a reaction to what’s going on in the industry? Or this purely a gut-feeling?
Christian: I have to give credit to Anna who recognized that there was something that needed to be addressed. I wasn’t there the first day when Anna and John got together. But all of a sudden the natural drums were gone, and the song made sense.
Annalee: John is a really good friend of ours, but there was a feeling of vulnerability. We both felt like, OMG we’re gonna let someone else try to do something instead of us.
Citizen LA: So that’s happens when you take a break from masturbating?
Christian: Yeah, you get something done!
Citizen LA: What I find interesting is that though the themes on your first album have somber moments, it’s not overly-melancholic.
Christian: I’m shocked to hear that. I’m probably one of the most sad and depressed people you’ll ever meet.
Citizen LA: [laughs] Now, in your new song “White Noise”, I hear Berlin’s “Metro”, which also touches on sad themes, but again stylistically never wallowed in misery.
Annalee: The way we wrote the melodies, they do have this flow where you’re not sitting in anything for too long. It’s not like “ok, now, I’m gonna take a hot bath and cry.”
Christian: All I know is that you compared us to Berlin, and that’s good enough for me.
Annalee: I’ll be able to sleep tonight.
Citizen LA: What do you guys think about the LA scene right now?
Christian: I don’t really know. And, really, don’t think I… care.
Citizen LA: I love that.
Christian: The modernization of the process of making music has eliminated a certain aspect of the way we look at “community.” People don’t run into the arms of their local record store and neighborhood show like they used to. I don’t know if it’s ever gonna be like that again.
Citizen LA: I’m hearing this “California” sound. Seems that a lot of musicians, whether aware of it or not, are weaving this type of proto-hippie thing into their music.
Annalee: California isn’t really a place; it’s more like the weather. If you’ve been here long enough, the sun is a factor in how you write music.
Christian: I have seen a trend, like Beach Boy harmonies, or this family vibe like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, that kind of proto-hippie new-agey thing. I totally see that… and you know what? I think it’s bullshit.
Citizen LA: [laughs]
Christian: I don’t wanna hear people being happy in music; I wanna hear depression and sadness, because it makes me feel more connected… but that’s just me.
Annalee: Just so you know, that was one of the BEST things that Christian has ever said about his life.
Annalee: I have a new respect for him.
Christian: When I listen to music where someone’s having a cathartic artistic expression of some emotional thing they’ve been through, I feel happy afterwards. Even if they story in the song is a sad story, it brings me happiness because there’s a healing process to music. Wallowing in pain is not beautiful, but if you can use that that pain and turn it into art, then listening to that, it brings me happiness.
Citizen LA: Any last words?
Annalee: I was thinking about where bands come from… and I feel like, nobody is from where they are living. When you have different people with different experiences come together, like when the “happy person” and the “depressed person” come together, that’s what makes great music.
Christian: Our challenge is to stay as depressed as possible.